Self-made man of
Many years ago, during the golden age of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, I had the heady experience of winning my way through to the show’s hot seat. As a result, I got to feel like Eddie McGuire’s best mate for two nights running. The sensation was far from unpleasant, even if it culminated in my failure to furnish Ed with the correct name of the man who invented Vegemite.
Watching McGuire do his stuff up close, I had a sense of the charm and hard work that have buttressed his fantastic success. He was as uncannily genial and unselfish off-camera as he was on it. Several hours before taping, he turned up to rehearse and banter with each prospective hot-seater. Later, after I blew it on the Vegemite question, he sought me out and offered a cheering pep-talk for the road.
He was the star who didn’t behave like one. His small talk had substance. More than a dec- ade later, I still find it hard to hear a bad word said against him.
Michael Bodey, author of this thorough if sometimes unpolished biography of McGuire, feels a similar affection for his subject, even after surveying the full facts of the life. “My admiration has grown the more I learned or heard about the man,” he writes in a foreword. Eddie doesn’t skimp on McGuire’s gaffes and failures, but it presents ample evidence that the achievements outweigh them.
McGuire’s ravenous work ethic comes from his immigrant parents. His father came from the Glasgow coalmines, his mother from rural Ireland. They raised Eddie and his three siblings in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows. For Eddie, it was a humble place from which to set out. As a cub sports reporter for Channel 10 he built a reputation as a go-getter. By 30 he’d settled at Nine, where he became the mastermind and inaugural host of The Footy Show.
Reading about McGuire can make you feel depressed, as if you’ve wasted your life by consistently failing to be in more than one place at a time. Whatever you’re doing right now, shouldn’t you be running a company or two on the side? Shouldn’t you have got up at 4.30am