Shaun Micallef and Francis Greenslade, who appeared together in Adelaide University law revues, shared the stage for Melbourne Theatre Company's production of The Odd Couple.

BOBBY LIMB, ERNIE SIGLEY, SHAUN MICALLEF,
'H.G. NELSON', ANNE WILLS, KAMAHL

among Adelaide-made national entertainers

 

BOBBY LIMB AND ERNIE SIGLEY BECAME TWO OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST POPULAR television entertainers in the later 20th Century – emerging from an Adelaide influence.

Limb was Adelaide-born and nurtured through the music education system to become a band leader which translated to a launch pad to national fame in Sydney.

Sigley came to Adelaide after mainly radio work in Melbourne and the UK. Adelaide Tonight, and how it was futher embraced by the city, turned Sigley into a national television entertainer. Adelaide Tonight also highlighted a team of entertainers, including Anne Wills who never gained full national attention but won multiple Logies from South Australian voters.

In the footsteps of Roy Rene, Adelaide comedians with  broader outlook have cut through nationally.

Prime examples are Greig Pickhaver – the H.G. Nelson side of the Roy and H.G. duo – and Shaun Micallef, whose Mad as hell television series features Francis Greenslade from their days together in the Adelaide University law revues. Adam Hills and Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann also made the switch to television from a radio start on Adelaide’s SAFM.

Adelaide has made a national and international impact with its musicians (see MUSIC) and actors, in film and theatre, who could quality as entertainers. But “Entertainers” as a category caters for those who have extended their appeal through a distinctive characteristic.

In distinctiveness, Kamahl is a prime candidate. Malaysian born of Tamil heritage, Kamahl (Kandiah Kamalesvaran) had his secondary education at King’s College (now Pembroke School). In between enrolling in university courses to avoid being deported, Kamahl started singing publically when he was introduced in 1958 to Rupert Murdoch who had arrived in Adelaide to take over The News. Murdoch arranged Kamahl’s first major appearances.

 

ADELAIDE STALWARTS OF LIVE ENTERTAINMENT

ROY RENE, PHYL SKINNER, WALLY CARR AND CHIC ARNOLD carry vaudeville style into 20th Century live variety showbiz 

Roy Rene becomes a top national vaudevillian and comedian as the bawdy Mo McCackie

Roy Rene (born Harry van der Sluice in Adelaide, 1891) became one of the most well-known and successful Australian vaudevillians and comedians of the 20th century as the bawdy character Mo McCackie.  In 1916 Rene teamed up with Nat Phillips and they became the famous Stiffy and Mo larrikin comedy duo. Turning to radio in 1946, Rene signed on for Calling the Stars with a live audience at the 2GB theatrette in Sydney with his acclaimed "McCackie Mansion" segment.



 

Phyl Skinner chalks up 90 years on stage from her vaudeville days with comedy greats

Phyl Skinner is Australia’s last vaudevillian, still performing in her 90s in the 21st Century but going back to days when she appeared alongside legendary comedians Roy Rene, George Wallace, Bob Hope, George Formby and Arthur Askey. Skinner has acted, directed and choreographed for most Adelaide theatre companies during her 90 years on stage. With Wally Carr, she was involved in the Morning Melodies and the Anzac Day lunch concerts for seniors.


 

Wally Carr, with Marie Fidock, carries live variety at Hotel Enfield into the 1970s/80s

1927-2017
Wally Carr, with Marie Fidock, produced South Australia’s longest-running variety shows, the Bull and Bush and Baron of Beef, at the Hotel Enfield in the 1970s/80s. Carr had started singing in 1941 at 14 with the Jack Barter Band at the Astoria Ballroom in Waymouth Street, Adelaide. After 11 years performing with stars such as Howard Keel and Diana Dors in the UK, Carr returned to help produce shows also at Olde Kings Music Hall and nightspots like the Lido, Tivoli, Paprika and casino.


 

'Chic' Arnold brings vaudeville showbiz flair to promoting films at the Majestic theatre

Tom “Chic” Arnold brought showbiz flair from his vaudeville days to Adelaide filmgoing in the 1950s with a colourful string of premieres during his time as manager of the Majestic theatre in King William Street, Adelaide. Arnold’s show business experience went back to his part in vaudeville of the 1920s. A booking for an outdoor show at Adelaide’s Semaphore beach in the early 1920s that set him on a professional vaudeville career that took him to the USA and UK.




