Notion of a 7-2-9-10 Club
Terry Spence, Earl Reeve, Peter Goodall, Peter Harries and Brian Williams
plan for the 729 Television Reunion at the Italian Club in 2006
The 729 Club was once patronised by members of the Sydney radio, television and advertising industry. It was located in the Sydney suburb of St Leonards during what most would call the ‘pioneering’ days of the Australian television industry.
The club was starting up at the same time television was being introduced to Western Australia in 1959.
The Foundation Members include key people in the industry at that time.
The 205 Foundation Members represented every branch of the industry. There were film cameramen and editors, television technicians, news readers and writers, television producers, program directors, suppliers of film and equipment, entertainers, executives, studio hands, advertising agents and independent film producers.
The committee was composed of people from the ABN-2, ATN-7, TCN-9, advertising and the entertainment field.
One committee member was ex-ABC Script Assistant Beverley Gledhill, who transferred to ATN-7, but on accepting a position as a TV program director in Perth, had to resign from the 729. This was also the case with ATN-7 cameraman Gordon McColl, who became the senior cameraman at TVW-7 for the opening night.
TVW sales personnel frequented the 729 including Brian Treasure and Stan Fildes, who started up the Melbourne Office and who along with Bill Glance, Des O’Dwyer and Greg Byrne, pioneered television sales in Perth.
Stan Fildes provided the following anecdotes relating to the 729 Club in Sydney.
I recall meeting an agency guy at the Club in the 70’s at about 11am for a cup of coffee; (we could well have been trying to recover from ‘drinks’ the night before!) He was running a bit late, so I decided to put a few coins on one of the Club’s ‘pokies’. Being a sociable kind of guy, I struck-up a conversation with a young lady playing the machine next to me. I asked her how she was going she said :”not too good today—I’m down about 350 dollars”. (And this was 11 in the morning in the seventies!)
The other story also has to do with the pokies: My boss and good friend Brian Treasure, always gave a high priority when visiting Sydney to socialise at the 729 Club (read ‘socialise’ to mean play the pokies for lengthy periods at a time!) Moreover Brian, in that confident and enthusiastic way of his, was convinced he knew how to beat the machines and ipso facto, would clean-up the major prize to take back to Perth. Well, It was all in the careful manipulation of the machine’s handle—he tried to convince me, (despite my efforts to warn him otherwise): We had the super-quick pull; the very-slow pull: the ‘5-jerk pull’ and all kinds of other variations (somewhat reminiscent of covert adolescent conversations at boarding school)—but despite some small rewards along the track, the Big One somehow evaded BST. (I also recall that at the end of an unfruitful night seeking the major prize, Brian would speculate that had I got him to the Club a “bit earlier” (or later) he may have ‘cleaned-up’.
Anyway, the 729 Club was a great place to get together with people in the business in rather more friendly—and exciting—times.
Derrick Wright also reminds us that we had a 729 chapter in Perth from about 1965 till around 1980, which used to meet on the first floor balcony at His Majesty’s, or as it was then named Her Majesty’s.
Its now an appropriate time to think about the social aspects of the industry as a number of reunions have taken place in recent years. An activity all participant find enjoyable, catching up with old friends and colleagues to relive previous glories.
TVW-7 celebrated its 50th in 2009 with a record crowd of over 700 veterans with group photos arranged by decade
The 2009 TVW Reunion planning committee
Keith Bales, Jill Glass, Keith Mackenzie, Jocelyn and Bret Treasure and John Young
ABW-2 50th Anniversary celebrated in 2010
ABW-2 celebrated in 2010 by filling their big studio with 250 plus veterans
Then there was a number of small groups assembling at hotels, homes and coffee shops on regular occasions.
Earlier, STW-9 held their 30th Anniversary at the Knight Klub in 1985.
In 2005, STW-9 personalities past and present helped the station celebrate 40 years.
In 2008, NEW-10 commemorated their 20th anniversary.
Jo-Ann Ledger points out that they too had some good parties at 10!
