Don’t believe me? Just click on the ‘WARM WELCOME FROM PETE SMITH’ window on the top right of the page, to hear for yourself.
As my interview with Pete continues this week, I wanted to keep things on a game show footing, so I asked him……
SH: You also worked on Bert’s Family Feud. How was that different from $ale of the Century, in terms of contestants?
PS: Well, it was a totally different situation, really. It was very loose. The Family Feud format again is a terrific format, but it’s a format that’s based on fun, and humour. But Bert was his usual self, when normally these formats are very, very strict. The owner of the format is usually very clear about how you present the thing; I remember on $ale, the phrase “$5 with which to begin”… some of those things are followed to the letter. But then of course Tony Barber made the show his own. He knew it so well that he took it to really new heights.
SH: He was a hit!
PS: He was. And another thing… back then, because the set was so expensive (with all its electronic components), when the format was sold to someone else say in France, Japan, Hong Kong, or Germany, every now and then we’d have an entourage coming in from overseas to take over the studio and the set for the day, and record a pilot.
SH: Oh, really? From another country?
PS: From another country. And you would see the little French guy speaking in French, bounce out exactly the same way Tony used to bounce out. They wanted everything to be exactly the way the successful format in Australia was, so they didn’t want to diverge from anything on the show. Even the announcer who did the announcement. I remember particularly the one for Hong Kong; the show was called Dai Soubut. They couldn’t get the translation the $ale of the Century; it was called The Big Spender which was Dai Soubut. And I remember the announcer doing it just like I did the $ale one; Daaaai Soooou But! Of course the reason I did the $ale of the Century read like that was to do with Garry Meadows, who was the original Price is Right compere in Australia.
SH: I remember him.
PS: But at this particular time he was working for Grundy’s, as the first producer of $ale of the Century. By that time everything was pre-recorded, not much was live. And Garry was auditioning freelance announcers for the show, and being the only announcer left at Channel 9 I was going from my office where I wrote the scripts to the booth on the other side of the building in Richmond. Backwards and forwards all day, that was my mode of operation. And as I’d go past the foyer, I’d notice these freelance guys sitting there; there’d be a different one every time I walked past. I thought “Oh, hello – they’re going to replace me!”. You’re always the last to know in this business.
SH: The writing’s on the wall…
PS: And on one tour down the corridor, I bumped into Garry Meadows, and he said “We’re auditioning – we’ve got a new quiz show starting”. He then said “the next guy hasn’t turned up yet. Come into the control room, and I’ll show you what we’re doing”. So we went up to the control room and showed me a little bit of videotape – no music on it, or anything – of a caption card with $ale of the Century written on it, and it was on a turntable. Pretty basic – of course there were no computer graphics back then. Just this card, slowly rotating into view, so that you could read what was written on it. So they ran this bit of tape and they gave me a script that said “welcome to the world’s richest quiz – $ale of the Century“. So Garry said “when the red light comes on, I’ll run the tape”, so I go into the booth and I do it. But it didn’t work; the read was too short…I thought I can’t just say “Sale of the Century” because the thing hadn’t completely turned around to reveal, those words. So I said “Just one more time, Garry? And he ran the tape again and I said “welcome to the world’s richest quiz”, and the thing still hadn’t turned completely around, so I went “Saaaaaaale of the Century!” Well, within 10 seconds Gary had burst in the door of the booth, saying “That’s what we wanted! Will you do it?”
SH: All just because of a slow moving turntable.
PS: And a chance meeting in the corridor.
SH: And then you went on to say it another 4610 times!
PS: Is that right? Gee whiz!
It is indeed, Pete. It is indeed. And that’s where we leave it for this week. Next week, on a slight tangent, Pete reminisces about working with Paul Hogan!
We’ll see you back here, then.
This is Stephen Hall speaking.