A Man of Sheer All Round Ability and Dedication

I write about Denzil with a deep sense of affection and gratitude for the influence he has been on my life.

His remarkable abilities have been shown through so many facets that I feel even a large book could not cover the story of this extraordinary man. Friend, work mate, mentor — he filled so many roles in my life and each one contributed in so many ways.

My first recollection of Denzil was when I was a patient at The Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital during the war. He was with Army Education and I remember his sprightly step as he came down the boardwalk to interview me for the internal newsletter — and to let readers know that I had a “doll” under my bed (a ventriloquist’s doll of course).

He recollected that he had seen my performances at various 3KZ variety broadcasts in the hospital’s theatre prior to my army service. I admired his quick wit and dedication to his work and he exuded genuine friendliness during the dark days of my illness.

It was to be a long time after the war that I caught up with him on being engaged by GTV9 some months before their opening. Later he was Assistant Program Manager.

I remember him typing up the script for an early transmission with Geoff Corke from Mt Dandenong and in his meticulous manner timing the script to the second.

After our official opening in January 1957, he produced The Happy Show — initially telecast from the Myer window. What energy and talent he brought to this the first nightly variety show on GTV9. Every detail Denzil expertly supervised and even in those early technically difficult days he was always on top of the job.

He showed a patient and tolerant attitude to the vagaries of performers and I soon relied on his advice, judgement and opinions.

His Christmas pantomimes became legendary and I can recall an early one where Denzil had not been content to leave the work to others, but had worked all night with them painting cobblestones on the studio floor (for an English setting).

Not only did he produce the pantomimes but he wrote and directed them and, as they are preserved in the archives, we can still wonder at the inventiveness and brilliance he brought to their fruition.

He proposed that we travel around the world for GTV9 to make a series of films: “Around the World with Gerry Gee”. Every detail of the trip was organised by Denzil, resulting in interviews with luminaries like Cornel Wilde, Dirk Bogarde and Peter Brough (the English ventriloquist who had acquired Diana Dors’ old home).

His energy on this trip astounded me and he did the camera work with the skill he brought to every task.

“The adventures of Gerry Gee” was another film series that he wrote and produced.

Years later when he became Program Manager of STW9 Perth, I was having a dark time as a TV/Radio Manager of an advertising agency. Denzil rescued me from melancholy despair by getting me to Perth as both Production Manager and performer. What a wonderful four years ensued. Producing shows on low budgets and working as one with Denzil to bring Perth audiences the best of what we had learned in Melbourne TV.

How his eyes would twinkle at a well told “gag”. His great sense of humour, would shine through and you always felt good in Denzil’s company.

As a producer with a Melbourne firm, Sales and Management Services, he gave me the job of writing a motivational audio visual presentation for a wholesale meat company, and then we collaborated on the launch of a new model car.

His fascinating broadcasts from the ABC are thankfully preserved, standing testament to his brilliance as both writer and presenter. Then he astounded us all with yet more jewels in his crown — a long running acting role in the stage show “Me and My Girl”, plus countless acting roles in television shows, narrations for documentaries and voice overs for television and radio commercials.

l owe him a great debt in life — his self deprecating style, sheer all round ability and dedication has made him a role model to so many of us.

In recent years we have collaborated in identifying negative photographic images at the Performing Arts Museum — another facet of his skill was his research in this area.

Thank you Denzil for the great memories you have given to me and in the annals of TV History no accolade is sufficient to honour your work. You don’t need to be inducted into the Hall of Fame — you are already its brightest star.

Ron Blaskett
September 2005

Celebrated Australian ventriloquist Ron Blaskett appeared in The Happy/Tarax Show at GTV9.