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Wireless in its Heyday

The days when Radio reigned supreme

Television. Early days in Melbourne

By K.S. Mulholand (Australia)


'Wireless in its heyday.'


Kenneth Mulholland

Television. Early days in Melbourne.

I was about twelve when T.V. first came to town in the Melbourne Olympic

Games year of 1956.

I lived with my parents and sister in West Heidelberg about a mile or so

from the Olympic Village and I remember my Mother pushing my four year

old Sister in a pram and me walking up to the Village to see these

exotic peoples from far distant countries around the world.

Security seemed almost non-existent and it was an incredible experience

to see all those athletes, many wearing bright and sometimes garish

colours and costumes from their homelands. For us, a suburban, meat and

two veggies family, this was something from another planet.

Five years later I was standing in the scenery bay at Channel 7, looking

out, goggle-eyed, at an American, Larry K. Nixon, bouncing into the

studio set of 'Lady For A Day.'

I was, at that point, the messenger boy. And that job took me all over

the city: to Newspaper House in Collins street, The Herald Sun building

in Flinders street, Crawford Productions, Radio 3DB and Dargie/Young

and Tillbrook across the street from The Southern Cross, the newest, most

coolest hotel in Melbourne Central. (And where The Beatles would appear

on its first floor roof.)

It was at DYT (Dargie/Young and you know as above) that I first

encountered Johnny O'Keefe on the narrow first floor staircase. I

gawked, he sidestepped. I remember the facial scars.(He'd been in a car

accident.) And his height. He was a dynamic pocket-rocket.

After eighteen months as a gopher and mail-room 'boy' I knew the city

pretty well and zapping through all the side-streets and alleys, could

cover it faster than the trams.

In Studio One at Dorcas Street I got to see the American actress Jane

Russel. (Big, in more ways than one.) And out in Fitzroy at The Tele

Theatre, Henry Fonda, fresh from his role in the Cinerama blockbuster

'How The West Was Won.'

But the man who impressed me greatly was Frank Thring. This was a guy

who, amongst many other pursuits, travelled overseas to appear as a

wonderful character actor in several of the Hollywood epics, rubbing

shoulders with the likes of Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston and Tony


Yet he always returned back to Australia and Melbourne. A kind of 60's

version of Jeffery Rush.

I recall the first time I saw him. A tall man dressed all in black,

striding down the aisle towards the raised stage, passing me by with a

swift glance and a high pitched exclamation: 'Ohhh! A new one!'

His humour was dark and at times acid, his stare baleful, his smile

beguiling and he could rake you with a verbal broadside at fifty yards.

And, like The Wild Child, Johnny O'Keefe, he was a true professional.

More on both of them to come.



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