Location: New South Wales, Australia
Date: 1975-1976

Posted November 2010

Keith Graham, my former boss at 2GO got in touch with a bloke in Sydney who had a lot of radio contacts. "He's like you," he said, which I took to mean he was gay. No biggie.

I arrived in Sydney and took the elevator to the 19 millionth floor of some tower at North Sydney. There, at the door of a small bedsitter, I was greeted by the bloke "who was just like me". The plan was to stay overnight and then head off to meet some of the radio people he had recommended. He cooked dinner, plied me with lots of wine and port, and then pulled out the sofa bed. During the night, he tried to get it on but I pushed him away.

Next morning, he was less than impressed with my unwillingness to cooperate in bed during the night and treated me rather coldly. I showered and ate a small breakfast. He handed me a piece of paper on which he had scribbled a list of Sydney radio stations and their addresses. Anyone could have written that list from a phone book. So it was a setup.

First on the list was 2KY at Potts Point, a former nightclub. I asked at reception if I could speak to Ray Hood, the manager. "Can you type?" "Yes." "Can you write copy?" "Yes." "Our copywriter is going to England for a 6-week vacation. You can fill in while she's away." A week later, I returned from Gosford but Ray Hood had forgotten about me. He was an alcoholic. Fortunately, the bloke in the adjoining office remembered me and arranged for me to occupy an office. He was the assistant manager, Alan Ireland. I organized a small furnished flat at Elizabeth Bay in a huge 19th century mansion overlooking the inner harbor.

Alan and I became quite good friends. On one occasion, he asked me to write a series of commercials for the Department of Public Transport about catching buses instead of using private cars. The series won him an advertising contract with the department

On the very last day of my 6 weeks, the station newsreader stormed down the hall outside my office, muttering something about quitting. Five minutes later, Alan Ireland stuck his head in the doorway of my office and asked, "Can you read news?" "Yes." "Good, you can start Monday."

For a while, I read the breakfast news. That was when I learned to pronounce Arkansas correctly. Then one day, the drive-time announcer quit, so Alan Ireland installed me in the chair. I looked at the on-air log and noticed that the hour between 5 and 6 was sponsored by a land developer but there were no ads. I phoned downstairs to his office and he said, "Don't worry about it, Gary. I'm working on it." During the news, he burst into the studio and handed me a torn press ad from a newspaper. "Just ad lib around that," he said, and then left. So I did. I ad libbed my little tits off, and the switchboard lit up with calls from people who wanted to invest in the parcels of land for sale.

Alan Ireland was so impressed with the response to my ad lib - reading from a newspaper clipping about the size of a beer coaster and managing to make it last for an entire hour - that he moved the breakfast announcer to another shift and installed me. Sheesh, from a six week stint as copywriter to the star of the show in just a few months! And all because I walked in off the street one day, unannounced, and applied for a job. Any job.

Yes, I remember George Gibson. He was back in Oz after extensive experience in Canada and had been hired as a new announcer at 2KY. When he walked into the studio one morning to introduce himself, I said, "Let's have some fun." So I sat him down and interviewed him on air for the job, pretending that he'd walked in off the street like I had. Hehe. So it was me who hired George! Well, that's what the listeners thought anyway.

By the way, another announcer there, Tony Langshaw, who was totally outrageous, used to refer to 2KY as "the cream of Sydney radio". No prizes for guessing why.

2KY back then was in the heart of Kings Cross. The old Rex Hotel was across the road in Macleay St, right next door to the El Alamein Fountain, and my favorite bar was the Bottoms Up Bar. I called it Studio B, and Alan Ireland always knew where to find me if he needed me in a hurry - after 10am that was. It was a gay bar, and one day I invited newsreader Graham Virgo to have a beer with me. Graham was ultra straight... Mr Deep-Voice-Butch-Hollywood Looks-Dimpled chin - yadda yadda. "If any of those poofs comes anywhere near me I'll break his nose." Well they didn't, and he was soon very relaxed. In fact, he became a regular at the Bottoms Up Bar and loved it. Graham and I and his girl friend became pretty close mates.

One time, as usual, he came into the on-air studio to read the headlines on the quarter hour, and I told him I'd be back in a tick... I just had to take a quick pee. Hehe. So I stayed in the loo listening to the speaker in there and heard him saying things like, "Gary's taking longer than I thought but he should be back any second now..." He was sitting at the side of the broadcast desk so he didn't have access to the turntables or any of that stuff, and he just had to sit there yabbering away until I returned. Yes, that was really cruel.

