Earlier this year, the Golden Tonsils himself published a memoir, Lawsie: Well … you wanted to know. And while the title of John Laws’ tome might be over-promising just a little, there are some juicy tidbits in there (if you read past the typos).
He talks a little about his tough upbringing, and of course there are the expected musings: the cash for comment scandal (“I’m an entertainer!”) and other controversies, Laws’ love of radio, and some of his many famous friends. There’s no index, though, so you need to thumb through to find the anecdotes about Johnny Cash and Princess Di.
But to save you some time, we’ve pulled together the bits you actually might want to know.
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Laws and John Singleton had a short-lived foray into the circus biz:
“Before we knew it we were ‘in’ for a lot of money. I mean, a very lot of money. Our investment return was fading daily but Singo, forever the optimist, came to me and said we can fix this … Singo’s idea was that I would train as a lion tamer and go into the lion’s den. I ultimately decided to do it because if I thought I was going to die I might as well be eaten by a lion in front of a full, ticket-paying audience … We got out of the circus business soon after and handed it back to its owners.”
The golden microphone doesn’t get more than a passing mention, when discussing his fondness for FM shock jock Kyle Sandilands, who’s said Laws is his reason for being in radio:
“I have had a bit of a soft spot for the young guys on FM breakfast programs. It’s a hard job being that funny in the morning, believe me … Kyle Sandilands, who annoys a lot of people, is hard not to like in person … he drives a Rolls Royce and has a golden microphone too, but it’s only gold plated.”
Laws glosses over his early career in radio, but it doesn’t take many words to convey how wild he was; throughout the book he mentions multiple quarrels solved with his fists. He worked at three stations in 1955, including 2NX in Newcastle, where he says he was fired at the same time he resigned:
“I was carrying a bundle of records down the stairs one day when a fellow broadcaster grabbed me where he shouldn’t have grabbed me, so I dropped the records and then dropped him. The fellow tumbled down the stairs after the records … I left by mutual agreement; let’s call it an honourable draw.”
After that incident, he followed the work down to 2GZ in Orange:
“I arrived about nine o’clock one winter night in my little MG TD without a hood, wearing the one cardigan I owned, which I named ‘Angus’, and an old pair of jeans.”
Laws returns to his love of women throughout the book, and it turns out having polio as a child gave him what he sees as quite an advantage with the ladies:
“Contracting polio interrupted my schooling and made me even more aloof from my peers. Paradoxically, however, it also made me react the other way. I got over my shyness by chatting up all the young nurses, trying out all my lines to impress these lovely young girls. By the time I came out of hospital, I was very confident in myself around young women.”
Laws plays down his rivalries with competitors and managers — he claims to have made up with programming director John Brennan, after falling out over the cash for comment scandal. And on his most famous rivalry, with 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones?
“I’m more critical of the politicians who pander to Alan, in spite of the fact that he only broadcast in Sydney for many years, and allowed him to exercise all that influence on government policy.”
When Jones caused a storm over his comments about former prime minister Julia Gillard’s father, Laws famously did an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 from his office in 2012, Wild Turkey in hand:
“I only went on the program because the wonderful Leigh Sales is better than any other man or woman as an interviewer (and I also think she’s very attractive) but I had no intention of adding to Alan’s woes.”
He reprised the interview earlier this year, to promote the memoir.
At the height of his career, Laws was producing his own albums, hosting TV programs and even acting. He appeared in a 1968 episode of Skippy as conman “‘Honest John” Jamieson, and was almost cast in a film about Ned Kelly starring Mick Jagger.
“I was certainly up for it, and even grew a beard for the part … However, there was a scheduling problem and I ended up not doing the film which is a good thing because everyone involved, especially Mick as Ned Kelly, was pretty bloody awful.”
He’s long been a fan of truckies (and sponsored by the Australian Trucking Association) and tells of then-NSW premier Neville Wran calling Laws up to help broker a deal with them during the blockade of 1979). Even having a truckie drive straight into his house didn’t temper his love for them:
“When I was living on the northern beaches with my first wife, a truck ran into our home. It was a diesel truck and some have a habit of starting themselves up — they kick back into life if the ignition hasn’t been shut down properly — and that’s what happened. It demolished half the house but I still love truckies.”
Laws retired in 2007 from 2UE, but only lasted a few years before returning to the microphone at 2SM, where he still broadcasts his morning show each day.