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The Start of Something Big

Jonathan Daly

If you ask Jonathan Daly to describe himself, he has a few choices. He is an actor, most often in comedy; a writer, of nightclub acts, television series, plays, and more recently, screenplays for films; a director; and a producer. He has often combined these roles at the same time and, at one time or another, done all of them in spades. Jonathan’s initial prominence and popularity was in front of an audience. On U.S. television, Jonathan is well-known for co-starring roles in the final season of Petticoat Junction (1969-70) as Orrin Pike, Bobbie Jo’s (Lori Saunders) suitor, and in 1970s series The Jimmy Stewart Show as Peter Howard (Jimmy’s character’s son), and then C.P.O. Sharkey, playing Lt. Whipple, the superior of none other than Don Rickles. He was a familiar face in guest parts on The Flying Nun, Bewitched, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and The Partridge Family. There were also films: among them, The Young Warriors with James Drury; Out of Sight which included a who’s who of rock and pop musicians; and Disney’s Rascal and Amy, which were Jonathan’s favourite films, and two of seven pictures he made at that “wonderful studio”.

There was a time before these series and films when Jonathan was known somewhere else, and by a whole nation no less who had only recently come to television. With a partner named Ken Delo, and an act that initially started as a “Martin and Lewis thing”, but became much more, Jonathan set out for Australia. It was early 1960 when producer Norman Spencer brought Delo and Daly to Melbourne. They had been working together for only a couple of years. In that time, as Jonathan explains, the focus was on building a relationship rather than the act. Viewers, and the press, likely did not know what to expect from the comedy team when they made their Australian television debut Saturday April 2 at 8pm on Melbourne’s GTV-9 on the nationally-aired The BP Super Show. Very quickly Australia took the duo into their hearts and homes. GTV-9 would be their home for several months, as an initial four-week stay (some papers said six) turned into six months. At GTV-9 Jonathan and Ken found supportive colleagues and good friends. It was there they appeared regularly on In Melbourne Tonight and The Graham Kennedy Show, the version of IMT for national consumption that also meant the duo became well-known interstate. The legend of the show’s host, Graham Kennedy, has grown over the ensuing decades, but Jonathan found in him a collegial colleague with whom he shared the stage many times. IMT’s roster included Bert Newton, Panda, Joff Ellen, and appearances by the very special Elaine McKenna, with whom Jonathan worked often, and shared considerable chemistry.

Ken and Jonathan (Photo: Australian TV: The First 25 Years).
Ken and Jonathan (Photo: Australian TV: The First 25 Years).

It was the time of the nightclub in Melbourne – and, indeed, much of the country – with Delo and Daly becoming a sensation wherever they went: the Savoy Plaza in Melbourne, Chequers in Sydney, and Lennons Broadbeach Hotel in the Gold Coast, amongst them. They did not, however, appear at the very famous nightclub The Embers, with Jonathan tasked with telling formidable club owner, Jimmy Noall, why his establishment was not suitable for comedy.

By the time the team left Australia, after filming two specials, their “acceptance by Australian TV audiences … set them apart as being by far the most successful of the U.S. TV comedy ‘imports’” (The Age, Radio and Television Supplement, October 6, 1960), with the pair later described as having “had the biggest success of any overseas act on Australian TV, and what was planned as a limited stay in 1960 turned into the longest for any imported variety act” (The Age, TV and Radio Guide, May 31, 1962). Colin Bednall, head of GTV-9, knew a good thing when he saw it, and he offered Jonathan the chance to write and produce. An appealing prospect, Jonathan and Australian wife Marlene Duff returned from the U.S. for Jonathan to work at GTV-9 for a year. In a nice tie-in to his very first appearance in Australia, he was assigned The BP Super Show. The BP Super Show was the network’s prestige program, “the channel’s show window” (The Age, Radio and Television Supplement, April 7, 1960). Indeed, in the month before Jonathan took over the reins, the star of the February episode was Ella Fitzgerald in a special filmed performance – at The Embers of all places!

