Thursday, June 4, 2009

Images from Childhood

When I was a kid in Melbourne, Australia, my childhood was dominated by British TV comedies. And British TV comedy characters like Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis) from On The Buses, which, incidentally, became a Hammer movie.

I don't know why, but "Blakey", as he was known, got deep into my head and stayed there for years. He was forever trying to bust Stan Butler (Reg Varney), and was famous for the line: "I'll get you Butler!"

Adventure Island is one of the great Aussie TV shows. I had this to say about it on imdb:

The great John Michael Howson created this television masterwork (with Godfrey Phillips) and played "Clown", a peculiar, unforgettable, asexual fellow who lived in a caravan in the town of Diddley-Dum-Diddley and never took his make-up off. That's right, folks, he was a permanent clown. Fixed grin. Never out of character. Totally nuts in a baggy costume and given to high-pitched declarations of surprise. Truly incredible this series. So surreal, perhaps not deliberately, but one of the strangest "things" I've ever seen. The town was controlled by a mean-spirited ogre (Meiser Meanie) who lived in a dark, cardboard tower overlooking the town square where Clown lived next to "Flowerpotts", an androgynous fusspot played by a man. Their neighbors were two married pandas, the male being a touch on the sissy side. Meanie's right hand man was the sycophantic Fester Fumble, affectionately played by Ernie Bourne. The cameras never took us outside the town, although we were able to view a distant, remote outside world (painted) beyond the town gate occasionally. Perhaps Mr. Howson, now a Hollywood-based writer of clever short stories and gossip monger of international repute, will see fit to resurrect this brilliant series one day, the crowning achievement of his queer youth. Where are you, Clown? Where are you and that permanent grin? Perhaps living in Baltimore with John Waters and Mink Stole?

Catweazle was on before Dr. Who in Melbourne, so if I was waiting for Dr. Who to start, I'd watch the last ten minutes of the show.

I was never into it in a big way, but I liked the fact that he lived in a water tower and was giving the finger to polite society.

Please, Sir was another popular British hit on Aussie TV. It starred John Alderton, who also turned up in the series The Fenn Street Gang.

Blakey, Butler, and Jack (Bob Grant), the Romeo of On The Buses. I used to think that Jack was a very cool guy.

My first encounter with a gay man was with Mr. Humphries (John Inman) on Are You Being Served?

Even when I was ten, I found his unapologetic, over-the-top portrayal of a homosexual man kind of interesting. He made no excuses for his camp ways and may have been an early model for Family Guy's Stewie.
Ah, speaking of camp ways...

"Dr. Zachery Smith" (Jonathan Harris) had the greatest impact on me of all TV characters, as did Billy Mumy's "Will Robinson".

Lost in Space was my favorite TV show as a kid, and I still love it.

I used to think that Olive (Anna Karen) from On the Buses was the scariest, most disgusting thing on TV. There was something very wrong and hideous about her. Now, she's lost her ability to terrify.

This bloke is "Ugly Dave Gray". He was all over Aussie TV in the 60's and 70's. He was a regular on several celebrity game shows including Blankety Blanks, the Graham Kennedy classic.

I never understood what made Ugly Dave famous enough to be a celebrity, but his Groucho Marx-style shenanigans were mildly amusing.


  1. We didn't get 'On the Buses' as a kid, so I never knew anything about it.

    Not until I was in the police academy, when the drill instructor would occasionally yell out to some poor recruit, 'Put your cap on properly! You look like Blakey!!'

    I had no idea who the fuck 'Blakey' was, nor did any of my squad mates, but we knew better than to ask- at risk of fucking up what was no doubt the drilly's best and only 'funny' line. We did find out, though, that those peaked caps when positioned down over the eyes generally meant you were serious about your job, and if up, meant you were likely to be a milk man, or a parking inspector, or a bus driver, and hence not as 'important'.

    A few years later I found out who 'Blakey' was, but it was too late to mean much to me as I had long left the force.

    I loved 'Catweazle'. I can't watch it now, as most of these shows remind me of family, home etc. so I try to avoid them, but I remember the late great Bud Tingwell was in the first series, playing the young farm boy Carrot's father. I liked Catweazles water tower too; and in the other series he lived in an abandoned railway station known as 'Duck Halt'. His familiar was a toad called 'Touchwood', and he called electricity 'Elec-trickery'.

    I think Geoffrey Baylden is still alive, and there was talk of a 'Catweazle' feature film, although I suspect it is either in development hell, or mere talk, like many such mooted projects...

    Mr. Humphries also was great, although my first encounter with a gay man was a well known figure of sport in my home town known as 'Russell', who wore a shitload of abuse from the local youth for his alleged sexual preferences (which like much of what young people know-or think they know- is often unfounded)

    But shortly after him, and prior to Mr. Humphries, I was exposed to the camp antics of Kenneth Williams in the Carry On films, which for me predated 'Are You Being Served' by a good couple of years.

    In any event, thanks for the walk down memory lane. Next time, why don't you just give me a nice papercut and pour lemon juice in it...?

    (PS...Speaking of childhood memories, RIP David Carradine- 'Kwai Chang Caine'.

    No matter how it happened, you are dead, and this cannot be disputed. However, you left behind some creditable work, and you will be missed. Travel well, Sensei...)

  2. BTW Geoffrey Bayldon is still very much alive, and doing very nicely thank you!

    This is my favourite interview with the man. It was recorded such a long time ago- pre 9/11, in fact- but it is still an absolute cracker! It can be found at;

    It is well worth researching this man, to find out why he knocked back being Doctor Who not once, but TWICE! And the reasons...

    Well, find out for yourself, you lazy buggers!

  3. jervaise brooke hamsterJune 8, 2009 at 4:00 PM

    "Lost in space" was my favorite show when i was a kid as well and its still my all time favorite, angela cartwright and marta kristen used to drive me wild with lust even though i was only 8 years old. "Lost in space" had an incredible indescribable magic to it that has never been equalled before or since (except perhaps by "my so-called life", my second favorite show of all time). Smith and the robot were maybe the second greatest comedy team of all time (only stan and ollie were funnier). Its funny that i dont bother to watch any of the hundreds of other shows that i used to watch when i was a kid back in the late 60`s and early 70`s but i never tire of watching "lost in space" its just as magical now as it was 40 years ago.

  4. JBH -- I agree completely. It is my favorite of all time, too, even though I like several others also ('Dr. Who' being one). I was also enchanted by Angela Cartwright and Marta Kristen. On top of that, the show had amazing atmosphere at times, great monsters, and, as you say, the greatest comedy duo since Stan and Ollie). I have the entire series on DVD and rewatch specific eps quite a bit.


    mandingo -- thanks for the Blayden nterview. Loved it.

    Great reminisce about your academy days and 'Blakey' reference. Kenneth Williams was a fantastic performer. He was the most out there actor I'd ever encountered at a very young age.

    I must also confess to be terrified of 'Carry on Screaming' when I was a kid. Those monsters killed me.