Wednesday, May 19, 2010

#186: Hey Paula

Years before Ernie Sigley would become one of the most horrid images on national television (second only to Mike Preston really) he was busily hosting as many Jazz and Swing Shows in Adelaide as he possibly could, and he needed to – Bob Francis was right on his clacker.

Yes, the same Bob Francis who now abuses little old ladies at night and attempts to run as many people over in his Gopher as is humanly possible. The same Bob Francis who has made a career out of being an angry old bastard who likes to call anyone who doesn't see his own unique point of view 'wankers', loves to call elderly ladies 'silly old bitches', enjoys using the word 'bullshit' a lot and has been told not to drink red wine in the studio anymore.  The closest I ever got to Bob Francis is when he tried to run over my foot in the Central Market about a year ago.  He didn't look too pleased that he missed out on crippling me, and there'd be a few people who'd feel the same and chastise Bob for the lost opportunity.

(Yes, this is Ernie's actual scrawl from 1959)

It’s a funny old world really. Both Bob and Ernie were at the coalface of South Australian entertainment, going back to the late 1950s. Ernie moved to a national audience via radio and then television and forged a career on the back of being ‘The Little Aussie Battler’, but there’s still people who’d happily piss kerosene on him if he caught fire. Despite all of his best efforts most people remember Ernie as being a sarcastic, grumpy little prick whose claims to fames came via Denise Drysdales tits, being fired from a plum job at Channel Nine for abusing Kerry Packer on air and having the shit beaten out of him by Don Lane at a 1980s Logie Awards after party. Don always said that he didn’t intend on hitting Ernie, but witnesses claim otherwise, and frankly we all yelled, good on you Don! He only did what thousands would have happily lined up and paid to do and in doing so quite possibly ensured his future employment with the Packer family. Believe me when I say this, no-one’s mum like Ernie Sigley.

In 1994 Ernie was very lucky to escape yet another beating, this time at the hands of his old compering nemesis, Bob Francis. Bob has forged an incredible career in the South Australian music scene, also dating back to the late 1950s. Bob popped up at almost every event, announcing bands and generally integrating himself into the scene. Bob then made the leap to radio where he discovered his true calling in life and began to become the voice of his generation. Sadly that voice is now considered to be somewhat of a joke, as opposed to what he once was.

(Somewhere in this sea of humanity that was King William Street, lurks Three Beatles, a replacement drummer and Bob Francis.  Clearly it's a Sigley Free Zone)

So why did Bob and Ernie nearly go toe-to-toe in 1994? To use a phrase that is instantly recognisable, The Beatles. In 1964 The Beatles announced a tour of Australia, but in a move that would become the norm by the 1980s as concert promoters decided that they hate Adelaide, announced concerts in almost every city barring Adelaide. Bob rightfully took that as a slight and raised a petition and a lot of publicity, ultimately presenting the petition to The Beatles management, resulting in Adelaide being added to the tour. History now shows that Adelaide produced the largest turn-out anywhere in the world, with almost 350,000 people, out of a population of around 1,000,000 at the time, lining the streets for a glimpse. The shows were recorded and, well, frankly by then The Beatles, as a live act, were crap. But hey, it was The Beatles. Bob was dragged along for the ride and got to hang out with them and, as far as I’m aware, did the only interview that the band gave in Adelaide. Certainly all the footage I have features Bob and no-one else.

In 1994 the 30th anniversary of The Beatles in Adelaide was being celebrated and who should pop his head up and announce that he was responsible for getting the band to this city? Yep, Ernie Sigley.  You see Ernie, much like Chevy Chase, has this irritating tendency to claim credit for anything and everything this side of global warming and the Kennedy assassination (although give him time...). For once we all allowed Bob his expletives, “Fucking bullshit!” I think was the phrase that Bob used when some hapless Lunchtime O’Booze put Ernie’s claims to him. Surprisingly enough Ernie never repeated or backed the claims up at the time, but since he retired he's now insisting that if it wasn’t for him, The Beatles would never have visited this state.

Three words: prove it Ernie.  Otherwise someone might let Don Lane's son know where you are.

God forbid what Bob will do to Ernie if he lines him up in front of his gopher. Mind you Bob Francis is a person I’d love to interview, just to get to the bottom of those days, and also to have a peek in his files of memorabilia. I’ll not hold my breath though as I'm not that fond of being called a wanker by an angry old man.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My fave Big Gob adventure was when he was caught shoplifting a bunch of expensive flea bombs at the Coles next to the Markets. He later flourished a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions saying the prosecution would not go ahead as they didn't have enough evidence. Big Gob seemed to feel this exonerated him. Idiot.

I was in the 1991 Gulf War peace vigil, and we thought Big Gob's jingoistic attitude to the slaughter was pretty strange for an Arab-Australian. He saw a wheelchair bound protester at the Markets and tried to get an elderly lady to join in abusing him. She told Big Gob where to go.~ Martin