“In the early days all my party planning was done in conjunction with my special adviser John Barnett, we were in the transportables and all parties had to be outside… Bill (McKenzie) had asked for a moral boosting event…..I spent a lot of time talking to John about the day and we kept on changing the dates (as I remember it became an item on the weather – all we have to do is plan a party here at 10 and it rains…we were going to go in to the rain making business)…eventually it went ahead without rain as I remember…..and then there was the Xmas Party – I erected the marquee over the storm drain, and the heavens opened!!”
Bill McKenzie (inaugural Managing Director of NEW-10) offered the following thoughts…
“I joined the 729 Club in Sydney early in 1963 ….very happy memories. It was in Falcon Street, near Military Road, Mosman. Very well appointed, lot’s of poker machines, excellent dining room (roast lamb and apple pie for 6 shillings ) Club had lot’s of money and lot`s of functions ….all subsidised by the pokies.”
“If the concept proceeds in Perth, then I guess you’ve got two options, access to ABW’s old premises and coffee with the odd meeting or you go the full monty with licenced premises, food and a couple of staff. Potential membership is in the hundreds and it should generate substantial income together with an annual membership fee. Would take some organising but there should be enough expertise in the ranks. Whichever option depends, I guess on the interest shown. Maybe a notice in The West reunion (Monday?) to try and get an indication. Would be wonderful if you can get enough support.”
In the early days of television in Perth, there was much after hours socialising by TVW and ABC staff, which extended to sporting matches and balls. Friendships were formed and this mingling was extended to regular parties and nightlife venues such as the Coffee Pot in Wellington Street, Frank Baden Powell’s Hole in the Wall Club on the corner of Stirling and Newcastle Street and the Montmartre in William Street, to mention a few.
Other popular Perth night spots frequented by the fraternity included the Quitapena opposite the Mint in Hay Street, Shiralee in Howard Street, where Peter Harries hosted folk singing nights, and Melpomene opposite the ABC in Adelaide Terrace. They were also key spots where prospective talent appeared, of which a number made regular appearance on shows such as Club 7 Teen.
The Quitapena was often frequented by Alan Bond, before he made it big in real estate. Popular performers included the Twiliters and Maggie Hammond. An early social contact between Seven and the ABC was Derrick Wright, who also frequented the Quitapena. The basement across the road from the ABC in the former Casablanca Restaurant building, housed the Melpomene night club. The Melpomene was run by an American writer, poet and actor named Bob Nelson, who appears briefly on “In Perth Tonight”. He was great working a live audience but unfortunately froze when confronted with a television camera, hence his TV career was short lived. A great character and raconteur who allegedly lost his club to a suspicious fire ten days after refusing to pay an extraordinary insurance fee. He was also said be an adventurer who flew arms into Cuba for Fidel Castro and the severe scaring to his stomach being the result of bomb inflicted injuries.
It was a time when the opening hours for Pubs were heavily restricted, creating a small but lucrative black market in illegal alcohol, leading to the proliferation of such outlets known as “sly grog shops”. The Hole in the Wall Club was frequented by many musicians, actors and folk from the broadcasting and advertising fraternities. It was generally an elite and orderly crowd of late nighters who enjoyed the jazz and good company. Order was maintained by restricting access. The entry was a locked door and people were vetted before entry. The Hole in the Wall introduced a membership fee and those accepted were provided a key decorated with a clover leaf. It then became known as being a key club.
In theory, a Bring Your Own (BYO) Liquor Permit enabled meals to be prepared and provided to patrons for consumption on the premises, where there were adequate ablution facilities provided. It was intended for reputable restaurants, though in the case of the Montmartre, this consisted of toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, and the Hole in the Wall it was potato chips.
Telecom Cable Reels were used as tables and a cushion on a milk crate as a seat. Each table was furnished with a candle protruding from a bottle. The lighting was dim within the smoke filled environment as music permeated the air from either a record player, solo musician or band. The serious drinkers congregated around the bar whilst groups mingled at the tables. There was no end of colourful characters to entertain with stories, jokes or poetry.
A corkage fee was charged by both the Hole in the Wall and the Montmartre, with the unconsumed bottles identified by the owner’s name. Once a customer became well known and trusted, drinks were maintained at a fee for those whose bottle had run dry, subject to the kindness of the bartender and the friendships that had developed.
Through a connection with Gordon McColl and Derrick Wright, many television staff frequented the Montmartre, and after closing hours the Hole in the Wall, which soon fostered the theatre in the round concept in Perth, offering many opportunities to local thespians.
