What a Consummate Man

To all of us who knew Denzil as a work colleague and friend — what a consummate man. A writer, a director, a producer, and a performer in radio, stage and television for so many years, and in all those amazing, ground-breaking pioneer days.

I began my time in television at GTV9 in the 1950s and eventually found myself in the childrens show — The Happy Show as it was then called and later became The Tarax Show — with various comperes, including Happy Hammond, Geoff Corke and Norm Swaine.

I was virtually a child when I joined the station and had no background in theatre or radio, but I came to the right place to be nurtured, taught, amused and to find real friendship and real support.

Denzil was responsible for the original concept of the childrens show at GTV9 and was executive producer with Ernie Carrol as producer. Ron Blaskett and Gerry Gee were the stars! In was a small family-like group in those early years, with Margot Sheridan at the piano and various regular guest segments.

The childrens show was really Denzil’s concept and had its humble beginnings in Myers window. Denzil is my first memory of being in the childrens show — I remember that beautifully modulated voice that I tried to copy. I remember how elegant he always looked and though he rarely laughed out loud his sense of humour was wicked.

We had so much fun in those early days making hilarious episodes of The Adventures of Gerry Gee, filmed in the bush at Greensborough! There were delicious moments of things going very wrong, like in one episode I was trying to ride what was billed as a wild stallion, but no amount of urging from Denzil could get that horse to move. Or in another episode setting fire to a bush shack and all of us running away instead of bravely fighting the fire as was in the script. And of actors going in one door dressed in one outfit and seconds later coming out in another. The budget didn’t include a continuity person!

Each year we produced the Christmas pantomime. We would spend long hours, usually over a weekend, in that big studio, while Denzil Howson and Ernie Carrol and Ron Blaskett’s exotic and complicated stories were acted out. With everything done live, those days were full of disasters and laughter, but they also taught us to trust each other and to always be on your toes.

I lived with my family around the corner from Denzil and Dot and Paul and Clare in East Malvern, and I can remember vividly coming quite often at night to Belgrave Road to record some voice-overs for the film we were making or some other segment. I really looked forward to that because we laughed so much in that little studio out the back of their home and because Dot always made the most delicious supper and the children looked so cute in their pyjamas!

Not long before Denzil needed nursing care I asked him if he would give a talk to Vision Australia at 3RPH Radio where I work as a volunteer. Denzil came with Dot and with a screen and marvellous film footage of the very early days of IMT and Graham Kennedy’s work. He spoke to the rapt audience and was such a consummate performer that the audience didn’t want him to leave.

I visited Denzil the day before he died. I walked into the room at Ripplebrook Nursing Home and on the bedside table was a lamp from home, casting a warm glow. Denzil was immaculate as always in his blue pyjamas and Dot was bending over him giving him a drink and saying in her bright, cheery voice: “Hello Love. You look so good today.”

I thought what a wonderful scene that was. So much love and care.

Denzil, I feel privileged to have known you and worked with you and I will never forget you.

Susan-Gaye Anderson
September 2005

Susan-Gaye Anderson worked at GTV9 with Denzil in the early days of Melbourne television.