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