Frank Baden-Powell then joined Coralie Condon in establishing a series of theatre restaurants, starting with the Old Time Music Hall in 1967, which opened first in Fremantle, and the following year at the Civic Theatre Restaurant (which later became Diamond Lil’s and then the Island Trader) and in 1970 they opened Dirty Dick’s Elizabethan Rooms, which spread nation wide, with premises in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and several regional centres. At one time there was even a Dirty Dick’s in Los Angeles. The theatre group also toured extensively throughout the country with a selection of about fifteen shows. Peter Harries and Max Kay also opened theatre restaurants. These venues added much sparkle to Perth’s family night life before the Burswood complex opened.
Meanwhile, and much earlier than this, the TVW social club was instigated by John O’Callohan (John later established the ABC Training Department in Perth). The club organised social excursions, dances and the TVW Ball.
Peter Harries kindly provided the following anecdote lifted from the TV Times which deals with ABC-TV’s Ian Beatty.
Peter Harries also relates a story when the STW-9 social club was formed, which happened to coincide with him trying out for compere at the Nanking Chinese restaurant in Belmont. Unfortunately, the manager Charles Wong did not watch television, so needed Peter to convince him that he could garner a laugh out the audience. Peter was in luck as the next day a couple of the girls on staff at Channel 9 came into the Production Office.
“We’re starting a Social Club and want suggestions for our first party. We want to have it soon.”
“You’re in luck”, said Peter as he detailed the venue, attractions and modest costs.
The committee decided that it was a good idea and so, on Peter’s first night at the Nanking, most of the audience comprised some fifty or sixty of his fellow workers.
June Holmes provided this 1965 glimpse of the very early STW-9 Social Club days with their ten-pin bowling team, which competed against others at the then Rosemount Ten-Bowling club in Walcott Street, Mt Lawley.
Staff from other stations also received invitations to attend the ABC Ball, where the National broadcaster had an active social club. In later years, the ABC Canteen gained a liquor license. This was an unusual situation as the ABC was located on Commonwealth property, and like the airport, was not subject to State laws. Though the social club, wished to be seen as doing the right thing, so applied and was granted a license.
The former ABC Radio building in Adelaide Terrace in 1960
A great venue for everything – The Basil Kirke Studio
It was not uncommon for functions to be conducted in the large television studios of the various stations, often celebrations after a job well done.
The ABC building in Adelaide Terrace was particularly well suited for all manner of people activities. An excellent venue was the ABC’s Basil Kirke Studio, which along with the radio building, studios and administration block is now heritage listed.
The Basil Kirke was not only excellent for conducting the ABC Ball, but all manner of things from being the home to the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra, to the Tally Room during elections.
The neighbouring variety studio 621, at the former ABC building, was also an excellent spot for some impromptu mingling.
Studio 621 was used mainly for variety shows involving everything from serious music to rock band recordings.
The studio also served as an excellent banquette area for revellers during functions such as the ABC Ball. Then there was the well appointed ABC canteen where more revelry took place, its a wonder any work was done with official functions and the many ABC Social Club parties.
It is fortunate that the site of all this frivolity will be preserved and restored under a heritage listing. Though the former ABC-TV site has gone to be replaced with luxury apartments.
The former 6WF studio in the old building is also being preserved.
The former ABC crew still regularly mingle at every opportunity. So between the various stations, both radio and television, there is still the spirit to congregate with former colleagues, who are now old friends. This then poses the notion that a 7-2-9-10 Club, which also embraces the entertainers and allied fields, could possibly be a goer if we can find a suitable venue. The heritage listed former ABC immediately comes to mind?
ABC colour photos kindly provided by David Carlisle
NEW-10 memorabilia kindly provided by Glenn Day, STW-9 photos courtesy of June Holmes and Peter Harries, other memorabilia kindly provided by Brian Williams, Derrick Wright, Bret Treasure, Daryl Binning and George Chapman. Also wish to thank Stan Fildes, Derrick Wright, Jo-Ann Ledger, Bill McKenzie, Peter Harries, June Holmes, Gordon McColl and Pixie Hale for their much valued input. The notion came to mind from Kevin Campbell reminiscing.