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1965 Rottnest Island OB ends in drama

Posted by ken On March - 28 - 2012

1965 Rottnest Island IPT OB

Mike Humphry has kindly provided us with a flashback to 1965 when TVW was producing the popular tonight style variety show called “In Perth Tonight” (IPT). It was based on Graham Kennedy’s “In Melbourne Tonight” (IMT) which commenced in 1957, one year after television was launched in Australia. Both IMT and IPT were based on the American ‘Tonight Show’ format, where the first host was Steve Allen (1954–1957). By the time TVW got on board with the format, the US show was being hosted by Johnny Carson (1962–1992), their longest-serving US host to date.

This format was established By Steve Allen, and continues to this day in the US on NBC. There’s an opening monologue, celebrity interviews, audience participation, comedy elements, guest musical performers and a house band. Down under, Graham Kennedy made IMT his own and the show went national, though experienced parochial audience opposition at first, but its popularity soon built after six months. TVW began showing Kennedy material in 1960 in the form of his kine-recorded programs (film recorded from a TV screen) until the arrival of videotape facilities at Seven in Perth in 1962. By 1963, his taped show was being airfreighted in. Kennedy’s occasional ribald live antics could thus be pruned here. Bill McKenzie would preview the program in the videotape section and insure that a safe version was broadcast in Perth. Perth audiences therefore missed out on Kennedy’s famous “crow call” (“faaaaaark”) controversy and his explicit appearance in a tight-fitting leotard.

By 1965, TVW was producing its own tonight show in Studio One with Gary Carvolth as the host. A number of earlier shows were produced in the smaller Studio Two, but this was too constrained for space to comfortably accommodate the band, and often had sets and cameras protruding through the big double doors. An early incarnations utilised Eric Walters, Bon Maguire and Janet Prance, until Gary Garvolth took over.

Bon Maguire, Brian Williams and Eric Walters with script assistant

“Spotlight” was the first variety show in 1959, followed shortly after by “Relax with Rolf”, then “Tuesday Date” in 1960, produced and directed by Brian Williams. Phillip Edgley, Rolf Harris and David Farr were early comperes. “Teen Beat” was the first teenage show until replaced by “Club 7 Teen” presented by Gary Garvolth and directed by Max Bostock from 1963 to 1964. In 1965 Gary hosted “In Perth Tonight” whilst Johnny Young took over “Club 7 Teen” with Gordon McColl directing. At various times “In Perth Tonight” had a variety of directors including Richard Ashton and Max Bostock, particularly after Brian Williams left in 1967, though it was Brian who established it. By 1968, Garry Meadows was hosting “In Perth Tonight” with Keith Mackenzie directing.

It was during Brian’s period that the crew travelled to Rottnest to record segments for a show. The recording was brought back to the studios for compilation into a complete program. It was a time when Kevan Johnson was providing choreography for the Channel Seven Dancers, who also performed on this episode along with popular singers, as the crew moved around the island to take full advantage of the scenery.


John O’Callohan drives the small OB van off the duck at Rottnest


Van and equipment outside the Rottnest Hotel where the team stayed overnight

Mike Humphry was one of the key people on this outside broadcast, and provides details of this production.

In 1965 we recorded several segments for a variety program on Rottnest Island. The O.B. Supervisor at the time was F. John O’Callohan (Johno) and the director was Brian Williams and I was O.B. Tech. The one camera O.B. van was transported to the island by an Army Duck. The camera was a PYE 3 inch Image Orthicon camera and the videotape machine was an RCA TR5.

RCA TR5 videotape recorder

The one camera O.B. van was a 4WD International Harvester vehicle. This van (with generator) was the only vehicle transported to the island. We didn’t have a full production. Just prerecorded segments for a later program. The segments were mimed, playing tapes from a reel to reel machine to a PA speaker. Lindsay Smith, Russell Sage and talent went to the island on a day trip. Brian, Johno and I arrived a day earlier (to survey) and left a day later.

Shown around the island by tourist bus operator and locals are Johno (centre) and Brian (right)

On the return trip

The Perth afternoon newspaper, the Daily News, reported on December 23rd, 1965, that TVW audio operator Lindsay Smith and Rottnest Ferry deckhand Trevor Kitcher were thrown overboard when a king wave hit the 42 foot ferry Temeraire, on the return trip from Rottnest to Fremantle, following the recording of an episode of In Perth Tonight on the holiday island. During the same incident, cameraman Russell Sage suffered cuts, and the three were taken to Fremantle Hospital for treatment.