Jonathan’s stint with The BP Super Show began with an episode starring Lorrae Desmond, Jerry Vale, French acrobats The Dandinis, Kamahl, and Tommy Hanlon Jr. Horrie Dargie compered and his quintet were featured on this show, which went to air February 11, 1961. On March 25, The VW Show began. This show, sponsored by Volkswagen, alternated with The BP Super Show, so that every two weeks viewers received either a BP or VW instalment. For this first production, Horrie Dargie compered a show featuring Alan Dean, Ray Hastings, Kathleen Gorham and Robert Pomie, Dorothy Baker, the Coral Deague Dancers, and the GTV-9 Orchestra conducted by the maestro, Arthur Young. The shows showcased new talent, overseas talent, Australian stars, vocalists, comedians, dancers and acrobats. Take a BP show from April 8, 1960 that featured The Allen Brothers act: Chris and that Boy from Oz, Peter. In many ways it was also a showcase for Jonathan’s many talents, as he would increasingly move across performing, writing, and producing.

Lorrae Desmond, Jonathan Daly, and Rod Kinnear inspect the new GTV-9 pool (Photo: The Age, Television and Radio Supplement, February 2, 1961).
Lorrae Desmond, Jonathan Daly, and Rod Kinnear inspect the new GTV-9 pool (Photo: The Age, Television and Radio Supplement, February 2, 1961).

It became a bit of a habit for Jonathan to be about to board a plane (once literally), or to actually board a plane back to the U.S., before being asked to do something else in Australia. After his time with the BP and VW shows was over, he moved on to HSV-7. It was there that he compered Daly at Night, a forerunner to night time talk shows on Australian TV and an introduction to “the authentic Tonight format” (Australian TV: The First 25 Years, ed. Peter Beilby, 1981). The show was a D.Y.T. production, with Horrie Dargie, Arthur Young, and John Tilbrook having set up their own production unit. Described as a “controversial discussion show” (The Australian Women’s Weekly, 13 November 1963), critics didn’t completely take to Jonathan behind the desk and his panel and team that included Vikki Hammond, Horrie Dargie, Arthur Young, Frank Thring, Kitty Bluett, and Lou Richards. The Wednesday-Friday series did, however, produce plenty of memorable moments and ran for a year; starting March 7, 1962 and ending on March 29, 1963.

In many ways, the team of Delo and Daly had cast a long shadow on Australian television. In the time that the team had largely been off of TV, which was some two or so years with the exception of a special at GTV-9 called In the Soup in 1961, momentum was building for a return. After the stage lights of Daly at Night dimmed, Jonathan returned to the U.S. When his plane back to Australia landed on May 5, 1963, Ken was with him. At the time of their arrival to a “welcoming committee” at the airport including Norm Spencer, now at HSV-7 as assistant manager production, Horrie Dargie, John Tilbrook, Kitty Bluett, Julian Jover, and Joe Latona, Jonathan declared, “It’s wonderful to be back!” (TV Times, Victoria edition, May 15, 1963). That’s high energy after a rather lengthy flight between continents!

Jonathan goes south of the border in In the Soup (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, May 17-23, 1961).
Jonathan goes south of the border in In the Soup (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, May 17-23, 1961).

The negotiations between D.Y.T. and HSV-7, the search for sponsors, and other details of the show “created more press speculation since it was mooted than any other” (The Age, TV and Radio Guide, June 6, 1963). TV Week reported that “Delo and Daly have planned their show with Cape Canaveral-type security” (South Australia edition, June 29, 1963).

The Delo & Daly Show launched on HSV-7 in Melbourne on September 3, 1963. It eventually had “a six State ‘web’” with New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia carrying the program (The Age, TV and Radio Guide, January 23, 1964). I imagine for viewers tuning in to the first episode that it was a thrill to again watch Ken and Jonathan, as they walked together on their set’s distinctive checkered floor toward the camera. It was a thrill for me when I watched a tape of the first program earlier this year.

