Location: New South Wales, Australia
Posted November 2010.
I resigned from 2KY in September 1976. Some months previously, I'd
moved out of the Queenscliffe penthouse and back to an apartment in Kings
Cross. Remember Terry from EMI Records who wrote that letter thanking me
for plugging Mike McClellan's album? He and I drove south to Bega for a
bit of a holiday on the coast, and stayed at a Tathra caravan park. I didn't
have a car at the time. I used to get a free Valiant every month courtesy
of a Chrysler dealer who was a sponsor of mine. Of course, that went bye-byes
when I quit. It was an interesting arrangement. He bought the dealership
cheap because it was at the bottom of the heap. After about six months
with me doing his ads and promotions, his dealership rose to be No.2 in
So, while Terry and I were in Bega, I visited the local radio station
2BE, owned by Ray Rumble. With a name like Rumble, you'd expect him to
be in the radio biz hehe. He offered me the job of Operations Manager,
which was a flash title for all-round dog's body. Terry and I returned
to Sydney and I took a train to visit my folks who had sold their house
in Terrigal and moved to an apartment in Parramatta. I checked the local
paper and saw that a used car lot in Parramatta had a sale... used cars
for $299. My dad drove me there and the salesman tried to flog me an old
Holden with noisy tappets. But I rather liked the old AP5 Valiant. "No
mate, you're better off with the Holden. The Valiant's got a crook auto
gearbox." "So where's the nearest mechanic?" I bought the Valiant and headed
to the mechanic. He drove to a wrecker's yard, picked up a used Torque-Flite
gearbox, and installed it in my Valiant for $80. Cool.
This is a pic from the web. Mine was gray with a white top. It was
a 1964 model made in Oz with a push-button auto mounted on the dash. In
those days, Holden, Ford and Chrysler were the "Big Three" and the Valiant
was the posh one. In the blue collar suburb of Marrickville they were known
as the Marrickville Mercedes hehe, which became a common phrase used all
over Sydney. Mine was fitted with a slant-six, a Dodge truck engine too
big to fit under the hood, so they tilted it sideways.
I went back to Kings Cross, loaded up the Valiant with my few meager
possessions, including a heavy HMV TV set, and drove to Bega. The TV set
had been a gift from the Chrysler dealer. Little did I realize at the time
that he'd only rented it! I discovered that later. But the TV was too heavy
for me to lift on my own, so I asked a passer-by for help. He and I carried
the TV to the Valiant and put it on the back seat. I could have been robbing
the apartment for all he knew but he was most obliging. Hehe.
It rained like hell all night. I slept in the Valiant in a parking lot.
Early next morning - it was a Saturday - I called into the radio station
to announce my arrival. The on-air announcer was the only person in the
building, Greg Toohey. He lived out of town in a farm house, and had trudged
through flooded fields to get to the station that morning, which explained
why he was doing the program in his undies, and all his clothes were drying
in front of an old-fashioned cone-type radiator. Welcome to Bega.
That's Greg sitting at the broadcast desk. Some years later he was
at 2ST Nowra as the morning announcer when he died of cancer. He was probably
in his mid to late 30s - a lovely bloke who enjoyed the simple things of
life. That's me standing, and Phil Bowden with her kids Simon and Rachel.
They had won a Christmas Wish competition. And the baseball cap? I'd bought
a new denim one because I thought it would give me instant 'character'
hehe. But one day I was having a beer in a pub when I spotted a young bloke
wearing a battered, torn, cap that was considerably worse for wear. It
was oil-stained as well because he was a mechanic. So I offered to swap
my new one for his (the one I'm wearing above). He was delighted, and I
wore that old battered cap everywhere for months afterwards. It was my
trademark. Silly me.
For a while I lived at a Bega caravan park. So I put an ad on air asking
for share accommodation and got a response from a young bloke at nearby
Tathra, a beachside town. He was paying off his mortgage and could use
the extra income. Besides, he would also get an HMV color TV! Color had
only just been introduced in Oz.
