Nine farewells Willoughby studios

This weekend marks the shift of Nine‘s Sydney operations to a new address in North Sydney — ending 64 years at Artarmon Road, Willoughby.

The move comes five years after Nine sold the Willoughby site for $147.5 million, with Nine holding a lease while it prepared to move to the new address.

The Willoughby studios were still being built when TCN9 launched as Australia’s first TV station on 16 September 1956.

Bruce Gyngell presented the opening night introductions from a makeshift studio at the Willoughby site, while many of the early live shows from TCN came from a temporary studio set up in a church hall in Surry Hills.

Bruce Gyngell

Mike Ramsden (left)

John Godson

Chuck Faulkner

Some of the shows to have come from Willoughby included Bandstand, Sound Of Music, Tonight With Dave Allen, Tonight With Don Lane, World Of Sport, The Super Flying Fun Show, Wide World Of Sports, The Mike Walsh Show, Midday, Sunday, 60 Minutes, Graham Kennedy’s News Show, Robbo’s World Tonight, Today, A Current Affair, The Footy Show, Mornings, Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show and its infamous spin-off, Australia’s Naughtiest Home Video Show.

The studios also hosted thousands of news bulletins — many of them fronted by Brian Henderson (pictured) for over 40 years before his retirement in 2002. Henderson also hosted Bandstand from 1958 to 1972.

The final broadcast from Willoughby will be on Weekend Today on Saturday, with broadcasting from 1 Denison Street, North Sydney, starting on Saturday night.

As well as Nine Network, the new address will also house staff from Nine’s newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review.

In preparing for the final shift to North Sydney, Nine commissioned photographer Angie Summa over the past few months to document some of the sights, people, memories and archives as 64 years of television from Willoughby comes to an end. The following is a sample provided by Nine:

YouTube: 9 News Australia

Source: Broadcasting & Television, 21 September 1956. Angie Summa

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Classic TV Guides: Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue

It is not often that the three commercial networks put aside their fierce rivalries, but it does occasionally happen when it’s for a good cause.

One such event was the airing of the cartoon special Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue on Friday 9 November 1990 across the three commercial networks and regional commercial stations.

Produced by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in the United States and broadcast across the four major American networks earlier that year to an audience of 33 million viewers, the program delivered an anti-drugs message via a cast of cartoon characters representing all the major animation studios.

In the US, the program was introduced by President George H W Bush. The Australian screening was introduced by Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Mrs Hazel Hawke.

The broadcast of Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue is among the latest addition of Classic TV Guides:


Source: TV Week, 3 November 1990

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Obituary: Jeanne Little

Jeanne Little, forever remembered as a legend of daytime television, has died at the age of 82.

A Sydney housewife with her own boutique dressmaking business, she almost came to fame by accident. In 1974, while pregnant with daughter Katie, she was asked to make a guest appearance on The Mike Walsh Show to talk about maternity wear.

What began as a one-off segment became an ongoing gig with the show, as Little with her outrageous fashion sense and flamboyant tone became an instant hit with viewers.

So much so that she went on to win Logie Awards in 1976 and 1977 for Most Popular Female Personality in New South Wales, and a Gold Logie in 1977 for Most Popular Female Personality on Australian Television.

When The Mike Walsh Show made the switch from the 0-10 Network to Nine in 1977, Little surprised all when she took a detour to the Seven Network. Seven never really seemed to find a suitable vehicle for her outside of a short-lived afternoon show and guest appearances on the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal and Willesee At Seven.

She soon returned to The Mike Walsh Show at its new home at Nine and stayed on for several years, and followed to its successor The Midday Show.

Little later branched out into theatre and cabaret, including a successful tribute to Marlene Dietrich, but still kept in touch with TV, including a regular stint on the panel show Beauty And The Beast.

In 1989 she made a return to the Logies stage, performing alongside fellow female Gold Logie winners Lorrae Desmond, Hazel Phillips, Pat McDonald, Denise Drysdale and Rowena Wallace.

YouTube: oztvheritage

In 2001 she received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

In 2009, Little was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and had been living in an aged care facility. Her daughter, Katie Little, created the Jeanne Little Alzheimer’s Research Fund so that research can be undertaken into the debilitating disease.

Source: NeuRa, The Sydney Morning Herald. TV Week, 2 April 1977.



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Obituary: Joy Westmore

Actress Joy Westmore, best known as Officer Barry in Prisoner, has died at the age of 88.

Born Joy Grisold, she was a winner on an early radio talent quest and began reading commercials on Melbourne radio station 3UZ while also working in the office at the station.

She went on to the theatre, including performing in revues with Barry Humphries and joining the Melbourne Theatre Company. This led to appearing on sketches on In Melbourne Tonight, hosted by Graham Kennedy, who knew her from 3UZ.

She married a dentist, Brian Westmore, in 1960 and they lived in London for six years before returning to Australia with a young family.

She also scored an unusual claim to fame, featured on the front page of The Age newspaper in 1969 being interviewed from the first household in Victoria to switch over to using natural gas.