 

ADELAIDE ENTREPRENEURS TAKE ON THE WORLD

ROBERT STIGWOOD, JOHN FROST HAVE GLOBAL SUCCESSES;
Adelaide Festival Centre Trust becomes a major hits producer 

Robert Stigwood of 'Hair', 'Saturday Night Fever', 'Grease', Bee Gees fame a revolutionary

Port Pirie-born music mogul Robert Stigwood managed the Bee Gees at the height of their fame and guided musician Eric Clapton's solo career while producing film (Grease, Evita, Tommy, Saturday Night Fever) and stage (Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar) musicals to international success. Educated at Adelaide's Sacred Heart College, Stigwood began his working life as a copywriter for a local advertising agency before moving in 1955 to England. With Stephen Komlosy, he founded Robert Stigwood Associates, a small theatrical agency. Among its clients was actor and singer John Leyton whose unexpected success as a recording artist made Stigwood and associate Joe Meek into Britain's first independent record producers. Stigwood revolutionised the role of music managers in England by moving into music publishing and promoting concerts. But his biggest contribution to the British music scene was independent record production. Stigwood worked with a many ground-breaking acts on the pop charts, with Cream and the Bee Gees, and on the Broadway stage, producing counter-culture hits Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. He also produced 1996 Hollywood film Evita, starring Madonna. It won an Academy Award for best music and a Golden Globe for best film. Stigwood had earlier backed the ground-breaking film of The Who's rock opera Tommy.  After the hit Grease, Robert Stigwood Organisation Films made Saturday Night Fever, one of the biggest hits in the history of the business. It introduced disco music and a young John Travolta while propelling the Bee Gees to global stardom.

 

John Frost a Broadway Tony award winner for 'The King and I' project reborn in Adelaide

Adelaide-born John Frost – “Frosty the Showman” – as managing director of the Gordon Frost Organisation (GFO) has become one of Australia’s great impresarios. A major turning point for Frost was teaming with Tim McFarlane, then in charge of the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust, to produce The King and I in 1991.
The $2 million show opened in Adelaide and played to packed houses across Australia, before going to Broadway where it won a Tony award for best revival of a musical. 

Barry Egginton revives fun live theatre with melodramas at the Olde Kings Music Hall

Barry Egginton revived melodramatic fun live theatre and an old Adelaide theatre building when he ran the Olde Kings Music Hall from 1967-75 with theatre restaurant shows in the former Kings Theatre, corner of King William Street and Carrington streets, Adelaide. Eggington brought the theatre back to life with melodramas and vaudeville shows, such as Curse my fatal beauty, Burning desire in the desert dunes, Deadly designs on a damsel’s dowry, featuring stalwarts such as Phyl Skinner, Marie Fidock, Gordon Poole and Penni-Ann Smith, Sylvia Budgen, Max Height, David Clifford, Malcolm Harslett, Rhonda Pilkington, Ross Howard, Didi James, Margot Howard, Pam O’Grady, Stephen Davies, Darrell Hilton and David King. The original Kings Theatre opened in 1911 with the novelty of electric lighting. Seating 1500, it showcased comedy acts, sketch artists, pantomimes and boxing matches. The theatre was closed and rebuilt in 1928. The bottom floor became a ballroom, featuring a rubber buffered floor. When the upstairs theatre couldn’t sustain an audience, the primary focus became the ballroom. After a major fire, the building stayed vacant for many years.

 

TELEVISION IN THE 1960s OPENS NEW ERA OF ENTERTAINERS

BOBBY LIMB GOES NATIONAL; KEVIN CREASE, ERNIE SIGLEY,
LIONEL WILLIAMS, ANNE WILLS ride Adelaide TV variety wave

Bobby Limb goes from Adelaide dance bands leader to king of Australian television

Bobby Limb entered show business in 1941, aged 17, as a saxophone player with dance bands around Adelaide. By 1948 he was the youngest band leader in Australia. By 1952, Limb was already one of Australia's leading entertainers, with a fan club of 35,000 teenagers on Sydney’s radio station 2UW. His most successful TV shows were The Mobil Limb Show, the first to go national, and Bobby Limb's The Sound of Music 1963–1972. It was mostly the country's top-rated show.