2BE studios were in the Bega Cooperative Society building in town, a
dairy-farming cooperative famous for its Bega cheese, which is a national
brand in Oz. No air conditioning, a side window that opened directly onto
a laneway used by trucks to deliver goods to the co-op store, and very
basic. But it worked. Shortly after I first arrived, our paychecks were
late. Ray Rumble had to get on bended knee to the local bank manager to
increase his overdraft. Hehe. Pretty hairy days back then.
Tathra was a good place to live. One morning as I headed into town
I stopped to pick up a hitchhiker, my next door neighbor. He was a high
school kid and offered to "show me around and introduce me to people".
I was new in town. We became great friends. He and his mates used to regularly
camp overnight on the old, dilapidated Tathra Wharf, and soon convinced
me to do likewise. In the early days, before the introduction of the railway,
south coast towns like Tathra and Bega were serviced by coastal shipping.
Anyway, when I was there the old wharf was a wreck... missing floorboards,
timber rot, you name it. It's been completely renovated and refurbished
since. But we had a lotta fun in our sleeping bags overnight, listening
to the waves crashing below the holes in the floorboards, and telling stories
embellished with lots of poetic license.
One time the boys grabbed a young mate and tied his hands to a rafter.
Then they stripped him naked and left his pants around his ankles while
they went outside the building. I was still inside, watching the poor kid
trying desperately to lift his pants with his foot but failing miserably.
I was tempted to go to his aid but I also didn't wanna spoil the boys'
fun. Anyway, not long afterwards, they returned and freed him. The things
One of the more interesting stories about my time at 2BE was when Ray
Rumble asked me to visit a local shopkeeper who refused to advertise on
the station. The 2BE sales manager had had no luck either. The shopkeeper
operated a toy and hobby shop in one of the side streets. I went to the
shop and wandered around for a while. It was a mess, with stuff strewn
everywhere and nothing organized. But it had charm, and invited you to
investigate the nooks and crannies, with the promise of finding something
wonderful. "Can I help you?" he asked. So I told him I was just looking
around and that I was from 2BE. "2BE? Nobody listens to 2BE. Everyone listens
to the ABC, so if you're trying to sell me advertising, forget it." "Well,
if nobody listens to 2BE, you won't mind if I get on air tomorrow morning
and say that you're cheating on your wife and running around with loose
I went back to the station, wrote and produced a few ads, phoned him
to say that I'd play them on air as freebies so he could hear them, and
then waited for his response. He bought a package of ads for the Christmas
season. Later he told me he'd had his most successful Christmas ever, with
people coming from miles around to see the toy and hobby shop "that wasn't
even in the main street!"
I was on air one day when I heard on the national news from Sydney
that a young bloke had crashed his hang glider and suffered severe head
injuries. He was in a coma at Royal North Shore Hospital. That was my best
mate Kurt from Gosford. His father phoned 2BE shortly thereafter to confirm
the bad news. Kurt was in deep trouble.
I quit the house in Tathra and moved back to Bega where I stayed at
the Grand Hotel. It was a nice room with its own bathroom, and the ladies
in the kitchen were fabulous... keeping a hot breakfast for me when I got
off air at 9am. The hotel was just across the road from the radio station.
For the next several weeks, I drove the old Valiant every weekend to
Royal North Shore in Sydney to visit Kurt. He was still in a coma. While
there, I spoke to his girlfriend and her mother. Kurt's brother was there
too, but he didn't like me. He was a cop. On the third week, I arrived
at the hospital but was stopped by Kurt's girlfriend's mother who warned
me not to be disappointed. Kurt had regained consciousness but was not
able to recognize anyone. I poked my head around the ward doorway and saw
Kurt, sitting up in bed. He spotted me right away and smiled, "Gary!" Then
he asked me about the old Benz. He'd forgotten about the Superbug and things
that had happened since, but he was slowly regaining his memory. Kurt's
copper bro liked me even less after that hehe.
I returned to 2BE and quit, but told the boss not to panic. I would
stick around until he found a replacement. That turned out to be several
months during which time Kurt had recovered sufficiently to return to the
north coast where he lived with his girlfriend in her mother's house at
Nambucca Heads. I felt that my place was to be with him during his rehabilitation.
I had no job to go to but what the hell. I'd figure something out.
