This week sees the conclusion of my interview with the legendary Pete Smith, and I should point out that this week’s post carries a language warning (of sorts). So if you’re offended by the transcription of a crow call that sounds a little bit like a certain rude word, I’d recommend only reading the first half of the post.
And now that that’s out of the way… Enjoy!
SH: One final question, if I may…
PS: I think you’ve short changed me a bit, Stephen.
SH: What do you mean?
PS: Well, I’ve been 54 years on Channel Nine and you’ve only devoted this much time…
SH: No, no please – I could talk to you all day!
PS: Maybe we can come back again.
SH: I would love to. Can we do another session? That would be fantastic.
PS: Here I am begging for more interview. I’m really jesting with you but thank you.
SH: I could listen to you for hours, but…
PS: I think what you’re doing is terrific, because in this business we love, this terrible business called television, history can get lost so easily. I admire what you’re doing, because it means that it’s going to be somewhere, someone’s going to pick it up.
SH: Oh, good. Thank you very much, Pete.
PS: So the more of that, the merrier. And to be able to pass on to young people like you, some of the things about the way it was – it’s a joy, it really is. Because you can’t be expected to know. You can’t be expected to know that it was 24 ½ minutes for a ‘Pal’ dog food commercial (on In Melbourne Tonight). I mean it’s trivial, but you can’t be expected to know that was the environment.
SH: But if you’re interested in all this stuff – as I am – then it’s wonderful to be able to go to the source; you were there!
PS: Well it is. Take Graham Kennedy’s infamous ‘crow call – that didn’t just happen in a minute, Kennedy had a death wish ; he wanted to get out. I don’t know why he didn’t go to management and say “look I want to finish up”. So he’d become very difficult, but the ‘crow call’ didn’t happen overnight. For over two years – maybe three, maybe more – Kennedy used to delight in sending us up to the audience while we were doing our commercials, which we had to memorise. One of my main ones was for Colvan Chips. The advertiser paid good money for the thing and one night you can see him out of the corner of your eye other side of the studio right in front of the audience, monkeying around. The bird calls, the crow calls started with Rosemary Margan, while she was doing live reads for Cedel baby powder or whatever, and he used to delight in doing it to her. He’d be going “Tweet, tweet, tweet….” Well, the audience of course are laughing and he’s
getting all that reaction, and she knows there is hi jinks going on, and she’s trying to remember the commercial. He was a devil but he would do it to all of us in one way or another, and so that went on, and on, and on until that little tweet, tweet became “Aaaaaaark! Faaaark!” and went on and of course it brought the place down.
SH: Yes it did, it was very risque.
PS: And of course the truth is they didn’t say “Graham, that’s it”. They said to him, “Graham, we’ve upset the Broadcasting Control Board – who were in charge – we can lose our license!” They thought “we’re going to have to restrain him somehow; we’re going to have to record the program”. Well, not doing the show live was the end for him. They did one show and he walked out as I recall …anyway, we are off the subject.
SH: I’m sorry to bring you back to game shows…
PS: No. no you’re doing great. I got you off the track with all that.
SH: Having had so many ‘flying hours’ in the game show world, what three tips would you give to anyone wanting to go on a game show?
PS: Going on a game show… I’d do plenty of rehearsals within your own family. Questions and answers… and don’t be afraid to leave a space, because there’s always a 3-second space for thinking time. Don’t say the first thing that comes into your head. So the main stand-alone bit of advice would be plenty of preparation with your family, make sure it’s not in the heat of a television studio but it just give you the chance to get into the whole scheme of things.
SH: And I think that’s a great note to end on. Pete Smith, thank you so much for your time today, for the decades of entertainment you’ve brought us, and for chatting to me for HowToWinGameShows.com!
PS: My pleasure, Steve. My pleasure.
Ladies and gentlemen, the great Pete Smith. I’d wanted to interview him for years, and finally meeting him, he was every bit as friendly, lovely and down-to-earth as I’d hoped he’d be.
Thanks again, Pete – and thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks again, too, for recording the WARM WELCOME message you can see on the top right hand side of this page!