“I suppose at the time they were looking for any house that was new in (the Melbourne suburb) Carrum. The natural gas came from a Dandenong centre and we were just close to the outlet,” she told The Age, still at the same house in Carrum, in 2009. “I had a young family and a new house and I suppose they thought I could string two words together.”

The Ernie Sigley Show

Westmore made a return to performing in the 1970s on The Graham Kennedy Show and The Ernie Sigley Show and ABC‘s production of The Sentimental Bloke.

By the late 1970s, she secured the guest role of Officer Joyce Barry in the popular series Prisoner. The role eventually became a regular character and stayed with the series to the final episode in 1986.

Joy Westmore being made up for The Graham Kennedy Show

She later appeared in the early 1990s mystery series Cluedo and played a couple of guest roles in Neighbours.

Other TV credits included Bellbird, The Sullivans, The Damnation Of Harvey McHugh, Fergus McPhail, Blue Heelers and It’s A Date.

Joy Westmore is survived by four children. Her husband Brian died earlier this year.



Source: The Age, IMDB, TV Tonight. TV Week, 15 December 1973

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Obituary: Gerald Stone

Gerald Stone, the American-born journalist who launched 60 Minutes in Australia, has died at the age of 87.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, he came to Australia with his wife Beth and two daughters in 1962.

After three years as a Vietnam correspondent for The Daily Mirror and The Australian newspapers, he made the move to television, joining ABC‘s This Day Tonight in 1967.

By the mid-1970s, current affairs had hit the mainstream of commercial television, and Stone moved across to the Nine Network. He initially hosted an interview program, Federal File.

He then presided over a controversial revamp of Nine’s news bulletins in Sydney and Melbourne, replacing both cities’ evening news with a single program, News Centre Nine. Anchored by Brian Henderson in Sydney and Peter Hitchener in Melbourne, News Centre Nine was a rare misstep in Nine’s news portfolio.

Despite News Centre Nine‘s failure, Stone was then handpicked by Kerry Packer to produce Nine’s bold new current affairs venture, an Australian version of the American program 60 Minutes.

Launched in February 1979, 60 Minutes was a ratings flop in its early days but was soon to gain momentum and by 1980 it had become one of Nine’s strongest performers, dominating the all-important 7.30pm Sunday timeslot.

Having steered 60 Minutes through much of its first decade, Stone went back to the US, to Rupert Murdoch‘s Fox network. He spent three years at Fox before returning to Australia for his next venture, producing the Seven Network‘s new nightly current affairs program, Real Life.

Real Life, hosted by Stan Grant, struggled up against Nine’s A Current Affair but managed to run for three years and in 1994 won a TV Week Logie Award for Most Popular Public Affairs Program.

Stone went on to become editor of news magazine The Bulletin for three years and was then appointed to the board of SBS, where he served for ten years.

He wrote two books on his former employer, the Nine Network. In 2000, Compulsive Viewing gave the inside story on the success of the Nine Network under the control of Kerry Packer. After Packer died in 2005, Stone wrote the follow up, Who Killed Channel 9?, tracing the network’s fall from dominance.

In 2015 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “for significant service to print and broadcast media as a journalist, editor, television producer and author.” In 2017, he was inducted into The Australian Media Hall Of Fame

Gerald Stone is survived by wife Irene, his two children, Klay and Jennifer, and two grandchildren Louis and Gina.

Source: The Melbourne Press Club, Sydney Morning Herald. TV Times, 2 February 1973.

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Melbourne Cup Flashbacks

This year’s running of the Melbourne Cup will be like no other — with no crowds present while Melbourne continues to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases.

But the race day will still go ahead and will be covered by Network Ten for the second year since re-gaining the rights to cover the “race that stops a nation”.

Flashback to 1990, and TV Week‘s preview of the Melbourne Cup, which normally features soapie stars’ fashion choices, took a different turn by featuring stars from Ten’s two comedy shows at the time.

Let The Blood Run Free stars Lynda Gibson (as Matron Dorothy Conniving-Bitch) and David Swann (Dr Richard Lovechild) were joined by The Comedy Company’s Mark Mitchell (as Con The Fruiterer), Russell Gilbert and Tracy Harvey.

Going back further, to 1960, and for the first time viewers in Sydney were able to see the Melbourne Cup live, in a joint effort between all three Sydney channels. The Victorian Racing Club dictated that live TV coverage of the Melbourne Cup was not allowed in Victoria. It was not until 1978 that the rule was lifted.

TV Times did, however, still give Melbourne readers a glimpse at some Cup fashions from the stars. Featured in its one-page fashion preview were Corinne Kerby (ABC), June Finlayson (Seven) and Joy Fountain (Nine).

The 2020 Melbourne Cup Carnival — Lexus Melbourne Cup Day.  Tuesday 3 November, 10.00am (AEDST), Network Ten / WIN.

Source: TV Times, 27 October 1960. TV Week, 3 November 1990.



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NBN to relocate studios

Regional broadcaster NBN is about to move premises after almost 60 years of operation from Mosbri Crescent, Newcastle.

The Northern NSW outlet for the Nine Network will be shifting to a new studio and offices on Honeysuckle Drive (pictured above) by mid-2021.

The new studio will allow NBN to update to new technology and continue production of NBN News from Newcastle.

