Memories of HSV 7 Melbourne
Graeme McNamara and Phil 'Dixie' Duncan
By K.S. Mulholand (Australia)
'Wireless in its heyday.'
Memories of HSV 7 Melbourne.
Graeme McNamara and Phil 'Dixie' Duncan.
Graeme McNamara was there from the moment I set foot on a studio floor.
I'm not sure how he came to work at Seven, although I think it was
because he knew several guys who did.
Even in his younger days, he was somewhat stout, and reliable.
Rather like a young, portly squire. He also loved a party, and
Back in the early sixties, Macca lived in Brighton in an old house that
came, over time, to be known as Elma-K.O. The name was coined with the
idea of El Mak's as the Ranch of McNamara.
If that is true, it appears that as time and the parties and gatherings
continued, El Mak's was up-graded.
It became the knock-out of Brighton: Elma-K.O.
I have lots of memories of times there, and I travelled all the way from
West Heidelberg to Brighton on public transport. In those days that took
buses and trams and more buses.
Back then I couldn't stand the smell of beer, let alone drink it.
Mac suggested a portagaff. 'You'll like that. It's mostly lemonade with
a bit of stout.'
When I went to Elma-K.O.s, I was armed with three bottles: two lemonade
and one invalid stout. In fridges crammed with beer, no body ever raided
my stash… But I sort of felt that I was one of the crowd.
Meantime, Macca was making his mark at Seven. Swiftly he became the
third banana under Les Young and Billy Webb. Staging bods like 'Prize
Prawn' me, and soon to come, Ray Ackerley, along with more senior rogues
such as Jack Frost, Enzo Dobrilla, Shields Curetin, Leon Bradley and
Bruce Jacobs made up those early crews. Paul Dethridge, Stu Kinchin, Bob
Meillon and Phil Duncan were soon to follow.
When Phil 'Dixie' Duncan, arrived on the scene, promoted by Billy Webb,
who had probably encountered him in a Richmond or Fitzroy pub, Macca had
to take a step back.
Dixie arrived with a Rep as a 'Street Fighter.' But one day, at the
Teletheatre, he made jaws drop in an entirely different manner. The
upright piano sitting in the middle of the studio floor was about to be
wheeled away when Phil sat down at the keyboard and hammered out a
brief, and convincing jazz number. At that moment, Dixie's star gleamed,
and not much later, after becoming the specialist Flip Card exponent on
World Of Sport, he was Floor Managing 'The Happy Show.'
Later, a fellow named Harold (Hacky) Cullum joined staging and he and
Dixie took an instant dislike to each other. It was in the time of T.V.
Ringside with Ron Casey and Merv Williams and on the day in Studio One
that the ring had been set up, Dixie goaded Hacky into pulling on the
gloves and stepping up. They Faced off in the ring: The Street Fighter
versus the young, cocky punk. What 'Dixie' had failed to find out about
his youthful opponent was that Harold Cullum was trained as a boxer.
Some hectic minutes into the fracas, 'Dixie' suddenly realized that he
had another pressing appointment.
They pulled off the gloves and, as often happens, ended their feud and
Much later still, (In the 1970's) Dix, or as I often called him, Double
Dee, confessed to me that the piano number he played back then was the
only thing he ever learned.
Macca never became a Floor Manager, in my time at Seven, but I bet he
would have been a good one. But back then Macca was going to show me and
others, the way, in more ways than one.
'We've finished for the morning. Can't do more until after rehearsals.
We'll go up to Jimmy Watson's and have a glass of Sixpenny Dark.'
Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar is still in Lygon Street Carlton, a suburb of
Melbourne. In 1963 I had never encountered such a venue. I'd been in
pubs, one notably, where I had dropped a ten bob note, walked out,
realized my loss, ducked back in and lifted it from the fingers of a
bloke who'd just picked it up off the floor.
But Watson's (Est. in the 1930's by Jimmy Watson, who died in 1962.) was
no pub. It was, to my knowledge, the only wine bar in Melbourne during
the sixties. A hand-full of us staging bods motored in Macca's car from
The Teletheatre up to Lygon street one bright, sunny afternoon. I think
John Gilbey, possibly Chris Motton, Jack Bell, me and Graeme.
'How much money have you got on you?' Mac asked me.
'Oh, three or four bob.'
So we stepped through the door and it was like stepping into the past:
the old fashioned counter with an ancient ring-up till, sun-light
filtering through a door that led out to a little courtyard, saw-dust
strewn across the floor and round timber tables with bent-wood chairs.
Mac ordered five glasses of claret and a plate of Kabana and Swiss
cheese. (By then, I had discovered Kabana, and I knew that Swiss had
holes in it. I was becoming cosmopolitan.)
But I had no idea about the red wine in the glass in front of me. I had
a vague knowledge of Port-wine, as I'd heard it called, and I knew there
were things named Whisky, Brandy and Rum, though never having tasted any
of them. Two Shillings and Six Pence bought me my round of five glasses
Thankfully the cheese and sausage provided by Mac soaked up some of the
damage, and, pretty out of it, I returned with the others.
However, there was one time when one of our crew (we'll call him Martin)
had more than two or three shilling's worth.
I can't recall the show we were working on, Possibly The Bob Crosby
(Brother of Bing.) show, where we discovered that Bob, a big band leader
with some of the laid-back qualities of his more famous brother,
did nothing without Idiot Sheets, so that 'Hi, I'm Bob Crosby…'
had to be written up on the big sheets positioned beside camera two for
him to read.
Standing beside camera two, post a session at Jimmy Watson's, grinning
vacantly during rehearsals, Martin holding this sheaf of sheets, managed
to drop the lot into the vacant audience seats, whilst retaining the
first and last sheet in his wine-numbed fingers.
'You're pissed Martin! Get upstairs and into a shower!'
Billy Webb, probably after a few grogs at Alan Ruthven's pub across the
road from The Teletheatre.
'Mac! You'd better do Idiot Sheets!'
Later that same evening, after the show…
'Ai Les! Where's effing Martin? Haven't seen 'im all night?'
Les sends someone to locate Martin. They find him, legs sprawled, on his
rear, on the shower floor; water-logged, with the shower still
pouring warm water over him. A vacant, happy smile on his face.
Ah yes. The days of Jimmy Watson's.
One final thought on Graeme McNamara, who passed away just recently. I
last saw him back in the seventies out at ATV 10 in company with Jeff
Spenser. Jeff and I were doing an outdoor, lunatic show called 'Almost
Anything Goes.' We only had time for a coffee together. But Macca was
just the same as he had been when he took me under his wing,
understanding that I was a 'Mummy's little hot-house flower,' who needed
nurturing to flourish, and protection from The Big Bad Wolf that lurked
in all the halls and corridors and, indeed, the studios.
I remember him fondly, not just as a work-mate, but as a very warm
fellow human being.