The occasion of Johnny Lockwood’s 90th birthday was as good a reason as any to bring together some of his former Number 96 co-stars and to assemble at the real-life apartment building that posed as Australia’s most famous address in the 1970s.
“It’s so special celebrating my birthday in the original Number 96,” he told Woman’s Day. “This is probably the last time we shall ever get together like this. I was orphaned at 11. When we did the show back in the 1970s, these people were so important to me. Like family.”
Lockwood played the character of Hungarian-born delicatessen owner Aldo Godolfus in Number 96, dating back to the show’s beginnings in 1972. He picked up the role after the show’s producers had spotted him playing the part of a Jewish shopkeeper in an episode of Spyforce.
Starting on Number 96 with a thirteen-week contract, the character lasted for over three years – finally coming to an end in 1975 when Aldo and three other characters were written out of the series as victims of the show’s famous ‘bomb-blast’ episode.
The celebration of Lockwood’s 90th led to a reminisce over the famous neighbourhood and the show’s impact on the viewing public. “We couldn’t go outside without being mobbed. Hell, even the hookers went off the streets at 8.30pm so they wouldn’t miss an episode.”
Joining Lockwood (pictured, seated) for his birthday are (from left to right) former colleagues Elisabeth Kirkby (Lucy Sutcliffe), James Elliott (Alf Sutcliffe), Jeff Kevin (Arnold Feather), Phillippa Baker (Roma Godolfus), Frances Hargreaves (Marilyn McDonald), Wendy Blacklock (Edie McDonald) and Mike Dorsey (Reg McDonald). Lockwood’s daughter Joanna, who also starred in Number 96 as well as appearing in later shows Cop Shop and E Street, was also at the celebration.
Growing up in London, Lockwood’s showbusiness career dates back to 1935 when, at the age of 14, he joined a group called Twelve Dancing Kiddies. By the late 1940s he was appearing at a Royal Command Performance and came to Australia in 1957 for a ten-week contract to appear in the stage production Tonight At Eight with Bobby Limb. Australia has been his home ever since.
Various cast members of the groundbreaking series, which ended in 1977, have reunited on numerous occasions over the years – most recently several cast members assembled on the Seven Network’s Where Are They Now? in 2007, while cast members Elisabeth Kirkby and Carol Raye provided audio commentary on the recent DVD release of 32 episodes.
Source: Woman’s Day, TV Times, 17 February 1973 and 8 March 1975.