Mov­ing with the times

Af­ter 54 years in Rich­mond, Chan­nel 9 is shift­ing to a new base at Dock­lands. Bert Newton

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

THE first thing I re­alised when the news came through about GTV’s move from Bendigo St, Rich­mond, was how many spe­cial mo­ments in my life have been as­so­ci­ated with the TV sta­tion.

I cel­e­brated my 21st birth­day on cam­era here, my en­gage­ment to Patti, my 30th, 40th, 50th and re­cently my 70th birth­day as part of the GTV9 fam­ily.

Many peo­ple see this as a sad time and it is sad to see such a mag­nif­i­cent his­tory in Bendigo St end, but it’s 2010 and def­i­nitely time for a move.

I came here in 1959 af­ter two years at Chan­nel 7. Back in those early days, ev­ery­one was learn­ing about tele­vi­sion.

Nine in Mel­bourne was the home of va­ri­ety. Any­one who as­pired to be in the genre wanted to be here.

My won­der­ful friend Pete Smith called it ‘‘ the MGM of Aus­tralia’’ and he was right. We had a band of 14, a bal­let of 14, a cho­rus of 14 and eight an­nounc­ers, all on staff.

It was like a fam­ily. We’d get in about 10am each day, re­gard­less of what time our shifts started.

We’d com­pare notes, cel­e­brate a show’s suc­cess or mourn the fact that it didn’t go as well as it could have.

Be­ing able to join my good friend Gra­ham Kennedy at GTV9 was a bonus. I was meant to be there to do a break­fast pro­gram called In Mel­bourne To­day but there was a hold-up in the pro­duc­tion.

A cou­ple of months in, one of the an­nounc­ers who was to do a com­mer­cial with Gra­ham on In Mel­bourne Tonight was sick and they called me in. The ad was meant to go for 60 sec­onds. It went for 22 min­utes, with a lot of fun in­volved.

Un­til then, Gra­ham and I had never worked to­gether but as soon as I came off, the pro­gram di­rec­tor Norm Spencer said: ‘‘ For­get the break­fast pro­gram, Al­bert, you have a new gig.’’

GTV9 has ro­man­tic mem­o­ries for me, too. Patti (then McGrath) was one of the team mem­bers on IMT. She was in the com­edy sketches with Gra­ham and Joff Ellen, Rosie Sturgess and Johnny Ladd. Gra­ham thought she was won- der­ful. One night I was in­vited to a party for Diana Trask, the singer. The part­ner I had in­vited couldn’t make it, so I asked Patti if she would like to go. She said yes and that was the start of things be­tween us.

Ob­vi­ously Stu­dio 9 is an iconic part of GTV — the home of Gra­ham and Don’s (Lane) shows as well as Sale of the Cen­tury, Hey Hey it’s Satur­day and The Footy Show.

One funny thing I re­mem­ber was that there was a mem­ber of the stag­ing crew whose job it was to get up on the light­ing grid. I al­ways won­dered why he wanted to do it. We dis­cov­ered why one night dur­ing The Don Lane Show when there was a clat­ter of empty Fos­ter’s cans dur­ing an im­por­tant mu­si­cal num­ber. He was par­ty­ing up there!

In the early days, Stu­dio 1 was the cen­tre of ac­tiv­ity. That was where the of­fi­cial open­ing of GTV9 was done by then­Gover­nor Sir Dal­las Brooks.

A funny moment hap­pened in Stu­dio 1 when The Tommy Han­lon Show de­cided to do an ice-skat­ing show.

They cov­ered the floor with ice and it looked won­der­ful dur­ing re­hearsals.

Trou­ble was, when they came back from din­ner it had turned into a river.

You know, the over­all feel­ing I have right now is one of grat­i­tude. It is won­der­ful to still be as­so­ci­ated with GTV9 for this his­toric move.

with COLIN VICK­ERY Nine lives: Bert Newton rewinds be­fore the big move. Pic­ture: DAVID CAIRD

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