My months living at the Grand Hotel turned out to be quite eventful,
especially in a country town. Suffice to say that I got to know a couple
of footballers rather well... certainly much better than I could ever have
The morning I left Bega suffering from a dreadful hangover, I drove
all the way north to Nambucca Heads and was invited to stay with Kurt,
his girlfriend and her mother in a lovely house opposite the river, not
far from the beach. The mother was a teacher at the local high school and
a bright lady.
That's a pic of Kurt looking all very surfer-like and demure. I took
it shortly before his hang glider accident. One day when I was getting
a little concerned about being unemployed, Kurt's girlfriend suggested
I contact the Nambucca Tourist Association. She'd heard they were having
a meeting to decide whether or not to disband. So I attended the meeting
and talked them into keeping the organization going, and hiring me as their
publicity officer. After the meeting, I wrote a press release to the local
The local paper printed the press release verbatim, including my misspelling
of "independant". Hehe. Anyway, bullshit or not, it did the trick and I
had a job. My office was an old caravan parked on the side of the road
town. But at least it had a phone which I used one day to call the local
ABC radio station. "Funny you should call," the manager Steve Oliver said,
"we happen to have Saturday morning breakfast free." So I went to the station
in Kempsey, about an hour's drive south, for an interview with the boss.
By the time I arrived for the appointment, the weekday breakfast announcer
had resigned and I got the full time job instead. Hehe. Luck of the Irish.
Later the boss told me he hired me because I had "charisma".
Oh. Did I really say that? But working for the ABC (Australian Broadcasting
Corporation) was a culture shock. It was commercial free, so it was just
me and the music and the news. I was accustomed to a much more frantic
pace with lots of ads and jingles. Now I had to be a "proper" announcer
and sound intelligent! Scary stuff. Meanwhile, living with Kurt and his
girlfriend was getting a bit tricky. She was madly in love with me and
I was madly in love with him while he was madly in love with her. So I
got a little flat in Kempsey and moved there.
Two of the many things I remember about Kempsey are 1) Elvis Presley
died August 16, '77, and 2) it was the year of the 7th day of the 7th month
'77. I recorded myself singing seven, seven, seven, seven, seven, seven,
seven, seven, seven 3 times in a different octave, and then overlayed each
track with the others so that the end result sounded like a choir. I played
it on air next morning and the boss arrived at 9am. "Where did you get
that 7 thing?" he asked. "I made it," I replied. Hehe.
Life in Kempsey wasn't without its interesting experiences. I used
to drink at the old Royal hotel on the edge of town. It was a dump, with
holes in the floor (marked with chalk so you wouldn't suddenly disappear
without trace). The guy behind the bar was as camp as all getup, limp wristed
and very effeminate, and yet he was married and lived with his wife. The
drinkers, by contrast, were all rough-as-bags Aussies. Look at them sideways
and you risked getting your face rearranged. Quite a few local Aboriginal
guys were regulars as well and I befriended them. One time they invited
me to go walkabout. "Don't bring anything... no food or nothin'. We'll
live off the land for 2 weeks." I visualized eating witchetty grubs and
goanna and sleeping under the stars, and declined the offer. Ew!
I used to ride my bicycle to the pub and park it inside. I was a sucker
for the charity raffles and occasionally won a case of beer, which I had
to carry back home on the bicycle. It was a pretty hairy ride I can tell
you. But amazingly I never fell over.
Once again, lots of stories but they'd take forever to relate. Toward
the end of my time in Kempsey, I traded the old Valiant on another. I was
actually looking at a Holden but then spotted the Valiant which was a few
hundred dollars cheaper. Later, I met the guy who bought my old one and
he said, "Bit fumey but she goes really well."
I was tired of Kempsey and decided to go back to Sydney. The Kurt thing
had gotten too complicated so there was no point in staying. I read in
a newspaper that one of the announcers at 2GB had left. Actually, he was
fired because he was advertising his shirt shop on air without paying for
air time. So I put together a demo tape of my stuff at the ABC. Problem
was, the ABC had no commercials and 2GB was a commercial station, so I
made some "pretend" ads and used them on the audition tape which I mailed
to Barry Augustus, manager of 2GB.
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