Preparing for action!
The advertising campaign mentioned in Geoffrey’s story is something I feel qualified to comment on, since I wrote it during my time at long-gone Sydney advertising agency Coudray Dailey. It was 1982 and my good friend Ron Kivovitch was at that time CEO of Suzuki Australia, so naturally I hammered him for a tilt at the advertising account, to which he thankfully succumbed. Our first task was to launch the new four stroke DR250 and the budget was sufficient for a television campaign to add to the print schedule. I desperately wanted to avoid stereotype motorcycle advertising and came up with a concept that I quietly nicked from a very old British movie called Once a Jolly Swagman, made in 1949. The plot for the movie (ludicrously renamed Maniacs on Wheels for the US market) centres on the main star, Dirk Bogarde, who becomes a speedway rider after losing his job in a factory. The confusing title was supposed to reflect the fact that the sport had originated in Australia – a tenuous link, to be sure. Anyway, Bogart (or his character, Bill Fox) has his career interrupted by the war, and finds himself drafted into the British army to become a Dispatch Rider. During his training, Mr Fox is daydreaming of speedway (and his girlfriend, who was supposed to be Australian) instead of listening to the lecture on the perils and pitfalls of being a Dispatch Rider being loudly conducted by his sergeant. As punishment for his inattention and insubordination, Fox is ordered to show the squad how a motorcycle should be ridden, which he does with alacrity by tearing around the parade ground in a full broadside, to thunderous cheers from the other recruits. In reality, Dirk Bogarde detested motorcycles, and his riding sequences were performed by Ron Johnson and Ron Howes, both members of the post-war New Cross league team in London, where the action sequences were filmed. Armed with this plagiarised scenario, my television script, shot for a 60 second commercial with a 30 second cut down, was fairly simple to create. We recruited Suzuki’s young motocross star Robert ‘Beetle’ Bailey as the star and a location was found at Narrabeen, northern Sydney, in a reserve owned by the local council. The director was Bob Kersey, whom I had known for many years and who was a keen rider himself, on a BSA 441 of all things. At the location, a huge pile of earth was bulldozed into place, and Bailey performed several giant leaps over this, with an army Jeep passing below, each landing extending the wheelbase of the DR as the front forks bent outwards. We had 2 or 3 bikes on hand but each suffered the same fate, until Bailey partially rectified the problem by ramming a tree to push the forks back somewhere close to where they needed to be. Eventually the director was satisfied and Suzuki reclaimed their now very second hand motorcycles. The voice-over for the commercial was done by a young Sydney disc jockey who would go onto much greater things, Doug Mulray. The commercial actually won a couple of industry awards, but just how many motorcycles it sold, I cannot say. As I recall, it wasn’t a bad little bike.