Tuesday 16 January 2024

Publishing an autobiography bit by bit

I've had three books published since retiring from BBC World Service radio and television and they have involved much more work than I anticipated. Hence, I was not that keen when pressed to write an autobiography. The solution lay by punishing my story chapter-by-chapter with Substack HERE

The link to my chapters so far is HERE

Ian R

Saturday 21 October 2023

The lovely singer and TV star Cilla Black

Back in the 1970s and 1980s I did lots of celebrity interviews for Australian radio, magazine and newspaper outlets. Sadly, I didn't keep all of them, but I recently came across this one with the Liverpudlian singer and TV star, the late Cilla Black. It was recorded in advance of a concert tour of Australia and New Zealand. Despite her fame, there was no "side" to her and it was one of my most enjoyable meetings with a celebrity. Here's the link to my uncut recording which I have loaded onto my website: Cilla Black interview

Thursday 10 August 2023

Moscow in the Gorbachev era

I recently came across these reports of my three BBC World Service work visits to Moscow in 1988 for the summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Soviet Union, and Ronald Reagan, president of the United States. At the time I was the World Service News Intake Co-ordinator (in plain English, newsgathering team leader). It was my job to make things happen while the clever stuff was done by the broadcasters and producers. It is interesting to look back at a time in Moscow before Vladimir Putin.

Here's what I wrote back then and loaded onto my website: Gorbachev's USSR

Monday 29 May 2023

Comments on my thriller

Some of the comments about my thriller set in the BBC in a fictional Middle Eastern country. Available as a paperback and Kindle ebook from Amazon. Click on reviews for easier reading:

Also available through Smashwords as an ebook.

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Rolf Harris - my memories of him

The entertainer and convicted child abuser Rolf Harris has died. He was one of the most recognisable performers on British TV but ended his career in disgrace after he was found guilty of the indecent assault of teenage girls. He was 93. A registrar at Maidenhead town hall, close to Harris’s family home in the Berkshire village of Bray in the UK, confirmed that the former entertainer died on 10 May of neck cancer and “frailty of old age”.

I got to know Harris a little in the 1970s when I provided showbiz items for Australian outlets such as the Macquarie Radio Network and TV Week magazine. My first meeting with him was on March 29, 1969, after which I wrote this account in a letter to my family:

Rosemary [my wife who helped with the audio recording] and I went to the Hippodrome Theatre for an interview with Rolf Harris who has just completed another TV series and who will shortly return to Australia for a holiday. He did quite a good, sometimes quite funny, interview, but we didn’t have much time to really judge him as a person because he was in a hell of a rush to start rehearsals for his final show. But I should hope his home is tidier than his dressing room. The dressing room looked quite imposing from the outside, what with its chrome plated door and embossed stars, but inside it was an absolute mess. Clothes, sheets of art paper and tins of paint were everywhere, and there was hardly room for us to sit down. We arrived as he was in the middle of cleaning his teeth. He spent a fruitless frothing-at-the-mouth search for a towel, but had to settle in desperation for a hankie. Such is the life of an international TV star!

I interviewed him several times at various locations or over the phone. I would described his manner as business-like rather than matey. There was never any indication of the dark side of his life in those meetings. I appear not to have made copies of the interviews before the tapes were airmailed to Australia. All that I have is this TV Week article, written under the pseudonym, Bruce Conway, that I was required to use for that magazine and which was based on conversations I had with him and his documentary producer:

Harris was involved in charities and I was phoned at home by him on Boxing Day in 1974 after Darwin had been devastated by Cyclone Tracy, wanting to know if there was someone he could contact about organising a concert to raise money for the victims of the storm. I can't remember if such an event took place. 

He was, for a time, an honorary vice chairman of the charity called Physically Handicapped and Able Bodied (PHAB). An immediate neighbour of ours was then PHAB's events organiser. She adored Harris almost as much as she did another vice chairman, Jimmy Savile. She died some years ago before the scandals surrounding Harris and Savile came into the open. She would have been horrified by the revelations, disbelieving even.

My wife had another connection with Harris. Back in the early 1960s, she was employed by the Bendigo Timber Company in the Australian gold mining city of Bendigo in the state of Victoria. Harris was touring Australia and engaged by the timber company to perform on their stand at the local agricultural show. He and the company were promoting Masonite board, made famous by Harris as his "wobble board" in his hit single, Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport. At the time, Harris's career as an entertainer was just taking off in Australia and the UK. She clearly remembers his performance but doesn't think she met him.

It's extraordinary that Harris risked such a high-profile and successful career by engaging in such terrible sexual abuse. Worse, he showed no remorse.

Sunday 23 April 2023

Barry Humphries -- the man I knew

The sad death of Barry Humphries.

I knew Barry a bit in the 1970s when I was providing showbiz articles and radio interviews for Australian outlets. It would be a terrible conceit to claim him as a friend but I did interview him several times -- once in a toilet which was the only quiet spot we would find in a theatre -- and he would sometimes chat to me on the phone to try out sayings for The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, his comic strip in Private Eye magazine. There was the famous "technicolour yawn" for drunken vomiting, then I remember for some reason him asking me what I thought of "Go stick your head up a dead bear's bum". I can't remember if that was used in the strip.

On more than one occasion, when Barry was busy, he answered the phone with Edna Everage's voice, claiming to be his secretary and promising that "Mr Humphries will phone you back as soon as he is free" which he always did. On reflection it is amazing that he gave me his private telephone number. Most celebrities I interviewed had to be contact through their agent or publicist.

CLICK HERE to listen to a mostly-serious radio interview that I did with him for Australia's Macquarie Network in 1970 as he was becoming well known in the United Kingdom.

And these are articles I did for TV Week (Australia). For (legitimate) reasons too complicated to explain here, my TV Week articles were published under the name "Bruce Conway".

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Tabloid journalism: a satirical view

I found a long-lost professionally-recorded comedy sketch made when I was at the National Film School 20 years ago. It's my pisstake of down-market tabloid journalism. (Surely not true.) It was chosen as a training exercise by the head of the department for film and TV directors. The actors and camera men were all professionals. There were about 10 versions filmed, but I have edited them down to just two lasting a total of five minutes: https://youtu.be/VmI14S5cFek