I remember my first day on the set of The Flying Doctors. I was terrified as I was about to work with some of Australia's biggest television stars: Andrew McFarlane, Maurie Fields, Max Cullen, Liz Burch ... I also still had traces of my New Zealand accent and even though I had worked hard to try and lose it, the big test came when I had to say the classic 'fish and chips' line .
1956 was a most exciting time to be 13 and living in Melbourne. The Olympic Games were coming and so was Television. Television arrived first: Studios were built, transmitters erected, shiny new sets blinked away in the windows of the Electrical and Radio shops, attracting crowds of mesmerised viewers every evening. Fortunate enough to have a wealthy aunt who bought a set immediately they became available, I became her most frequent visitor, rapidly absorbed in episodes of I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners. Sometimes I just gazed at the test pattern. It never crossed my mind that one day I might be part of this new miracle, with my own image gracing those screens.
Australia You're Standing In It
Memories of brilliant visionary Noel Price, hopelessly helpless Frank Ward, belligerent John Eastway and fumbling Kris Noble. Max Gillies as a grimacing toothy mafioso saying 'I havva feelings! Golda Feelings!'. Me as frantic Italian wife of same, washing a bulldozer on location outside a magnifico Italian marble home in Bundoora: 'I hosa da dozer'. Evelyn Krape, dressed as a policewoman, being dragged off down Bourke St by an hysterical woman to help a wounded pedestrian whilst we were on an OB 'tea-break'. TV is still the greatest missed opportunity in the world of communication.
Home and Away
My first experience with colour TV when I was only very young left a lasting impression. My family didn't watch much TV and we only had a black & white set. When I visited my friend down the street I discovered to my amazement that Blinky Bill wore red pants and carried a yellow swag. The Australian bush and my favourite characters appeared even more enchanting ...
Home and Away
In Home and Away, I spent an exorbitant amount of time creating this ocker, nasal-speaking, rough-nut called Selina Cooke. I was determined to have such a typical Aussie character portrayed on TV. Warts and all. She wasn't glamorous, she wasn't pretty but she was a real Australian teenager. People still can't work out why I speak differently from Selina. They still don't realize I was acting; that I changed my look and voice to create her. Or maybe they don't want to know that. Maybe they want to think she was real?
It was a Wednesday afternoon in the late 1950s, when I was travelling home by train from the High School where I was teaching Latin, French and History. I was reading The Sun newspaper and happened to glance at the page on which were listed the programs that were on television that evening. I was immediately struck by a picture of Bette Davis and a listing of The Petrified Forest, also with Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart. This was a theatre and movie lovers dream come true. And it was going to be shown on television tonight! I purchased a television set the next day and hoped that The Petrified Forest would be shown again. It was.little did I know that I myself would present it, many times.
Sons and Daughters showed me that not all families are the same. That they are full of secrets and lies and mistakes and, more importantly, love. And that I am not alone in the confusion I feel growing up and learning of the past. Even a soap about a women's prison taught me something. Even Chances taught me something. If you get the opportunity, bare your bum on TV, because only good can come of it!
I came back home to Perth towards the end of 1959 to be involved in the launch of television there with the new station TVW7. The channel went to air early in 1960 with a great deal of excitement. During that time I recorded 'Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport', as a trial record. The whole thing was recorded on a single microphone slung above us in the TV studio. I sent it to EMI in Sydney and, a month later, they put that trial effort out as a record. Bob Rogers on Sydney Radio played it at every opportunity. The next thing that happened was an invitation to appear on Brian Henderson's Bandstand in Sydney. I got a shock when I got there to find that I had to mime to my record - I had to go on and pretend to be singing. I hated it, especially as the first bit was all ad-lib and spoken words and very hard to time accurately. However, it worked very well and I had the joy of knowing that my first recording, made in TVW in Perth, was Number One Australia-wide.
ugly dave gray
Some years ago, while recording Celebrity Squares, we had a malfunction with the lighting. We were all asked to go to the boardroom and to relax while it was fixed. After about an hour, somebody suggested we have some drinks as there would not be any more recording. Much to my amazement, and after three strong bourbon and cokes, we were all called back on the set. I had to climb some scaffolding at the back of the set - as I was on the top row. I felt pretty giddy, and when I went to sit on my stool, I missed and fell over. Each time I was asked a question by the compere I slurred my words, and it was obvious I was under the influence. Two weeks later we had Graham Kennedy on. He said, "Dave you were hilarious last week on the show." I said, "Graham I was pissed", to which he replied, "Then you should get pissed more often."
Enough Rope with Andrew Denton
My favourite moments of Australian television:
Bellbird: Charlie Cousens (actor Robin Ramsay) falling off the silo.
Countdown: Molly Meldrum falling off Prince Charles.
A Current Affair: Mike Willesee falling off the wagon.