Higgins, Sparkes and May remembered
Three legends of Australian popular culture – and our country’s motoring/motorsporting history – are gone. Ross Higgins, Ken Sparkes and Norman May all passed away since the previous issue of AMC was published.
Higgins was the man who drove the Holden Kingswood into every Australian home, even the living rooms of true-blue Falcon fans. As the star of the television series Kingswood Country, which ran from 1980 to 1984, he was best known for his signature line, “The Kingswood, you’re not taking the Kingswood.”
Higgins played Ted Bullpit in the family soap opera that exposed and satirised everything from sexism, bigotry and racism to Australia’s love of the old-fashioned family car. Some of his crazy excuses for not lending the Kingswood to his son and son-in-law included “I’ve just ducoed the tyres”, “I’ve just glad-wrapped the aerial” and “I’ve just Mr Sheened the number plate”.
When Holden announced it was to shut down its Australian manufacturing plant, Higgins was approached by media outlets for comment. He described it as a “kick in the bum”.
He also described himself as a Holden driver, though he later switched to owning Toyotas.
Higgins was 85 when he passed away on October 7, ironically the day Ford closed down!
While Ken Sparkes’ face would be familiar to AMC readers, it’s his voice that was best known. His authoritarian delivery of “This has been another presentation of Nine’s Wide World of Sports” is etched into any long-time F1 fan’s memory, just as it is for viewers of cricket and NRL telecasts. He also reported on motorsport events for Channel Nine’s long-running Saturday afternoon sports show.
Sparkes was well known to Gold Coast Indy racegoers, hosting the on-track Indy TV broadcast at the height of the race’s popularity during the 1990s and 2000s. The veteran radio and television personality was also a member of the Muscle Car Masters’ PA team. Sparkes was an actor, singer, broadcaster and commentator in a far reaching career that netted him tremendous respect in the media industry. He began his career as a junior announcer at Mudgee radio station 2MG in country New South Wales, He later moved to Sydney’s 2GB where he was the city’s youngest disc jockey at 19. Many other DJ jobs followed. In more recent times Sparkes was hosting Foxtel’s Jukebox Saturday Night on the Aurora Channel. He died in September aged 76. Meantime, while ABC broadcaster Norman ‘Nugget’ May was best known for his calls of the Olympic Games – most notably his emotional “Gold, Gold for Australia!” at the Moscow games in 1980 – he commentated on the public broadcaster’s coverage of motorsport events in the 1960s. Until May, sports broadcasting on the ABC was a polite, well-modulated affair with a fair helping of English middle class accent. He was 88 when he passed.
Ross Higgins Ken Sparkes Norman May