The Delo & Delo show was variety in every sense of the word. Ken and Jonathan sang medleys, sometimes with their guest stars, and Ken also typically sang solo. The two engaged in fast-paced skits, involving take-offs of commercials and other popular forms. In between skits, The Delo & Daly Girls would try to keep straight faces as they set the scenes. In one skit in the first episode, an excited Jonathan is Ralph, a hiker about to start a monumental trek from the corner of Bourke and Exhibition streets in Melbourne across the entire continent. It’s just too bad that he’s not good at crossing a road, and it’s over before it begins. In another as part of the regular “Let’s Talk” segments, Superman (Jonathan) asks his interviewer (Ken) to call him “Soup”, and he talks of how at 21 when most of his peers got cars or boats, he got a cape; as well the problems of leaving his suits unattended in phone boxes.

In a skit from the second episode, Jonathan is an optimistic prison warden who doesn’t “like to use the word ‘escape’”; instead preferring to “just say they’re away” when his inmate count reveals some deficits.

Jonathan put a premium on quality. During a visit to Adelaide early in the show’s run, he was quoted in TV Week (South Australia edition, October 5, 1963) as stating, “To make a really good show you need writers and time … time to rehearse and money to pay the artists, technicians and musicians during rehearsal. Writers need time to prepare well ahead of each show, and while they are preparing they must be paid”. As Jonathan rightly points out all these years later, The Delo & Daly Show – and, in fact, all of the shows he was associated with – included wonderful performers, such as Kitty Bluett, Bill Bain, Joe Hudson (also a producer on Delo & Daly), Lewis Tegart, Addie Black, and Vikki Hammond, as well as The Joe Latona Dancers (Julie Dawtry, Chris George, Steve Buge), the song-and-dance quintet The Take Five (Annette Fisher, Pauline Whalley, David Ellis, Barrie Stewart, and Wally Ruffe), Jimmy Allan and the HSV-7 Orchestra, and many others. Behind the scenes were director Norm Spencer, writers Jonathan, Ken, and Hugh Stuckey, producer-choreographer Joe Latona, and art director George Havrillay – all masters committed to their craft. The Delo & Daly Show won the Logie Award for Best National Variety Show in 1964. When I mentioned to Jonathan that I had watched the 2015 Logie Awards on Channel 9 a couple of weeks before our chat, he told me that he thinks he still has the statue, and that “We were very honoured” to have received it.

Writing and fronting The Delo & Daly Show was a demanding task, and one which Jonathan devoted himself to fully. Eventually, Ken and Jonathan started a weekday afternoon show, called simply enough, Ken and Jonathan, which ran April 27 to July 24, 1964. Julie McKenna was their hostess.

All good things must come to an end, and on August 26, 1964 the final The Delo & Daly Show aired. Ken and Jonathan returned to the U.S. soon after. Of course, that was not the end of the story. Ken would go on to a long stint in the U.S. The Lawrence Welk Show. Jonathan would return to Australia many times, including in No Sex Please, We’re British. He then began other iterations of his career: his U.S. television and movie career, and playwriting. Jonathan has been married to Kacey for over 30 years, and he has three children: producer Jules Daly, actor Rad Daly, and Kathryn.

I spoke to Jonathan about his time in Australia. His time here was a highlight in many people’s professional lives. When Norm Spencer left HSV-7 in 1968, “he said the happiest and most satisfying period spent at HSV-7” was producing Daly at Night and The Delo and Daly Show (The Age, TV and Radio Guide, January 2, 1969). For Jonathan, it was a time that he remembers fondly, and it was a joy to listen to him light up when speaking of old friends and a country still close to his heart. I have a feeling that if he were to come back, this time we wouldn’t let him go.

Adam: What led to your coming to Australia in March, 1960?
Jonathan: Our agent booked us there for four weeks for In Melbourne Tonight. It was funny because we didn’t really have enough material for that four weeks so we were kind of faking it. And then they held us over and they kept holding us over. I don’t know if you remember the act, but it was a lot of adlibbing anyway. That served us well because if we had had to have formal material we wouldn’t have been able to keep going on.

Adam: I found a TV Week article (Adelaide edition, December 14-20, 1960) where you described the schedule during your first six months in Australia. You said, “With an average of 16 performances a week, 10 in night clubs and six on television, we were always working … We arrived in Melbourne with enough good material for eight performances a week and ended up doing twice that number”.
Jonathan: [Laughs] That’s right.

