Tuesday, April 25, 2006

get ready to match the stars

On Friday afternoon I came home from work to find Cliff sitting in my room watching TV. He'd arrived from Melbourne only 20 minutes before I got home and I was pleased to see him. I had a gammy head from the night before so I was just as pleased when he offered me a fast working, pain relieving pill. Cliff and I have known each other since we were in our 20s. We met in the early daze of The Lounge in Melbourne's Swanston Street and as well as spending many nights drinking and dancing until the sun came up we fooled around under the covers a couple of times too, but more importantly we've remained friends sharing similar interests and lots of laughs. For a while he shared this house with me and others when he moved to Sydney in 2000. I'd been in Sydney for a few months and had just moved into this house when Cliff rang to say he was moving up here for work and needed somewhere to stay. It was good timing because we had a room available. He's since gone back to Melbourne, but we keep in touch and catch up from time to time when I get back to Melbourne. In a typical twist of degrees of separation his partner has been friends for a long time with the two sisters I once lived with in Melbourne. And that's just for starters. Over the years our lives have become curiously entangled...

One of the things Cliff and I share is a love of pop culture and Aussie Film n Television in particular, so it wasn't long before we were settling in for a night in front of the telly watching old episodes of Graham Kennedy's Blankety Blanks on dvd and drinking beer. This popular game show originally screened in 1977-78 on the 0/10 Network. For a generation of kids who hadn't grown up watching Kennedy on IMT this show introduced us to the outrageous antics of The King as well as all those fabulous panellists who appeared with him on our screens at 7 o'clock each weeknight. Rediscovering the talented Kennedy and his band of celebrities with their gags, quips and answers loaded with double entendre proved just how timeless Blankety Blanks is (apart from the contestants in their '70s fashions). What we came to understand is that the timelessness of it all is tied up with the banter between Kennedy and those stalwart panellists whose backgrounds were steeped in vaudeville and live theatre.

Cliff and I agreed our ultimate panel of stars would be made up of Noel Ferrier, Noeline Brown, Ugly Dave Gray, Carol Raye, Stuart Wagstaff and Barry Creyton - a combination which never actually appeared together in any one episode. We sat watching, marvelling at how quick-witted these celebrities were and how much fun they were having. There was an easy rapport between them and Graham and it's interesting to note that Kennedy handpicked all of the panellists. As well as the more established celebrity panellists Graham also invited other up and coming performers onto the show, such as Abigail, Belinda Giblin, Peita Toppano, Mark Holden, Delvene Delaney, Jon English and John Paul Young. There was a wonderful mix of old and new stars.

But watching these episodes was also tinged with sadness. It showed us just how many of our old showbiz troupers - Dawn Lake, Bobby Limb, Tommy Hanlon jnr, Peggy Toppano, Gloria Dawn and June Salter - along with Noel Ferrier and Graham Kennedy are no longer here to entertain us. We tried to come up with a group of panellists who would have the same impact today and we couldn't do it. It would be just as hard to find a decent compere. Channel 9 tried to bring the show back at one stage with Daryl Somers as host and it just didn't work (I'm not surprised).

After we'd had our fix of Graham Kennedy's Blankety Blanks we had no choice but to watch one of the dvd's special features, All At Sea, described on the box as "a saucy comedy treat from the vaults...". Now that deserves a whole post of its own


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