Location: New South Wales, Australia
Date: 1986-1991 Part 2

Posted December 2010

In 1988, I was approached by television producer Warwick Freeman to write a TV series called Go Fish Australia, starring legendary Australian actor, John Meillon. I'd known Freeman from my 2UE and 2DAY days. But me write about fishing? What the hell did I know about fishing? I was a regular diner at Frying Times, a wonderful local fish restaurant run by a bunch of young blokes just up the road, but that's all I knew about fishing. So Freeman also hired the services of Steve Starling, well known fisherman and fishing journalist.

Freeman called Steve and me Mills and Boon. Steve would write a bunch of hard-core fishing stuff and I'd de-Boon it a little and do the more flamboyant Mills trick. It worked pretty well. Steve and I got along particularly well actually, despite being opposites. He was a big man with awesome strength. I saw him lift a whole tuna one day with ease. Others of the same size had to be carried by two men. One time I drove him from his home at Gerringong on the South Coast to Sydney, up the very steep Bulli Pass. The old Kombi was struggling in second gear at one stage when Steve said, "This is interesting. I've never been at flower-picking speed before."

Did I say Kombi? In 1988, I sold the Valiant Regal for $4000 to a motorcycle cop. I read in the paper 6 months later that he'd been killed riding his bike on duty. Later that year I bought the Kombi. It was yellow but almost identical to this one. The roof rack used to hum at just on 60kph when it was empty.

Pics taken at Townsville, north Queensland, during the production of Go Fish Australia. That's Steve Starling (with the beard) and Warwick Freeman (red hair). Can't remember the other bloke's name but he was a well-known fisherman from Melbourne.

There we are at a production meeting with Warwick doing the white board thing. The bloke in the top pic looking directly at the camera is my ex-biz partner whom I learned to despise some years later. That's me in the bottom pic relaxing after a hard day's... er... whatever.

That's me on the left wearing a pair of false glasses to make me look intelligent, and Warwick Freeman on the right doing what he did best.

And there's John Meillon. I met him at a local shoot on a wharf at Greenwich in Sydney and introduced myself. I remember he'd missed a patch of whiskers on his chin when he shaved that morning. "Oh, so YOU'RE the writer? Well, don't be surprised if I change every damn word in your script." He didn't, and I remember being totally blown away when I saw the cut of the first episode in a studio, with Meillon speaking my lines word for word. It was soooooo amazing. He died later that year.

The series was a big hit on ABC TV and spawned a hit song called The One That Got Away, written and produced by Tommy Moeller. Then, in 1989, my ex-biz partner Ian Atkinson arrived in Sydney from Townsville with an idea for another TV series. Ian had operated a fishing charter business in Townsville called FINZ which had gone kaput, but I was unaware of that. It was something to do with a deal he'd made with Japanese interests that backfired.

Ian and I worked out of the front office (which he insisted on calling "the studio") of my house in Glebe for many months, putting together a proposal for the TV series which would involve a competition between world-class golfers and game fishermen. The idea was that many famous golfers were also keen game fishermen. The series was named Golf-Fish. We chose Greg Norman to star in the pilot episode, The Shark Versus The Great White.

I'd recommended my voice-over mate Jim Pike to be the series presenter. (The bearded bloke wearing the jacket in pics 1 & 2). Jim had a lot of experience as a TV presenter, and would bring good ol' Aussie humor to the show. Howard Rubie, in the bottom pic, was the director.

Jim in a studio shoot, with Howard Rubie, director, and Ian Atkinson, my biz partner.

Shots I took at Port Lincoln, South Australia, during a shoot for The Shark Versus The Great White. Greg Norman was on vacation in the area at the time, fishing for great white sharks, so we capitalized on his presence. Meanwhile, I'd put my house in Glebe on the line. Ian had no money so I kept him afloat with regular checks for his rent and other expenses including hire cars. That's him with Lemon Lips, our production manager, standing beside the chopper.

After the shark shoot, I discovered that Greg Norman had faked the "catch and release". Catch and release had been an essential component of our promotion... that all fish would be released after catching unless they were caught for food. Ian Atkinson was on board Norman's boat when Norman said something like, "Okay guys, you've got your catch and release (on film), now he's mine!" One of the crew gaffed the shark and killed it while Atkinson stood by and said nothing to stop it. Later that night, under the cover of darkness at about midnight, the shark was raised on a gantry and weighed with Norman standing next to the carcass as the fearless great white hunter. Jacques Cousteau happened to be in the vicinity at the time and heard about the kill. Next day it made headlines in the German press and elsewhere in Europe.

