Newton, a veteran Logies host as well as host of New Faces and sidekick on The Don Lane Show, had been nominated several times over the years for the Gold Logie and had seen colleagues Graham Kennedy and Don Lane already take home gold statuettes in previous years. In accepting his Gold Logie, Newton mentioned his mother, Gladys: “I want her to experience what I am experiencing now. We lost her daughter, my sister Alice – she was my greatest fan – a couple of years ago. Mum, this is for your daughter and my sister.” Newton then phoned his mother from his Hilton Hotel suite immediately after the show.
As well as winning the Gold Logie, Newton also won the award for most popular male personality in Victoria.
The awards presentation was held on Friday 16 March 1979 at Melbourne’s Hilton Hotel and televised nationally through the Nine Network and relayed to thirty regional channels across Australia.
The night provided some famous moments – Robin Williams, from Mork And Mindy, was a comic hit on the night, and champion boxer Muhammad Ali provided a moment that would be recalled in Logies history for many years to come. Host Newton had quipped, “I like the boy..!” to Ali – a comment that is largely innocent in Australia but the term “boy” has racist connotations in America. Some rapid adlibbing from the normally unflappable Newton saved the moment from turning nasty.
But it was a moment that was close to not happening at all, as Ali had only agreed to appear at the awards night less than 24 hours before showtime and had only arrived at Melbourne airport minutes before the show started. A police escort rushed him to the Hilton Hotel and through the crowds of onlookers waiting to catch a glimpse of him.
Other overseas guests at the awards included Lauren Tewes (The Love Boat), Cicely Tyson (Roots), British actor David Hemmings, American actor Henry Silva, Days Of Our Lives stars Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes and George And Mildred stars Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy.
A total of 43 awards were presented on the night. The Nine Network’s long-running drama series The Sullivans (pictured) claimed four Logie awards – including Paul Cronin and Lorraine Bayly for most popular lead actor and actress awards and The Sullivans winning most popular Australian drama series.
The Don Lane Show won most popular variety or panel show as well as most popular program in Victoria.
The Seven Network’s landmark 1978 mini-series Against The Wind (pictured) won three awards – Jon English for best new talent, Kerry McGuire for best performance by an actress in a supporting role and Against The Wind won best new drama.
The 0-10 Network won a special Logie for Outstanding Contribution to Community Service with its Have A Go campaign. The campaign, initiated by Sir Kenneth Humphreys, chairman of TEN10 Sydney, was a series of commercials to motivate Australians to take a greater sense of pride in their country. The campaign was later endorsed by the prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, as well as state governments.
The film documentary The Last Tasmanian, aired on the 0-10 Network, won the Logie for best single documentary. The film, three years in the making, traced the life and death of the Tasmanian aborigines and had been a hit around the world with French and Welsh language versions also made.
Regional television also won two awards. The annual award for Most Outstanding Contribution by Regional Television was won by Goin’ Down The Road, a 30-minute documentary by Central Tablelands station CBN8. The documentary about a rodeo rider was selected from a final list of four nominations – the others being Six Tonight (BTV6, Ballarat), Voices Of The River (TNT9, Northern Tasmania) and Bravo Boston (NBN3, Newcastle).
The Logie for most outstanding contribution to children’s television is usually won by a capital city network, but in 1979 the award was taken out by Rainbow, a series of five programs produced by Northern Rivers station NRN11. The series, produced by Godfrey Philipp, featured children from local schools with each episode covering a different theme.
ABC won two Logies for its single drama, Bit Part, featuring veteran actor John Meillon. And 12-year-old Warwick Poulsen won the industry voted award for most popular performance by a juvenile for his role in the telemovie Because He’s My Friend, where he played a intellectually disabled child. Actor Michael Aitken won a Logie for his script for Neutral Ground, an episode of the Tickled Pink comedy series.
The full list of winners from the 21st annual TV Week Logie Awards:
Viewers’ Voted Awards
Gold Logie: Bert Newton (New Faces, The Don Lane Show)
Silver Logie – Most Popular Actor: Paul Cronin (The Sullivans, Nine)
Silver Logie – Most Populat Actress: Lorraine Bayly (The Sullivans, Nine)
Most Popular Teenage Personality: John Paul Young
Most Popular Variety or Panel Show: The Don Lane Show (Nine)
Most Popular Comedy Show: The Paul Hogan Show (Nine)
Most Popular Drama: The Sullivans (Nine)
Best New Talent: Jon English (Against The Wind, Seven)
Best Performance By An Actor In A Major Role: John Meillon (Bit Part, ABC)
Best Performance By An Actress In A Major Role: Kerry McGuire (pictured. Against The Wind, Seven)
Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role: Peter Adams (Cop Shop, Seven)
Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role: Chantal Contouri (The Sullivans, Nine)
Best Performance By A Juvenile: Warwick Poulsen (Because He’s My Friend, ABC)
Best Single Drama Production: Bit Part (ABC)
Best TV Script: Michael Aitken for Neutral Ground (ABC)
Best Single Documentary: The Last Tasmanian (0-10 Network)
Best Documentary Series: A Big Country (ABC)
Best News Report: Bank Siege (QTQ9 Brisbane)
TV Reporter Of The Year: Bill Bennett (Willesee At Seven, Seven)
Best Sports Report or Documentary: Surfabout (Nine)
Outstanding Coverage of a Sports Event: Bathurst Hardie-Ferodo (Seven)
Outstanding Contribution to Community Service: Have A Go campaign (TEN10 Sydney)
Outstanding Contribution to Children’s TV: Rainbow (NRN11 Coffs Harbour, RTN8 Lismore)
Outstanding Contribution by a Regional Station: Goin’ Down The Road (CBN8 Orange)
VIC: Bert Newton (GTV9), Mary Hardy (pictured. HSV7), The Don Lane Show (GTV9)
NSW: Mike Walsh (TCN9), Noeline Brown (ATN7), The Mike Walsh Show (TCN9)
QLD: Paul Griffin (QTQ9), Jacki MacDonald (TVQ0), Country Homestead (QTQ9)
SA: Ernie Sigley (NWS9), Pam Tamblyn (ADS7), The Ernie Sigley Show (NWS9)
WA: Terry Willesee (STW9), Stephanie Quinlan (TVW7), Channel Nine News (STW9)
TAS: Jim Cox (TNT9), Kerry Smith, Saturday Night Show
Source: TV Week, 24 March 1979, 31 March 1979.