Adam: If I may backtrack a little bit, how did you meet Ken Delo?
Jonathan: That’s a simple story. I was in charge of the Fifth Army Entertainment Division and it went from Chicago to Denver, Colorado. The idea was I had to produce shows because they were recruiting shows and we would travel, but I had to do a show at my home base every Saturday night if I wasn’t on the road. The problem was it was an Officers’ Club and it was the same audience every night, and so I didn’t have any material. I found a singer, Ken Delo, and I said, “Listen, you’re going to have to not only sing, but you’re going to have to do kind of a Martin and Lewis thing because you’re going to see the same audience every night”, and so our adlibbing started out of necessity there.
Adam: That would’ve been in the late ‘50s?
Jonathan: Yeah, probably 1958, yeah.
Adam: Was that around the time when you also went on a USO tour to Alaska?
Jonathan: You’ve done your work. We did a Bob Hope tour up there and froze.  Everything we were doing was forming more of a relationship than an act and that’s what I think was actually the secret of our success – that the audience accepted the relationship.

Adam: In my research I came across pieces and listings in The Age newspaper announcing that Ken and your first television appearance in Australia would be on April 2, 1960 on The BP Super Show hosted by Horrie Dargie. The star attraction was Carolyn Maye of The Music Man, and also appearing with you were Fred Barber, a mimic and comedian; Jimmy Wheeler, a comedian; vocalists Baby Jane and Dorothy Baker; a French acrobatic dance team, Les Vincent-Cardinal; The Dargie Quintet; and, of course, the Channel 9 Orchestra and Ballet.
Jonathan: You mean it was before In Melbourne Tonight?
Adam: Yeah, supposedly that was the first one and then soon after you did IMT for the first time.
Jonathan: Isn’t that funny, I don’t remember that at all.

Adam: In one short piece announcing The BP Super Show and IMT appearances, the two of you were described this way: “They are said to specialise in a brand of comedy which has won them a certain amount of popularity among teenage audiences in U.S.A.” (The Age, March 24, 1960). Was that the case? Had you performed for teenage audiences?
Jonathan: No, they’re not even close. You know something, honestly we had not performed that much before we had come to Australia. The whole idea of Australia was simply to get us some more experience. We did that Alaskan USO tour but we hadn’t played that many places – it was very fresh.
Adam: And the TV landscape here at the time would’ve allowed you to try out some of that, almost test the material?
Jonathan: Yes.

Adam: As you said earlier when describing IMT, were those shows predominantly adlibbed?
Jonathan: Yeah, we would come up with a premise and Ken was wonderful at going wherever I went; he was a masterful straight man.

Adam: Watching you and Ken, it really is the relationship that comes through. I don’t think you can fake that sort of thing.
Jonathan: No, and it even worked in, there’s an interesting titbit. We were supposed to play Jimmy Noall’s nightclub in Toorak, which was called The Embers. That was part of the deal that we would do IMT and the nightclub. But when we went to see the club I said to the owner, who I didn’t know was a gangster, “I’m sorry but this place doesn’t work the way it’s set up for comedy; it’s not a good place for comedy, it’s a jazz place”. The Oscar Peterson Trio was playing there at that time, and the shape was perfect for jazz. The owner told me, “Oh no, we’ve had comedians play here”, and I said, “Well they must’ve died”. He agreed that they didn’t go very well, and I told him, “Well that’s because it’s not built for that”.

When I spoke to Norm Spencer at GTV-9, he told me, “Well there’s a club I can show you at the Savoy Plaza, but they don’t have a floor show”. I said “Well, let me look at it”. We went there and I thought that it was a perfect nightclub for a comedy team because of the way it was constructed. So we opened there. They’d never had anybody entertain on the floor and we became very successful very quickly and you couldn’t get a table. It just worked out absolutely beautifully.

Advance notice card for Ken and Jonathan at the Rainbow Room in the Savoy Plaza. Guests are advised to "Book early with your host Albert Argenti" (Adam Gerace private collection).
Advance notice card for Ken and Jonathan at the Rainbow Room in the Savoy Plaza. Guests are advised to “Book early with your host Albert Argenti” (Adam Gerace private collection).

