Vale – Don Lane

I first met Don after I had been summoned to Bruce Gyngell’s office at Ch9 in Willoughby.  I had been working as a production Assistant for Bob Raymond on the early morning  “The Today Show” with Diana Ward fronting in Sydney and Mike Walsh in Melbourne – and it just received its marching orders.

Bruce Gyngell quietly asked me if I would like to work on “The Don Lane Show” and of course I was thrilled – work on a live top rating programme – yes please! He then mentioned that Don tended to lose his temper and and swear at his staff, and could I cope with that?  Could I cope?! I had arrived in Sydney in 1968 as a “ten- pound- pom”,  married an Aussie, so this was no time to turn down work.

At no time did Don ever raise his voice or swear at me…through all the “Tonight” Shows and then his cabaret show called “The Shivoo” at the time, which was video-taped at a Restaurant on Rose Bay.

As a Production Assistant my job was to type up the very basic Running Order written up by the very calm Producer Warren Seal. This would consist of the Opening “Here’s Don”, some local performers, and nearly always a Star performer from the US ; a skit written by Rod Hull and Bill Wallace mostly starring Don and Toni Lamond; and of course “The Wheel”.

I was then in the booth with David Price, a volatile and talented Director, after having ensured that the filmed inserts and slides were  handed over to the various departments.

Then the fun was on – with a live show anything could happen – I felt great admiration for Don and his ability to be at ease, and yet speak his mind at times, on air. He was a great television performer. I bought his records (now vinyls and still have them) and supported his work especially when it was negatively criticized.

Don did require loyalty and as much as he did have his “moments” he was also true to his fellow workers. He helped quite a few people along the way.  This also included myself. When I became pregnant in ’69, and knew I would have to leave the show, I actually felt disloyal about it! But at the same time as plucking up courage to tell Don, the show was canned. Some time later Don’s Manager, David Toben, gave me a job sorting Don’s reels of film into order supervised by Don’s secretary,  Jenny, who always efficient and pleasant. I needed and was very grateful for the kindness and the money.

An excellent tribute to Don was delivered by his son ,P.J ., and Channel Nine at the Logies on 2nd May 2010