 

Kevin Crease and Lionel Williams become pioneers of Adelaide television variety

Kevin Crease and Lionel Williams were late 1950s pioneers of Adelaide television which at that time demanded they be versatile entertainers. Crease was the first face of television in Adelaide in 1959 and continued as a fixture of Adelaide media for 48 years. Williams, also one of Channel 9’s first presenters, hosted NWS9’s popular variety show Adelaide Tonight (started in 1959) with Crease for eight years. Both started their media careers on Adelaide radio.

 

Ernie Sigley turns 'Adelaide Tonight' into an institution and creates local legends

Ernie Sigley’s tenure on the Adelaide Tonight top-rating show in the 1960s/70s was a catalyst for his later national television career but also for young local talents, such as Ian Fairweather, Anne Wills and Glenys O’Brien (later Sigley’s wife), who became household legends in their own city. Sigley moved to Melbourne in 1974 to host of the National Nine Network variety show, The Ernie Sigley Show. He won the TV Week gold logie for most popular personality on Australian television in 1975.



 

Anne Wills holds the Australian TV record for most wins in Logie popularity awards

Anne (“Willsy”) Wills holds the record for the most Logies wins, with 19 for most popular female state personality Logies (1968-92) and one as producer of Clapperboard. Wills had been picked by NWS9 executives during a Telethon Quest to be the station’s first weather girl. Next steps were being chosen by Ernie Sigley as the hostess on the early f Wheel of Fortune and then joining the on lineup on Sigley’s Adelaide Tonight (1967-73) and becoming its co star two nights a week.

 

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING SOUTH AUSTRALIAN AND DIFFERENT

KAMAHL, MARK HOLDEN, H.G. NELSON AND SHAUN MICALEFF
grab the national music/TV spotlight from Adelaide grounding 

Kamahl mentored by Rupert Murdoch after chance meeting in Adelaide in 1958

Kamahl is the stage name of Kandiah Kamalesvaran who arrived in Adelaide in 1953 to study at King’s College (now Pembroke School). Enrolling in university courses to avoid being deported, Kamahl was engaged as the singer at a party when he had a chance meeting with Rupert Murdoch, who was running The News. Murdoch fostered Kamahl’s talents including booking him for the Sapphire Room at the Hotel Australia in Sydney to start his career with 10 million albums sold.

 

Mark Holden starts on 'Adelaide Tonight' for life of hits, colour, controversy and law

Mark Holden’s appearance on Adelaide Tonight in 1972 was the start of a colourful career as a singer, actor, TV personality, record producer and songwriter. After Adelaide Tonight appearances, Holden featured on The Ernie Sigley Show in Melbourne. During 1973, Holden travelled between Melbourne and Adelaide. He'd nearly completed a law degree in 1974 when he had four top 20 hit singles, including “Never gonna fall in love again”, with regular appearances on Countdown. In 1975-76, Holden became the first pop star to play the lead in the first Australian production of Joseph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat in Sydney. In the 1980s, Holden worked as a songwriter in Los Angeles for Meat Loaf, Joe Cocker, Gladys Knight, Bob Welch and Steve Jones. With Jack Strom, Holden signed 15-year-old Vanessa Amorosi whose debut album peaked at No.1. Strom and Holden formed Marjac Productions and helped launch careers of Delta Goodrem, Nikki Webster and Sophie Monk. Holden was an original judge on Australian Idol (2003–07).

Greig Pickhaver lets H.G. Nelson rip from a not-so-sporting early family life in Adelaide

Greig Pickhaver, actor, comedian and writer, was the H.G. Nelson half of the Australian satirical sports comedy duo Roy and HG on the Triple J radio comedy This Sporting Life broadcast nationwide for 22 years from 1986, leading to successful television spinoffs. Born at Nuriootpa, Pickhaver had an uncomfortable family life. One of the first Flinders University’s drama graduates in the 1960s, Pickhaver met John Doyle (Roy Slaven)  in 1985 while they had minor roles in an SBS TV show. 

Shaun Micallef lays down Adelaide law to embark on national career in comedy

Shaun Micallef moved to Melbourne in 1993 to pursue a full-time comedy career after 10 years in insurance law as a solicitor in Adelaide. His part in the sketch comedy Full frontal led to his own sketch show, The Micallef P(r)ogram(me), the sitcom Welcher & Welcher  and the variety show Micallef Tonight. He also fronted the news satire Newstopia on SBS, hosted the game show Talkin’ Bout You Generation on Network Ten for four seasons, and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell on the ABC. 

