When we left off last week, we were talking about Steve’s position as Associate Producer on Sale Of The Century…
SH: And at that stage, were you responsible for choosing contestants?
SM: I was at the auditions and interviews quite often. There’d be a written test. And then the ones who’d passed the test had to get up and stand in front of everybody and have a chat about themselves. We used to go for people who we thought would probably be good on camera, as opposed to people who might freeze on camera. And because the questions in the audition test were generally harder than the questions on the show, we thought if anyone passed the audition test, they’d know the answers to most of the questions on the show.
But… I do remember one guy who stood up after passing the test. He was an English guy, and he had the gift of the gab and he was chatty and he was funny and I just thought he was sensational. I remember saying to the Executive Producer “This English guy will be fantastic!” And the EP said “Really? Doesn’t look like it on paper…” I said “Trust me, this bloke will be sensational.” We put him on, and he didn’t say ‘boo’ the entire show. I think he might’ve answered one question. I said “Oh god, that’s me. I’ll never recommend anyone ever again!”
SH: During those auditions, were there any big no-no’s? Any cautionary tales? What not to do?
SM: Most of the people wanting to get on Sale were generally pretty smart people. And they went on there and they wanted to win. And so they worked fairly seriously. There weren’t too many people who were time wasters, shall we say. And if they were… they either wouldn’t pass the test, or they’d be stamped ‘probably not really good to use’.
SH: Were there any perks associated with the insider information you had there?
SM: Well….. Grundy’s in those days was in North Richmond near a pub called ‘The Cherry Tree’ which was owned by Scotty Palmer, a well-known sports journo. We’d often see him there on a Friday night. What we didn’t realize at the time, was that one of his most well-known customers was a bloke by the name of Dennis Allen, who lived nearby and owned about 10 houses, all paid for by the drugs that he sold at his front door. He was known to the cops as ‘Dr Death’, which I think explains his M.O. as far as selling the drugs.
SH: Ah, a medical man! I see, yes…
SM: So Dr. Death would be sitting at one end of the bar, and you never messed with him. But I remember ordering a couple of beers there one night, and the TV was on behind the bar and Sale of the Century was on. And this fairly shifty-looking bloke standing next to me points up at the screen. It was about halfway through the show, and you could see the contestant’s scores. And I think they were 20, 50 and 15 (meaning that the carry-over champ was on 15). And this guy said to me, “Carry-over champ’s in trouble. I bet ya $50 the bloke in the middle wins”.
And I just looked at the screen I said, “I’ll take that bet. I reckon the carry-over champ might get up here…” (knowing full well that we’d recorded this episode two weeks earlier, and that the carry-over champ came back in the final 60 seconds to win by one question!)
SM: Shifty-looking bloke pulls out the $50 and goes to hand it to me and he says, “Well called, mate.” I said, “Sorry. I can’t take your money. I work on the show. I know this bloke got up and won by one question. I can’t take your money. That’s just that.” And I’m thinking ‘there’s Dr. Death over in the corner….’
SH: (GULP) Yes, we’re all friends here! Heh heh. Did he take that all right?
SM: He was fine. But then two weeks later, I’m back in there. And he sidles up to me again, looks at the screen and goes “So who wins this one?”
And I give him a theatrical sort of look and go “chick on the left…”
So, he turns to another guy and goes, “Hey! I’ll bet you $100 bucks that chick on the left wins!”
I said, “$100? Your price has gone up.”
He goes, “Yeah. $50 for me and 50 for you…”
I said, “Okay I’ve got to cut this right here. I work on the show. We cannot be doing this. It’s illegal. You could get into big trouble. I’ll lose my job. So just let’s just stop betting on the winners, okay? I’m not telling you another thing.”
SH: You stayed on the right side of things there…
SM: I remember my boss telling me, “The smartest thing to do, don’t tell people you work on the show.”
SH: Lesson learned.
SM: “Drink your beer and go home like the rest of us.”
Yes, quite. I suspect that might be good advice for all of us, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
See you next week.