The Golden Age of Television probably was the 1980s — the Nine Network was “Still the One!”, Ray Martin was in the chair at Midday, and television networks actually made real money.
All that has changed, of course, but last night we time-travelled back to a kinder, gentler time, at the launch of Ray’s autobiography, complete with an introduction from Sir Michael Parkinson and music by Geoff Harvey.
Parkie said that when he first came to Australia, he headed straight to the The Sebel Town House, a hotel described by Billy Connolly as a place where no-one ever said “you can’t do that here, sir”.
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Although Ray, 64, had a very deprived childhood, living with an alcoholic, abusive father, Parkie said he has written about this “without rancour, without no sense of self-pity or blame. So many showbiz memoirs aren’t worth the paper they are written on but this is about a good journey and a decent bloke.”
Introduced by the music of Jesus Christ Superstar Ray then spoke, quoting Sam Goldwyn that no-one should write their own autobiography until long after they are dead. He went on to make a few Monty Python jokes about the deprivations of his childhood being greater than Parkie’s.
Despite quoting his publicist saying a “short launch speech is a good one” Ray did ramble on bit, delivering a rather mystifying anecdote about touching a cricket bat once used by Sir Don Bradman in the 1930s.
This was followed up, however, by a good story about Kerry Packer’s instructions during the negotiations for Bradman’s last interview.
“I’ve paid $1 million to the Bradman museum, so just don’t stuff it up,” he quoted Packer. “Except I don’t think he actually did say ‘stuff’.”
Unsurprisingly, there was no sign of Martin nemesis John Safran or any of the infamous Nine “carpet-strollers”. But former newsreader Brian Henderson was there, along with Gerald Stone, author of Who Killed Channel Nine?, together with a throng of family and friends. From the younger generation, Merrick and Rosso turned up, as did Vince Colosimo.
I’ve only read the first chapter of the book, about his childhood, but it’s well-written and moving without being maudlin. Random House obviously thinks the book will sell well; the first print run is 105,000 copies and Ray is about to embark on a six-week publicity tour.
It was a fun night, because so many people I had not seen for years were there, drinking lychee martinis and tapping their toes to Smooth Operator. Speaking of which, tonight is the launch of Harry M. Miller’s autobiography at a Kings Cross nightclub, and I’m getting a photo with Carlotta.
*Disclosure, I worked on the Nine Network’s Sunday program for four years in the 1990s.