On Friday 12th November, Coralie Condon and Audrey Long organised a small get together of friends who participated in either the Seven Ex, a group of former TVW staff, who for many years assisted with Telethon fund raising, and people involved with the 1964 television production of ‘The Good Oil’, which was broadcast in 1965.
Those present included Coralie Condon, Max Bostock, Audrey Long, Joy Campbell, Margie Nayler, Liz Kirkham, Lewese Shaw, John Easton, Phil and Briony Salinger, Russell Sage, Richard Ashton, Gordon McColl, Pixi Burke, Rick Herder and Ken McKay.
Phil Salinger was a key member of the TVW engineering staff, with an important role in the installation, operation and maintenance of the station’s transmitter and studio equipment. Phil also operated the telecine facilities, which were temporarily located at the transmitter for the test transmission period. Phil is now deeply involved with 6SEN – Capital Community Radio Inc. which broadcasts on 101.7FM from Wireless Hill Park in Ardross.
The Seven Ex sprang from an idea suggested by Audrey, to involve many enthused former staffers in the Telethon fund raising process, whilst also providing a wonderful excuse to socialise. Audrey was part of the Old Girl’s Association of Channel Seven, dating back to 1977-79. In 1990, it was decided to start the group up again, but this time to include all past and present staff, both male and female. This was initiated by Audrey, who at this time was assisting Coralie Condon at Dirty Dick’s Bawdy Banquets, the theatre restaurant chain owned by Coralie and Frank Baden-Powell.
Early participants included Max Bostock, Judith Byrne, Joy Campbell, Peter Dean, Gay Egan, Rhonda Fletcher, Liz Kirkham, Lloyd Lawson, Audrey Long, Helen Malloch, Margaret Nayler, Lewese Shaw, Carolyn Tannock and Frank Moss as the chairman. Within five years they had raised more than $200,000, and soon the membership had climbed to sixty former staff. Sadly the wind was taken out of their sails with the forced redundancies that took place in 1999, resulting in a much somber mood.
Meanwhile, back at Coralie’s party, the team responsible for the TVW production of ‘The Good Oil’ was represented by the director Max Bostock, author Coralie Condon, audio operator George Baker, floor manager John Easton, makeup artist Audrey Long and videotape operator Ken McKay. Audrey also appeared in the 1958 stage production, at a time when John Easton was the Playhouse stage manager.
Also present was the team responsible for the Johnny Young era ‘Club 7 Teen’ where Gordon McColl was the director, Lewese Shaw (O’Garr) the production assistant and Max Bostock the executive producer.
Interestingly, a number of ladies present had to leave TVW on marriage, due to the policy of the day. STW absorbed a significant number of former TVW women, as Channel 9 did not adhere to that archaic policy. Liz Kirkham and Audrey Long (Barnaby) were two present at the gathering, who moved to Channel 9, along with Lloyd Lawson, George Baker and cameraman/director Russell Sage. Liz was a youthful journalist and promotions person, who also dabbled in many other facets of television production in those early days. Meanwhile, Audrey had established the highly successful ‘Shopping Guide’ program, where her close association with the many advertising clients made this a good money spinner for the station. Particularly during the early years when advertising revenue was limited. There was an incredible amount of multitasking and innovation coming from the rank and file at TVW, when the station by necessity had to maintain a lean and efficient operation to survive the pioneering days of television in WA. A situation that was quickly turned around through hard work, astute management and an effective sales team.
Amusingly, Coralie Condon often refers to herself as a ‘dogs body’ during those formative years. A term that barely describes the considerable value this first lady of TV was to the fledgling station. Coralie was not only an experienced stage producer, but also a seasoned actress on both stage and ABC radio, who was most adept at writing music and entertaining scripts. Coralie knew everybody who was anything in the theatrical and performing fields, so was an invaluable resource in marshalling the necessary talent to mount any form of television program production.
Max Bostock was enticed to Perth by Brian Treasure, following an early program collaboration with Brian Williams. Treasure was a dynamic man with incredible powers of persuasion and salesmanship. It was the friendship between Treasure and Coralie which resulted in this Grande Dame of the theatre becoming a vital and intragal part of television too. Interestingly, it was Treasure who pushed Max Bostock into TV directing, when Max’s forte up until that point was as a musician, band leader, talent representative, conductor and music arranger. Max was always a people person who cultured a great team of program makers, including Richard Ashton, who was part of Max’s Special Events Unit. The creative section of TVW that was responsible for everything from Perth Entertainment Centre extravaganzas to Christmas Parades and the annual Telethon. Max went on to be Chief Executive Officer of TVW Enterprises when Sir James Cruthers was chairman of the board. On leaving TVW, Max was engaged by Rupert Murdoch to run the TEN Network, whilst Sir James played an important role with Murdoch’s News Corporation, both overseas and in Australia.
Singer, dancer and actress Pixi Burke (Hale) will be remembered not only for her stage performances but as one of the Channel Nine children’s program team along with Peter Harries and Veronica Overton, after making her TV debut years earlier as a young performer on Children’s Channel Seven. Pixi also appeared in the early Hole in the Wall theatre productions, and The Old Time Music Hall, followed by theatre restaurant presentations at Dirty Dicks. The most successful ventures of Frank Baden-Powell and Coralie Condon. Pixi also had the opportunity to work overseas and interstate, meeting and supporting many key performers of the day.
Rick Hearder is well known for his theatrical and radio performances as an actor. He too has a long friendship and association with Coralie Condon and the Frank Baden-Powell era. Rick has been a professional actor all his life, first performing in films and television in England and Germany with stage appearances on the West End, London’s famed theatrical district. Rick not only played the professional antipodean theatres, but also toured the state performing Shaw and Shakespeare to the schools. His association with the Playhouse and His Majesty’s goes back many years. Following which, The Old Time musical Hall became his second home. Rick recently appeared in David Williamson’s ‘The Removalists’ at the Playhouse.
John Easton was not only the stage manager at the Playhouse, but also toured with Rick Hearder, performing around the state. Both were early performers on the Children’s Channel Seven, before John took up full time employment with Seven as a highly valued floor manager.
Frank Baden-Powell was the original Artistic Director of the Playhouse Theatre in Perth, under the auspices of the National Theatre Company, a company which evolved from the amateur Reparatory Club and Perth’s first professional theatre company, The Company of Four. Coralie played a pivotal role producing for both thespian ventures, as well as her management committee involvement. She was also involved with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society.
Which ever way you look at it, there is a complex web of interconnections between the various performing arts, where Coralie was the glue that connects it all together during the early days of television and professional theatre in Western Australia.
Photos of the gathering were courtesy of Gordon McColl, with flashback images courtesy of Joy and Kevin Campbell.