Adam: How big was the nightclub scene in Melbourne at the time?
Jonathan: I guess it was big although from what I heard then, it was never as big as what happened with us – we kind of exploded. It was that wonderful mixture of they would see us on television and then able to come and see us live. I think we were as big as you could get then but I can’t remember the others. There was a place called Mario’s and there were some Italian singers from America who would go in there, and I think they did very well.

Adam: Did you ever perform at Chequers in Sydney?
Jonathan: Oh my God, yes. We were the talk of the town in Sydney. They had a very funny owner named Denis Wong. How old are you?
Adam: Thirty-three.
Jonathan: How come you know all this stuff?
Adam: I just love the time and so I enjoy doing the research into these places that I never experienced.
Jonathan: Well, you would’ve loved Chequers because Chequers was a real nightclub and it had some huge names, big names.

Adam: I think you also went up to the Gold Coast in Queensland and did Lennons Broadbeach Hotel.
Jonathan: We opened that, literally opened it. A man named Oliver Shaul who was the head of the hotel chain that also included the Savoy Plaza came to us and said, “We’re opening a hotel. We don’t know if there’ll be an audience because it’s brand new. I’ll give you anything you want so would you come up and open for us?”

Adam: Returning to talking about IMT, Hugh Stuckey described working with Graham Kennedy in this way: “Graham doesn’t need a writer in the same sense as others. He doesn’t need completed script, only ideas fed to him … His big problem is that he won’t let you mentally near him” (The Age, October 11, 1962). In your experience, was that an accurate assessment of Graham?
Jonathan: Actually, I had a very strange, wonderful experience with him. I understood – and Huey and I have talked about this – Graham was distant, but one day we were in the hall and he asked, “How’s it going and have you found a flat?” We were talking and I said, “Listen, you should come over for dinner some night”. Everybody said, “He won’t be coming to your house, forget that, that isn’t going to happen”. Well he did; he came and it was a very unusual experience – I guess because people told me he never did that. Graham and I got along very well, and I think we had a personal mutual respect for how hard it is to do comedy.
Adam: The other thing was he had a lot of pressure on his shoulders, television was relatively new over here and just exploding – I guess in the same way that you and Ken did as well.
Jonathan: Yes, and instead of him being jealous of our success on his show he was enormously supportive.

Ken and Jonathan with Graham Kenndy in Brisbane (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, September 7-13, 1960).
Ken and Jonathan with Graham Kenndy in Brisbane (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, September 7-13, 1960).

Adam: When you first came over to Australia were you living with Ken?
Jonathan: Ken and I had a flat. It was near Jimmy Noall’s nightclub so I guess that would’ve been in Toorak.

Adam: It seems that the audience took you both in fairly quickly. Did it feel like that, like everything was kind of, you came over here and it was like bang, bang, bang we’re on our way?
Jonathan: Yeah, and you know something, for years, in fact to this day, I am stopped on the street. I live in Waikiki and Australians – the tourists are over here a lot – will stop me and say, “How are you?” To this day I discuss with them how amazing it was and I still don’t know why they took us into their homes and hearts so quickly. It was so fast, it was within two or three appearances, so there was something in us that they accepted quickly.

Adam: Was there any sort of animosity or jealousy from Australian performers when you guys came over to work here or was that not an issue?
Jonathan: One of the nicest things that ever happened to me was on the very first night we were in GTV-9. Joff Ellen came up to me and he said, “If you ever need anything, from one comedian to another, I will be there for you, you come and bother me, ask me anything, I will be as helpful as I can be”. Joff Ellen was one of the nicest people I ever met. I thought they would resent us but it turned out to be, you know something, there must’ve been some quality in Ken and me that put the Aussies at ease, they didn’t feel threatened or they didn’t feel we were imposing or trying to be a big shot, never had anything but love.

Adam: That’s wonderful. Towards the end of your first stay in Australia, two specials were filmed. The first screened was produced by Rod Kinnear, and was said to have captured “two-thirds of the available audience in Melbourne” (The Age, October 6, 1960), so that one did incredibly well.
Jonathan: Yes, that was a big hit. I remember that I was in a last-minute rehearsal for one of our specials when I was summoned to the office of the boss to meet someone. I was unhappy at being interrupted but thrilled when I found out who had come to GTV-9 specifically to meet me. It seems Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies was a huge President Kennedy fan. He thought I looked like Kennedy so he came to meet me as a fan. It knocked my socks off!

