And welcome to the second instalment of my interview with TV game show voice over legend John Deeks.
Before we go any further, I’d like to thank John for very kindly recording a little welcome announcement for the site, which you can see on the top right corner of this page! If you click on it, you’ll hear his dulcet tones bidding you a warm welcome, as only he can.
JD: It was a huge show with massive sets, with lots of cars, and a huge audience, in the right part of town.
SH: How many were in the audience?
JD: Oh, 300 – 400. It was jolly big.
SH: For a studio audience for a TV show, that’s very big.
JD: Huge. And the later versions were never on that scale; when we tried to do The New Price Is Right, they really cheapened it. They did it in this tiny studio in Sydney, Larry Emdur was the host, and I think they gave away like a Goggomobil; it was one of the cheapest cars you could find.
SH: As you say, you were the voice of the show and you did its warm ups, from a position in the audience. As such, you would have watched thousands of episodes; would that be fair to say?
SH: Were there any times when you were watching, thinking, “No – don’t do that! You’re supposed to be doing this”?
JD: The best people we had – and this applies to all of the shows – except where intelligence is really required, (and thank God I never worked on shows where intelligence was a prerequisite! And I mean that with love). I’ve never worked on a Sale of The Century, that sort of show; they’ve all been game shows and I love the format of the game show; I love the repetitive nature of it; I just really, really enjoy it. You either do or you don’t. I did. But the common thread amongst all those people is that they were natural. They gave of themselves. You can’t have too many barriers; you have to say “Here I am, World!”
SH: Warts and all?
JD: Yeah, warts and all. The best ones were the ones who had character; they would come out and just be themselves. If they had friends in the audience they could interact with them, so we’d shoot them as well and they got the game. Because I always told the audience, “You are part of the production process. We just come along with this template every week. The template works and now it’s up to you to put the flavour in it.”
SH: And you were also the voice of Wheel of Fortune from 1984-2006.
JD: 22 years, yeah!
SH: Incredible! So again that must have been thousands of episodes, maybe tens of thousands of episodes?
JD: Stop counting.
JD: No, not you – I did.
SH: Oh, you stopped counting.
JD: Yeah, yeah.
SH: I see. Was that always in Adelaide?
JD: Yes it was. Until (co-host) Adriana ran out of husbands, and then we moved it to Sydney.
JD: Well, there was a bigger pool…
SH: Yes, sure.
JD: And also, (host) John (Burgess) needed to get new leather pants.
JD: We’d fly there every Friday to record five shows, and sometimes we had to do ten. It was like; “Oh my God – we are doing ten shows; five on a Friday, five on a Saturday as well!” But now, of course, they’re always churned out that way; ka-chunka, ka-chunka, ka-chunka!
SH: The show had a few hosts over that time… starting with Ernie Sigley, I think?
JD: Ernie was there… and then I was going to be the host after Ernie left.
JD: But I was doing The Price is Right at the same time, and they said “No, you can’t do that; you’ll have to stay on The Price is Right.”
SH: These are both Seven Network productions?
JD: Yeah. So I’ve said “Oh, okay.” Then of course a little time later Price finished, and over at Wheel of Fortune in Adelaide, the guy who’d been doing my job (the voice job), was cleaning leaves out of his gutter, and fell off the ladder.
That I pushed.
And they asked if I could come over for the weekend to do shows, and I said “Sure, but I want to do the warm up as well”. They said “Knock yourself out, kid” (because that was what I was used to doing on The Price Is Right.) So I came over one weekend, and 20 years later… I’m still receiving death threats from the guy who I –
SH: Can he walk again?
JD: I felt terrible about that night.
SH: That’s showbiz.
JD: It is showbiz, and you know what they say; “Never take a holiday”.
SH: Never take a holiday.
JD: Or clean out the gutters.
SH: Or clean out the gutters.
Mmm. Good advice for us all.
Join us here next week, for Part III, when Deeksie discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Wheel of Fortune‘s various hosts, and reveals his favourite Australian game show host of all time!