My mate Steve Starling said to me shortly after the kill, "There goes your house, Grace."

The golfing component of the show was shot out of sequence in Melbourne, but that was okay. Happens all the time in movie making. Norman was in Melbourne playing in the PGA tournament (or whatever it was) so we took advantage of his presence again. He arrived by chopper.

Lemon Lips, who had worked on Dead Calm, a successful movie made in New Zealand starring Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill, was responsible for hiring all the freelance technical people to supplement our own crew. She hired some hopeless sound man. I remember him saying after the shoot, "I think it's okay." I didn't take much notice of his remark at the time. It was only after I arrived back in Sydney that I discovered half the soundtrack was missing or garbled. When I phoned the sound guy and asked about the audio, he said, "You can't sue me. I'm a bankrupt." He had obviously been aware of the sound problem on the golf course during the shoot (he was wearing headphones), but had kept it secret probably because he was afraid to halt proceedings and/or be accused of unprofessionalism.

I transcribed what I could make out from the sound track and sent the script to Norman in Florida. He used a studio to record the voice over, but he's a golfer not an actor, and the voice over was unusable. The whole thing was a total disaster. First the killing of the shark and then the garbled sound track. It was goodbye 15 Hegarty Street.

To make matters worse, Atkinson had completely taken over my office during the preceeding year. He was constantly on the phone, and Kellys Copy Shop was relegated to a back seat... so much so, it dwindled and died.

I was working with a bunch of dickheads. People kept asking me to write a script before the shoot. How can you script live action? You script movies not live action. Imagine me walking up to Norman before the golf component and saying, "Here's your script." What a joke. Mind you, not everyone was a dickhead. Howard Rubie was a pro, cameraman and DOP Willie Brewer was one of the best. But Lemon Lips, Atkinson and a few others were donkeys.

UPDATE: January 2011. Today I received an email from my ex-neighbor Kim who lived next door to me in Glebe. It's funny how other people see you. I'd always thought of myself as a naive twit who couldn't help getting himself into trouble. But Kim saw me from a different perspective, and still does. Here's part of what she wrote:

It is always great reminiscing the 'good' times of the past Gary,  as it certainly makes our journey along the way interesting, and memorable, a learning curve with many cherished memories.  These are a few of the memories that make who we are and what we stand for:-

*    A lovely man from No 15 who would give his shirt off his back to anyone - and he did at that.  A very kind and trusting gentleman.  His name is Gary.
*    A man of much humor, intelligence, kindness, creativity and determination.
*    A man who loved his dog - Kelly.  I hope you have some new pet love and energy in your life from our wonderful animal kingdom - they never replace our cherished ones now in 'doggy' or 'çat ' heaven, however they bring so much joy and unconditional love that sometimes humans can not. 
*   A talented neighbour of words - of careers in radio, writing, story telling - and ideas and much much more,
*  A caring neighbour - an icon of the street.  He was not far from sitting at his door step on a hot balmy night clunking a glass or two and I would be coming home late at night from one of my several jobs!!!!!  There would be a cheery chat.
*   Oh and the amazing story you wrote to 2 GB (a copy that I still have filed) when my house was broken in to......
*  Our street / park parties.  I think the first one in Hegarty Street and we were slouched in bean bags on the street / road and I think traffic had to re route almost as this very important social event of neighbours transpired over bubbling liquer, laughs and analyses of world events!!!!
*    Entertainment in the street with ambulances mopping up the damage from head blows to a neighbour who gave nothing but trust and support to those in need .
*   Trust and financial support given by you to someone not so trusting and honest for an amazing business venture you so believed in - and the devastating loss of the roof over your head - and we won't go there!!! 
*   The yellow Kombi - which became a home for a while.

I have missed this neighbour ever since - as no one will ever replace you Gary.

Well, how the hell do you top that? That's the last thing I expected from anyone, let alone Kim. Bloody hell. That has absolutely floored me. She wouldn't have written anything like that 20 years ago so maybe it's true what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder. The years have clouded her vision hehe.


Scrapbook Part 13
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