Delo and Daly on the cover of TV Week (September 7-13, 1960) near the end of their 1960 stay in Australia.
Delo and Daly on the cover of TV Week (September 7-13, 1960) near the end of their 1960 stay in Australia.

Adam: That’s a great story! Then there was A Party with Delo and Daly, with Norm Spencer producing. The plot of that one was Ken having a party and Elaine McKenna suggests that he hire you as the butler and drink-waiter.
Jonathan: That’s it.

Ken and Jonathan with Elaine McKenna (Photo: TV Week, South Australia edition, December 21, 1963).
Ken and Jonathan with Elaine McKenna (Photo: TV Week, South Australia edition, December 21, 1963).

Adam: I read that in the special was your flea act, where you had a flea called Leroy. I don’t know if you remember that?
Jonathan: [Laughs] Yes, I do. That was the dumbest single act in the history of nightclubs. It was just so stupid that the audience went along with it.
Adam: That was from your nightclub act and you brought it on to the TV show?
Jonathan: I started that at the Officers’ Club in the Army. In the act, I had a flea who did acrobatics. Of course, nobody could see anything, and eventually the flea in doing the triple disappeared and we lost my precious flea. The whole idea of it was that later in the act as we were walking around entertaining the people who were sitting by the floor I would go, “Hold it”, and I would go over to somebody as though I had just found my flea. But the punchline was that after putting my fingers in this poor man’s hair I would say, “Oh sorry, that’s the wrong flea – that’s not Leroy”, and so we would insult whoever the celebrity was who was ringside. We’d use that in our nightclub act and then I think we used it on A Party with Delo and Daly.
Adam: I think it sounds quite funny.
Jonathan: Well it was funny because the audience was in on it. I mean they knew we were being total twits so they loved the fact that we were being so stupid.

Adam: You worked with Elaine McKenna many times. What do you remember of Elaine?
Jonathan: Elaine and I were very close. We connected well for the audience. They kind of felt we were dating. It was a working relationship, but we loved each other. I went back several times, as you probably know, to Australia over later years and was very saddened to hear that she had passed away. I am still in touch with her sister, Julie McKenna.
Adam: Who you also worked with a few times as well.
Jonathan: Yeah.

Elaine and Jonathan (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, October 5-11, 1960).
Elaine and Jonathan (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, October 5-11, 1960).

Adam: When you and Ken left GTV-9 in 1960, Rod Kinnear wrote in the notes for The Best of Delo and Daly record, “I have tremendous respect and admiration not only for their extraordinary talents, but also for their personality and character as people. They have become very great friends of everyone at GTV-9”. You came back solo soon after to Australia and GTV-9. What led to that?
Jonathan: We were leaving after having been there for quite a while and Colin Bednall, the head of the network, came up to me and said, “Would you consider producing and writing shows?” I said, “Sure, absolutely,” and so we created another show called The Volkswagen Show which alternated with The BP Super Show.

Adam: That makes sense because I couldn’t find as much on The Volkswagen Show. I could find information on The BP Super Show, but not so much on that one.
Jonathan: I think we did them every two weeks.
Adam: Was that similar to The BP Super Show?
Jonathan: It was the same show, but sponsored by Volkswagen.
Adam: So it was essentially the same format just a different name?
Jonathan: Oh yeah, I did exactly the same show.

While in Australia, Art Linkletter compered the 18-hour National Heart Foundation telethon on GTV-9 on May 28, 1961. Jonathan and Art worked together on the telethon. He subsequently appeared on The BP Super Show on June 3, and The VW Show on June 17 (Photo: The Age, TV and Radio Guide supplement, June 15, 1961).
While in Australia, Art Linkletter compered the 18-hour National Heart Foundation telethon on GTV-9 on May 28, 1961. Jonathan and Art worked together on the telethon. He subsequently appeared on The BP Super Show on June 3, and The VW Show on June 17 (Photo: The Age, TV and Radio Guide supplement, June 15, 1961).