The Mosbri Crescent studios were opened in March 1962, when NBN3 launched as New South Wales’ first regional TV station.

As well as hosting thousands of news bulletins over almost 60 years, the Mosbri Crescent studios have also been home to variety shows, telethons, women’s and children’s shows and commercials as well as providing production support to some capital city network programs in the 1970s.

NBN became an affiliate of the Nine Network with the advent of aggregation in Northern New South Wales in 1991. It was purchased by Nine for $250 million in 2007.

Source: NBN

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Penthouse Club: Mary Hardy, trots and Tattslotto

YouTube: kylegalley

For almost a decade, watching The Penthouse Club was a Saturday night tradition in Melbourne.

Debuting on HSV7 on 10 October 1970, it was a variety show with intermittent live crosses to the Saturday night harness racing and would link up segments with Sydney’s The Club Show with Rex Mossop.

TV Times, 7 October 1970

It was a rough format to work with, lacking in sophistication and, with the barest of budgets, didn’t have much emphasis on production values. However, despite its limitations it was the chemistry and popularity of its two hosts — football commentator Michael Williamson and comedian and radio host Mary Hardy — that made it a winner with Melbourne viewers. Its success led to the format being locally adopted by Seven Network stations in other cities.

With variety on the way out at rival channel Nine, Penthouse provided an outlet for local and visiting performers and gave viewers a welcome respite from the usually slim pickings of Saturday night TV.

Michael Williamson, Mary Hardy

Penthouse Club also added another string to its bow when it began hosting the weekly Tattslotto draw from 1973.

In August 1974, Hardy caused controversy when she accidentally dropped the f-bomb in one show when a segment did not go entirely to plan. She was suspended from appearing on television for a week.

It was not to be the first time the comedian with a quick wit landed in hot water. A few months later a similar incident saw the Australian Broadcasting Control Board take action and asked Hardy to “show cause why an order should not be made prohibiting or placing restrictions on her from rendering items for radio or television.”

Following assurances made by Hardy, through her solicitors, that no such incident would occur again, the Board decided not to take further action but her activities were to be further supervised by Seven.

She was remorseful for her on-camera outbursts. “There’s no excuse. It should not happen,” she later told TV Times. “I know that if my mother were here she’d have been very disappointed in me.”

Trudy Jaworski

In January 1975, former children’s TV presenter Trudy Jaworski, filling in for Hardy, also attracted the Board’s attention to the show when she discussed a news report about a “love diet”. According to the Board, the discussion was deemed to have been “in a manner which was considered by the Board to exceed tolerable bounds of good taste.”

Jaworski defended her conduct. “It was all part of some very funny discussion between Tony Barber and myself,” she told TV Week. “Apparently it was my reference to love making to which some people took exception, which is really quite amazing because, after all, it is an adult show.” But Seven, still sensitive from the fallout from Hardy’s on-air gaffes, ended up dropping Jaworski from making further appearances on the show.

Mary Hardy, Bill Collins

In 1977, Williamson retired from broadcasting and was replaced by a rotation of various hosts including Bill Collins, Jimmy Hannan and Ernie Sigley, before Sigley was ultimately appointed co-host with Hardy.

In early 1978, Hardy was surprised on set when she was greeted by Roger Climpson, host of This Is Your Life, with an episode of his show presented in her honour.

Ernie Sigley, Roger Climpson, Mary Hardy

Hardy, who had won six Logies as Most Popular Female Personality in Victoria during the course of Penthouse Club, ended up leaving the show at the end of 1978. She denied that her sudden exit from the show was caused by any rift. “At no time was I rattled — not with Mike Williamson, Bill Collins, or Ernie,” she told Scene in 1979. “If you can handle the likes of Graham Kennedy, Mike Walsh and Noel Ferrier, then nobody can faze you.”

Mary Hardy, Ernie Sigley

Sigley also denied industry gossip that he and Hardy did not get along. “I had nothing to do with Mary leaving Penthouse. I stress that we didn’t fight — on or off the cameras,” he told Scene. “Despite rumours of of bitter behind-the-scenes bickering and jealousy between us, the fact is that we got on rather well. The first I knew of Mary’s move was when Channel 7 rang me in Adelaide.” (As well as hosting Penthouse in Melbourne, he had also been commuting to Adelaide to host a local variety show there)

With its popular co-host gone, Penthouse Club was revamped going into 1979 with a new title, Saturday Night Live, and Sigley joined by a new co-host, Belinda Leigh.

The new-look Saturday Night Live failed to match the popularity of its earlier years and was quietly axed by the end of 1979.

The format of Penthouse/Saturday Night Live made a return to TV in 1980, when ATV10 launched The Saturday Night Show (pictured), with Williamson reprising his role as host, and accompanied by Annette Allison. The show was to be short-lived.

Source: TV Times, 7 October 1970, 8 February 1975, 12 April 1975, 6 May 1978. TV Week, 8 February 1975. TV Guide, 22 September 1973. Scene, 16 September 1978, 18 November 1978, 27 January 1979. The 27th Annual Report 1974-75, Australian Broadcasting Control Board.

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