How an air-conditioning mechanic in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain; Part 167.


Radio presenters work on the outskirts of show business. Sometimes we’re asked to appear on stage. These appearances never go well.

One of the worst ones I ever did was one afternoon in 1998 when I was working at 2CRFM in Dorset. A shopping centre in Poole booked my co-host, Richie Firth and I to present a show on their stage for a fruit juice company. We were just the hosts, the main act they’d booked were two of the stars of the hit TV show, ‘Gladiators’.

If you don’t remember Gladiators, it was a show where members of the public competed in lycra unitards against failed professional athletes in weird games that featured giant vinyl covered cotton buds. The male ‘professionals’ were named after animals, usually big cats, birds of prey or snakes and the female Gladiators were named after weather conditions. Anyway, a reptile and a meteorological disaster arrived at the shopping centre with a PR lady. Soon she became very unhappy. I’m not sure what her Gladiator name would be, but she soon developed into at least a “Category 4”.

Richie and I went on and introduced the Gladiators, which sounded more like an insult followed by a weather forecast. They walked on and then… Nothing. They just stood there, looking out into a couple of hundred confused faces. No one was impressed, not even the toothless wonders that always make up the first two rows of every radio station event. In a desperate attempt to entertain, the animal gladiator grabbed the mike and did an impression of the comedian Joe Pasquale, singing, “This Is A Song That Will Get On Your Nerves” (We did NOT see that coming!).

The audience were silent. The Gladiators didn’t even manage to impress the dentally challenged at the front. We could hear them breathing. I read out a blurb I’d been given about fruit juice and we walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. We were on for less than five minutes, the show was booked to run for THREE HOURS.

Backstage the PR woman went ballistic at me. “You didn’t DO anything!” she screamed. I said, “No, the Gladiators didn’t DO anything! We’re just the hosts, not the act. They’re the ones that need to DO something!” She said she was going to take the Gladiators to a hospitality suite that had been set up for them, she’d be back in twenty minutes and in that time I had to work out what I was going to do to save the show.

When she came back I told her that if she gave us some swag from the fruit juice company to give away we could could get some people from the audience up to compete against the Gladiators to win prizes. It would be simple stuff like press-ups, and arm wrestling. The Gladiator would beat the adults and let the kids win.

I thought I’d saved the day but she said “No” and explained that the Gladiators have a clause in their contracts that prevents them from doing anything “Physical”. I said, “What? Their ‘act’ is nothing BUT physical! They’re Gladiators, they’re supposed to, ‘Gladiate’!”

In the end I had to get Richie, who at the time was the complete opposite of a Gladiator to compete against audience members for cartons of orange juice, while the Gladiators signed autographs. He didn’t have to ‘let’ kids win, they all beat him anyway.

Next time I get booked to make an appearance for a fruit juice company, I’m going to make them sign a contract that says “I’ll do anything you want except TALK”!

Craic on!

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