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
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
* 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
* The yellow Kombi - which became a home for a while.
I have missed this neighbour ever since - as no one will ever replace
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.
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