I met Paul Dethridge when he started working on the Teletheatre studio
floor as 'Cable-boy.'
This was a job I had done, even before I left the Mail-Room, every
Friday night. I'd jump on the tram at South melbourne and find my way to
Johnstone Street Fitzroy to the Teletheatre, brain-storm of Norman Spencer,
(Billed in T.V.Week back then as 'The Man Who Made Graham Kennedy.' When it
was patently obvious that Gra-Gra had done it all by his widdle self.)
By the time I met Paul I had done the 'dragging camera cables' stint and
had moved out of the Mail Room and into Staging.
We often worked together at the South Melbourne studios on shows like
World Of Sport, Pelaco Football Inquest, Brian and the Juniors and Zig
Paul was a tall, good looking, dark-haired young man who hailed from
Maffra, and he was good with the girls.
Meanwhile there was me. Who was not Good With The Girls. So I, the oh
durr P.P. tended to hang out with this 'Not-so-country bumpkin.'
Besides, he was good company.
There are many things to say about Paul.
He once told me that his Father had died early and he expected that
would be his fate.
Of all the possible people in the world that he could have married, it
was to be his child-hood girl from the country.
He was there, one lazy Saturday Afternoon in the Seven canteen, when the
young woman who was to become my wife, sauntered between the tables
while both of us quietly smiled our approval.
He was the person who left Channel Seven and went across to the
fledgling Channel 0, advising me to do likewise, and thus changing my
He was also the fellow who answered the alarm.
Paul and me were sitting below ground level in the 'Dungeon', the
infamous locker room area for the crew where all types and sorts of
un-official activities occurred. Especially on Sundays during World Of
One of the Techs on duty poked his head downstairs and said, 'There's a
big story about Harold Holt. He's gone missing in the ocean down the
coast. Portsea. The small O.B.van's going down there. They need a
I looked at Paul. I didn't want to go. I was just a crumb-bum. Him or me?
Off he went. Two weeks later he came back, after sticking it out behind
a remote camera watching an empty, heaving, grey ocean. He looked leaner
and spent. It had been an emotional experience.
After he broke his leg in a motor collision, recovered and came back to
work, he managed to almost kill himself in studio one. A case of 'wrong
time, wrong place.'
The two of us were setting World of Sport. I went into Studio Two with a
canvas flat and a couple of braces for a host area there and on the way
back through the scenery bay, heard a sharp crash. I raced into Studio
One and found Paul reeling around with blood pouring from a gash in his
scalp. One of the fly-line's had come lose and a heavy wooden batten had
rapidly descended (These were solid wooden beams about ten metres long,
used to fly scenery in and out.) and struck him a glancing blow. If it
had been a direct hit it would have killed him.
Ambulance, stitches, survival.
Paul did lure me to A.T.V.O Nunawading in 1968 and having done so,
proceeded to take his leave after a couple of years, returning to his
old country town with the girl he'd married. On holiday, Maria and I
visited him there, but Paul's wanderlust kept him on the move. He spent
years travelling and briefly settling in several of Victoria's country
towns, hauling his wife and family with him.
I last met him at a television gathering back in the 90's.
Studio A, at Channel Ten. He was slightly stooped and
his hair had turned prematurely snowy by then. But he was still the Paul
of long ago, yet mingled with some stately elder fellow. (An echo of his
Now it's all a long time ago.
Harold Holt, the vanished Prime Minister of Australia, is a part of
history and so, in a very minor way, is Paul.
He feared, early on, that he might die from heart disease as did his
father, and so it came to be.