Ron Blaskett, one of the first performers on Melbourne television, has died at the age of 96.
Blaskett was already established as a ventriloquist in the Melbourne theatre circuit when he appeared on of GTV9‘s first test transmissions in 1956 and official opening in January 1957. He had imported the doll that would become “Gerry Gee” (named after the TV station’s call-sign) from the US for £200.
Blaskett and Gerry Gee became regulars on GTV9’s first children’s show, The Happy Show (later The Tarax Show), and with them were a whole family of fellow dolls — some performed by Blaskett’s wife, Merle.
Gerry Gee inspired an early range of merchandise and was also to appear on In Melbourne Tonight, in commercials and even a series of movie shorts. Gerry Gee also “wrote” a weekly column in early editions of TV Week and was later depicted in a regular series of comic strips in the magazine, drawn by Ernie Carroll (who later created Ossie Ostrich).
Blaskett also took Gerry Gee interstate, including performances on Perth’s Channel Niners Club.
He continued to appear on TV throughout the Seventies on shows including The Ernie Sigley Show, Young Talent Time and a short-lived game show, All Star Sweepstakes.
Blaskett officially retired in the 1990s but continued to perform with Gerry Gee in retirement villages and nursing homes until he finally retired the puppet in 2012.