It was 8 pm when Lindsay and the Rottnest Ferry deckhand were swept overboard. They grabbed at the glass screen of the flying bridge, which then broke cutting them with splinters. The ferry turned and headed towards them as they swam in the rough sea for up to ten minutes as they were washed about 30 yards (27 metres) from the boat. Lifebelts were thrown and they were hauled back on board. Russell received a cut forehead from flying glass. Scarves and handkerchiefs were used as tourniquets and bandages. All were treated at Fremantle Hospital, where Lindsay was detained. The incident occurred about 6 miles (9.6 kilometres) from Fremantle. Several of the dancers, singers and make-up artists were sea sick before the incident.

One of the Channel Seven Dancers performing during the show was Janet Ladner (now Boyd), who has kindly explained the on board predicament for the cast on the trip back:


Janet Ladner

I was only telling friends recently about our trip to Rottnest Island with the crew from Channel 7. We had a lot of fun dancing in the sand dunes at Rotto, not an easy task though I must say, but somehow we managed it.

If I remember correctly, we left Rottnest a little later than was expected, and the sea was already a little rough and a bit scary, for the dancers at least. There was a pole right in the middle of the area where we were sitting, and that pole had a very frightened dancer wrapped very tightly around it for most of the journey…..yes it was me!

Someone kept telling me to sit down, and that we would be safe, but I didn’t take any notice and hung on for dear life. When the freak wave hit us, everyone was flung around the boat, everyone but me, I was fastened to that pole so hard, I barely moved, and didn’t realise for a few moments that we had lost some people overboard.

The boat was turned around as we went back to find our missing crew, it was then that a few more people joined me to hang on to the pole. The trip home couldn’t end fast enough, and when we reached out destination, I couldn’t wait to get off.

The small OB van covers a parade through Perth

The small OB van was used for a variety of purposes and the TR5 was employed to record everything from WAFL football matches to the Claremont Speedway. It was also taken out to record commercials in car sales lots and other similar venues. The van was often parked in the staging area with an operator recording commercials when the TRT-1Bs and TR3 videotape machines in the pre 1968 old videotape area were working at capacity.

TVW’s OB van compliment during the black and white era

More often than not it provided a recording facility for OBs attended by TVW’s larger van, which was constructed for the 1962 Perth Commonwealth and Empire Games. This served the station well, until the definitive OB van was built in 1970 to prepare for the introduction of colour in 1975. TVW was preparing for this event from as early as the late 1960’s when a RCA TK27 colour telecine chain was purchased, followed a few years later with an RCA TR70 colour videotape machine.

In 1971, TVW purchased SAS Channel 10 in Adelaide and Mike Humphry relocated to Adelaide, as did TVW’s old OB vans, being rebadged in the SAS colours and logo.

OB vans relocated to SAS Channel 10 in Adelaide

At the time Perth’s TVW Channel 7 owned the Ten licence in Adelaide, ADS Channel Seven in Adelaide was owned by Kerry Stokes.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority granted the application to switch signals and call signs. So on December 27 1987, both stations changed call signs and network affiliations with the Seven Nightly News anchors presenting Ten’s Eyewitness News, and vice-versa. ADS-10 was then purchased by Frank Lowy, who earlier bought TEN in Sydney and ATV in Melbourne from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The following year, Lowy bought the newly opened NEW-10 to complete the Ten Network.

It was a time when many changes of ownership were taking place within the television landscape and the gradual emergence of the Seven Network under one owner.

TVW Tonight shows over the decades…

IPT 1965.jpg
1965 – “In Perth Tonight” hosted by Gary Carvolth
Directed by Brian Williams, Richard Ashton and Max Bostock

1967 – “In Perth Tonight” hosted by Garry Meadows and Joan Bruce Directed by Keith Mackenzie

Garry Stuart Joan Bruce.jpg
1968 – “In Perth Tonight” hosted by Garry Meadows with Stuart Wagstaff and Joan Bruce Directed by Keith Mackenzie

1968 – “Perth’s New Faces” with Max Kay, Harry Bluck, Graham Kennedy and host Garry Meadows Directed by Keith Mackenzie

1976 – ‘Chard’ Tonight Show with Chard Hayward
Directed by Bob Finkle

1980 – Lionel Yorke appeared in the variety show ‘Yorkie’


1983 – Turpie Tonight
Directed by Phil Booth

Photos courtesy of Mike Humphry and Seven Perth.

One Response to “1965 Rottnest Island OB ends in drama”

  1. Luise Borsje says:

    Thanks Ken,
    It’s so great to relive all the memories with your postings.
    You are doing an amazing service in keeping the industry’s history alive.
    I look forward to seeing your name in my inbox!!
    Luise Borsje

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