This is how the old pub looks today, converted into apartments. One time, back in the old days, I was sitting at the Bottoms Up Bar chatting to a young bloke when he said he had to go and change for work that night, but that he would be back a bit later to have another beer with me. So after about an hour, as I waited for his return, a very attractive young lady sat beside me, ordered a beer, and then started chatting away like an old friend. Took me ages to realize that "she" was in fact "he"... the same bloke I'd been talking to before. Hehe. He was a female impersonator who worked at a local club. The transformation was amazing and I was totally flabbergasted.

There are a million stories I could tell about living in Kings Cross but if I did this page would be about 3 miles long.

The station organized a big concert at the Sydney Opera House, and guess who they selected to MC the show? But they didn't tell me until the last minute. Bloody hell.

I was so nervous before I stepped on stage at the Sydney Opera House concert hall that I didn't have a clue what I was gonna say. Literally. Then, as I took a few paces toward the front of the stage the spotlight hit me. I was blinded and couldn't see a damn thing! But as I shaded my eyes with my hand, I thought of something to say. I asked the spot operator to move the light slightly away but he didn't. So I said, "Okay, leave the spot where it is and I'll step out of it." When I did, I scanned the huge audience and said, "So that's what you look like!" That broke the ice and I was away, chatting incessantly all night. "Get off the stage!" "Shuddup, I haven't finished yet."

When I introduced the first act, he came rushing out from the wings, tripped over an electrical lead, and fell flat on his face. But, like Frank Sinatra, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and carried on with the show.

Meanwhile, I'd moved from my little flat in Elizabeth Bay to share a penthouse with a mate, formerly Chris Kearns at 2GO, but now a big star at 2UW in Sydney known as Christopher John. The flat looked along the length of Manly Beach, from Queenscliffe, perched on the rocky cliff just above the saltwater pool and surf club.

Hey! I even got featured in a Sydney newspaper as part of a series about the city's breakfast announcers!


Well, I might have been a Sydney radio star but I certainly wasn't getting paid like one! Mind you, it was more than twice what I'd been earning at 2GO.

Ratings? What the hell were they? Alan Ireland called me into his office one morning after my shift and showed me the results of the latest survey. Survey? I hadn't experienced any of that kinda stuff in country radio. There were no ratings in country radio! Not back then, anyway. So there was only one thing to do... create a bit of free publicity.

Free quote on erections? How interesting. I'll give 'em a ring and see if they're still there.

Well, that little stunt stirred things up a bit.

Yes, you're quite right... I was very naughty to have caused such unnecessary anxiety to the listeners. But then I got another bright idea! Being a resident of Queenscliffe, near Manly, I thought it would be a wonderful thing if 2KY could organize outside broadcasts at the beach.

One of the station announcers? Now who could that be?

Well, Alderman Clarke had a point when he said my remarks were "the greatest load of rubbish I've heard." Hehe. After all, I WAS a radio DJ, and rubbish was my stock in trade. However, while other Sydney stations were paying a fortune for their publicity, we were getting ours for nothing.

Actually, I hated outside broadcasts (OBs). People stare at you. This one was at the Sydney Truck Show. How butch. But all good things come to an end. I hadn't taken a vacation for about 18 months. Knowing 2KY's predilection for swapping shifts around when people were on leave, I asked for a guarantee that my job would be waiting for me when I returned. The boss of the trade union (I think it was Barry Unsworth) wouldn't give it to me, so I said, "Seeya later," and resigned. Yes, like 2HD in Newcastle, 2KY was owned and operated by the Trades and Labor Council.

By the way, while I was at 2KY, the "indecent assault" case raised its ugly head again. Someone somewhere found the original court hearings and realized that the case had not been finalized. So I was summoned to appear at Darlinghurst Court, that imposing sandstone building you saw in the last chapter. It's a bloody good thing I wasn't too famous in Sydney because my appearances (and there were a couple of them) didn't make the press. I told Alan Ireland about the situation but he shrugged and said not to worry about it. As it turned out, he was right. The case was declared a "no bill" and dismissed. I remember the judge looking at me in court and saying how "curious" he thought it was that the prosecution evidence had disappeared. Meanwhile, the Liberal state government in New South Wales had been replaced by a newly elected Labor government, and homosexuality was decriminalized.

My craggy-faced Jewish lawyer sent me a bill for $350 and I was never so pleased to pay a bill in my entire life. It was all over.


Scrapbook Part 8
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