Still a Bull­pitt artist

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Tv Classic - ERICA THOMP­SON

BLUS­TER­ING bigot Ted Bull­pitt caused quite a stir in ’ 80s sit­com Kingswood Coun­try.

But his al­ter ego, ac­tor Ross Hig­gins, says be­hind the scenes it was Colin McEwan, who played Ted’s brother Bob, who was the real trou­ble­maker.

‘‘He used to do the most fright­ful things to me,’’ Hig­gins, 78, says of prankster McEwan who died of liver can­cer three years ago at the age of 64.

‘‘He used to come in and ruf­fle my hair when I was sit­ting with my back to him and it used to ir­ri­tate me so much that they wrote it into the show.’’

McEwan also re­port­edly once faked a heart at­tack in front of his hor­ri­fied cast­mates.

‘‘He did the most ou­tra­geous, dread­ful things and you couldn’t get an­noyed with him,’’ Hig­gins says. ‘‘He was one of those lovely peo­ple that could get away with mur­der, but then time ran out for poor old Col and that was it.’’

Ted, on the other hand, re­fused to let time catch up with him.

Racist, sex­ist and fiercely pro­tec­tive of his beloved Holden Kingswood car, he was ob­jec­tion­able in nearly ev­ery way.

His Ital­ian son-in-law was a ‘‘bloody wog’’, his own son was a ‘‘randy lit­tle bug­ger’’ and if any­one dared ask to bor­row his prized pos­ses­sion he’d bark: ‘‘You’re not tak­ing the Kingswood.’’

Hig­gins ad­mits he did worry about Ted’s con­tro­ver­sial views, but says the qual­ity of the writ­ing and years of per­form­ing live on ra­dio, which helped hone Hig­gins’ comic de­liv­ery, meant Ted was largely harm­less.

‘‘A few times I had things (to say) that I wor­ried about be­cause they got a lit­tle bit close to the mark, but we got around it,’’ he says. ‘‘I think it’s the way you say a thing. It’s the way you present some­thing (that makes it funny rather than of­fen­sive).

‘‘(Ted) was po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect, but then I think be­ing po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect is very small cheese com­pared with some of the other things you see now on tele­vi­sion.

‘‘Com­edy to­day — I can get my­self into trou­ble here, but I’ll try not to — com­edy to­day, I don’t think, is all that clever.

‘‘Per­haps I’m miss­ing out. I don’t know. When I see the standup (co­me­di­ans) some­times on TV I think ‘Who was your writer?’ ’’

Kingswood, which ran just short of 90 episodes, con­tin­ues to get laughs on DVD and in re-runs on pay-TV’s FOX Clas­sics chan­nel.

Hig­gins says he’s sur­prised Ted’s fa­mous catch­phrases such as ‘‘pickle me grand­mother’’ and ‘‘grum­ble­bum’’ are en­ter­tain­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of view­ers.

‘‘Peo­ple will say ‘I used to watch and en­joy it and now my kids are watch­ing it’. It’s amaz­ing that they find it amus­ing even af­ter all this time.’’

BUT Ted Bull­pitt isn’t the only iconic Aus­tralian char­ac­ter to which Hig­gins can lay claim. He has also sup­plied the voice of Mortein’s Louie the Fly since 1957.

‘‘Fifty-one years later and it’s still go­ing,’’ he says. ‘‘We just did a whole new lot of ads last week.

‘‘He’s pretty much the same way as I cre­ated him orig­i­nally. He’s al­ways got a gang­ster voice and that sud­den sort of threat about him, but of course he gets killed ev­ery episode and comes back the fol­low­ing one. Half his luck.’’

Hig­gins has been one of the coun­try’s most re­silient per­form­ers hav­ing en­joyed suc­cess in ra­dio, the­atre, mu­sic and tele­vi­sion.

‘‘There’s a lot of luck at­tached to ev­ery­thing,’’ he says. ‘‘I guess you’ve got to have some tal­ent too, to back it up, but re­ally there’s a lot of luck at­tached to be­ing in the right place at the right time.

‘‘I love the busi­ness.’’

Grum­ble­bum’s rush:

Ross Hig­gins still loves his Kingswood Coun­try char­ac­ter.

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