Graham Kennedy : biography
Nicholls moved from 3KZ to 3UZ (where Kennedy was working), bringing with him his teenage panel operators Alf "Alfie Boy" Thesinger and Russell Archer. However, eighteen-year-olds, Thesinger and Archer were "called up" (conscripted) for National Service. Nancy Lee’s book records:
I asked Nicky, "Have you decided on anyone to help you in the session yet?" When I heard the chosen one was to be young Graham, I was surprised. "Oh, no, not Graham! […] he’s a nice boy, but he can’t talk." Nick said, "Mum, leave him to me."Lee, Nancy (1979), p. 149.
Nicky became father-figure, personal friend and mentor to Kennedy, and the two built an extraordinary on-air rapport. Kennedy wrote:
Being straight man to one of the greatest entertainers of our time was not all that easy. We were not always chums. He would spend weeks not talking to me (except on air) for something I had unknowingly said or done. Once he even suspended me from the programme for some trivial matter. […] I worked with him until his sudden death in 1956. I never stopped being a fan. I did not realise then that I had been prepared for another career on another electrical medium: the most potent communication device of the century.Lee, Nancy (1979), foreword by GK. Elided text: "’But it was more than worthwhile putting up with his various moods and it must be remembered that he in turn was putting up with a very gauche seventeen year old. And of course, he taught me so much: how to use radio not just be on it. He took me under his wing and became a surrogate father. I spend many happy times with him and his family at his house in Ivanhoe. They were very special occasions for me. I baby sat for him and Kathy a few times.’
Nicky died on 8 September 1956.
By May 1957, Kennedy was appearing on television (see below), but also presented a 3AK morning radio programme with Bert Newton in 1961–1962, which later originated from a studio built at Kennedy’s home in Olivers Hill, Frankston.
In 1970 he worked at 3XY; from June to December 1975 he appeared on a 3LO drivetime program with Richard Combe; from September to November 1976 was on 3DB with Denis Scanlan; in 1977 he returned to DB to cover the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II live from London.
Kennedy recorded eight thirty-minute radio comedies for the ABC under the title Graham Kennedy’s RS Playhouse. Written by Gary Reilly and Tony Sattler (who together wrote the television programs Kingswood Country and The Naked Vicar Show), the shows were broadcast between 11 August and 23 September 1979.
The episode titles were:
- "The Birthday Boy"
- "Because He’s My Brother"
- "You Only Live Once"
- "Sunday Morning Fever"
- "The Chocolate Milkman"
- "The Prawnbroker"
- "Mad Jack’s Dentist"
- "The Good Morning Show"
Sattler and his wife (actress Noeline Brown) were two of Kennedy’s closest friends.
In 1980 Kennedy became a ten percent shareholder in Sydney radio station 2Day FM and from 24 May 1981 presented a computer-edited, three-hour Sunday morning program of music and comedy.Blundell (2003), pp. 350–351
In 1991 Kennedy retired to a rural property at Canyonleigh, near Bowral in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, near to his friends Tony Sattler and Noeline Brown, where his main companions were two Clydesdale horses named Dave and Sarah, and Henry, a Golden Retriever.
Being a period of that era of the 1950’s I think being gay must have been pretty harsh for Graham. I can imagine…everybody knew, nobody cared, but I think it was such a time when you didn’t talk about issues that were personal, and I think that made him much more secretive and reclusive, and I think that was probably quite a tough thing for him… — Susan Gaye Anderson