ADELAIDE TELEVISION BREEDS CLUSTER OF CHILDREN'S CHARACTERS

FROM BOBO BEGINNINGS, FAT CAT AND HUMPHREY B. BEAR
extend to entertaining children across Australian television

Bobo the clown's 1960s boom in popularity and defection to Channel 10 leads to Humphrey B.

Bobo the clown, played by Charles “Hal” Turner, was a children’s character who first appeared on Adelaide’s Channel 9 and grew so popular that in the early 60s he was hired by new rival Adelaide TV station SAS10 and hosted its first program. This loss caused Channel 9 to come up with a new character: Humphrey B. Bear. Hal Turner, Bobo’s alter ego, was originally engaged to provide comedy for early Channel 9 Adelaide Tonight variety shows and he wrote and played leading roles in the Christmas pantomimes produced by the station. From a theatrical and vaudeville background, Turner was convinced by Channel 9 program director Rex Heading to play a clown on the Channel Niners children’s program. This set off the enormous success of Bobo who was mobbed by children in Adelaide and at regional centres such as Broken Hill and Port Lincoln. In the mid 1960s, Bobo's young fans could join The Bobo Club, buy Bobo dolls and drink Bobo cordial.  When Adelaide’s SAS Channel 10 opened in 1965, Bobo had switched allegiance, and its first program was at 4pm; The Bobo Show, with Bobo the Clown, Penny Ramsay and included The Magic Circle Club. Channel 9 lost the court case claiming Bobo was their property and not Turner’s. From that, Channel 9 came up with a character it could copyright without relying on the actor playing it. Humphrey Bear emerged from this. Bobo disappeared from television in the 1970s. A controversial cameo comeback occurred in 2014 on Dancing with the Stars when Adelaide-born and -raised singer, actor and song writer Mark Holden donned the clown’s costume in  homage to his childhood. Holden’s performance was condemned as “disturbing” and  “one of the scariest things I've ever seen”. 


 

Humphrey B. Bear, born on NWS Channel 9, conquers the world without saying a word

Humphrey B. Bear is an Adelaide-born children’s television character who went on to international and national fame. The Humphrey B. Bear show was first broadcast on Adelaide’s NWS9 in May 1965 and became one of the most successful programs for pre-schoolers in Australia. It gained viewers world-wide in 55 languages from the USA version shown on the Public Broadcasting System and a Spanish version on Galavision. Humphrey has been made an icon of South Australia. Adelaide’s original Humphrey (called Bear Bear, at first) was created by Rex Heading, a former Melbourne radio announcer, who was the first program director and production manager at Channel 9. The first Humphrey was played by actor, singer and dancer Edwin “Ted” Duryea, whose identity was kept secret. The Humphrey B. Bear show has won Logies for best children's series and the Humphrey character has received national awards and commendations.  In 2003, Humphrey became heritage listed in South Australia and National Trist icon of the state. Humphrey also has been recognised as an icon of Australian television and is featured in the Australian National Museum in Canberra. He became the only bear in the world to become a cub when he was initiated into the Scouting movement. New versions of the Humphrey program were stopped in 2003 but were resumed by the Nine Network in 2007. In 2012, Imagination Ventures, the philanthropic enterprise of media company Imagination Entertainment, bought Banksia Productions assets, including all rights to Humphrey B. Bear.

 

Fat Cat developed into (confusing?) national identity by Adelaide's big pool of talent

Fat Cat and Friends is an Australian children's television show nurtured at Channel 10 in Adelaide from 1972, with spinoffs such as its resident musician Patsy Biscoe recording many children’s albums with national success and hostess Lynn Weston going on to front national educational children’s show The Book Place. The show closed in 1991 after the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal rules it wasn’t education enough and the genderless mute Fat Cat character sent confusing messages.

 

Winky Dink among range of characters created in Adelaide for children's television

Winky Dink was only one of a zooful of Adelaide television children’s characters that followed the success of Bobo the clown on the Channel Niners in the 1960s.  Bobo’s defection to Adelaide’s Channel 10 produced Humphrey B. Bear and Channel 10 came up with a response to Humphrey with Fat Cat. And other characters kept multiplying around them. Channel 10 also introduced an adult character: Deadly Earnest, a  late-night horror movie host played by Hedley Cullen 

 

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