Adam: Do you have any memories of favourite guests or episodes of The BP Super Show or The Volkswagen Show?
Jonathan: Well, I can tell you a story. I used to use a lot of opera singers and ballet dancers – it was very classical. I had a booker who was from Europe and I would use his talent. At the end of my contract I came in to the head of the network and I said, “I need a little extra money”. I was walking down Collins Street and this little European booker came running up to me and he said, “Jonathan, Jonathan, I’ve got for you Andrés Segovia”. Well Andrés Segovia was the greatest guitar player in the history of humankind, he was brilliant. I said, “Are you kidding me?”, and he said, “No, because you’ve been so nice to me you can have him on your show”. So I needed a little extra money and I went to the network. They said to me, “No more Spanish dancers”. And guess what, I quit. That was the end of The BP Super Show and The Volkswagen Show. It’s also one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. I didn’t even bother to tell them that Andrés Segovia was not a Spanish dancer. I mean, it’s not their fault; Segovia was not popular in Australia so it was understandable that they hadn’t heard him.

Adam: Is this when you directed and starred in Come Blow Your Horn?
Jonathan: Yes, again I was leaving and Garnett Carroll, the owner of the Princess Theatre, sent his son, John, to the airport. He told me, “There’s a play on Broadway by a new writer named Neil Simon and we have permission to do it. Would you direct it?” I couldn’t find anybody to be in the lead, so I did it.
Adam: That’s impressive to hear, the up-and-coming writer Neil Simon.

Adam: After 12 months producing for GTV-9, as well as the play, you left, but then you came back for Daly at Night on HSV-7. You hosted, and had a panel with Vikki Hammond, Arthur Young, and Horrie Dargie.
Jonathan: Horrie was my right-hand man, he sat next to me.

Adam: I’ve never seen Daly at Night, but I read it described as a “controversial discussion show” (The Australian Women’s Weekly, 13 November, 1963). Why do you think that was?
Jonathan: [Laughs] Well, it was very simple; it was controversial because the audience was used to seeing me making faces and getting a pie in the face, and being a clown. In Melbourne Tonight was a variety show, it wasn’t a talk show. Daly at Night was the first talk show, and so the audience wasn’t sure what the heck was going on because there was a comedian sitting behind the desk, as Graham did; but it was some serious, some funny, and there weren’t any acts, it was just talking. At first they didn’t get it, but by the end of the year – and I could only stay for a year – they were loving it.

Adam: I guess that would’ve been even before The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or anything like that, so that sort of thing wasn’t really being done anywhere.
Jonathan: No, Carson was already playing. Steven Allen started The Tonight Show, and then Jack Parr, and then it went on.
Adam: Oh, of course.
Jonathan: That’s what I was doing, I was doing The Tonight Show. No-one had ever done that in Australia.

Adam: I researched some of the guests. Did you have Henry Fonda on Daly and Night?
Jonathan: Yeah, I sure did. It was funny because I had done a show in America called The George Gobel Show, and he and I did The George Gobel Show together. That was in 1954 or 1955, something like that. And then he came over and did Daly at Night with me. Years later I played Jimmy Stewart’s son on The Jimmy Stewart Show, and Hank Fonda was Jimmy Stewart’s best friend. So Hank came in on the set one day and he said, “You and I have to stop meeting like this”. When he was on Daly at Night he was absolutely fantastic and we spent the next few days together. He was a wonderful man. So eventually to work with his best friend, it all tied in very nicely.

Adam: I’d love to find that Daly at Night episode. I don’t know if they’re around but that would be something to see.
Jonathan: Do you remember a man named Frank Thring?
Adam: Absolutely, yes.
Jonathan: Well, Frank was as openly gay as you could be in those days, and he would come on the show and he was hysterical. All of our humour – see that’s what the audience, they were a little thrown by it because we didn’t have acts, but we had funny conversations. If you could find Daly at Night, oh my gosh that would be great. I’m sure they burned it because they didn’t know what the heck we were doing.
Adam: Frank seemed to be definitely one of a kind.
Jonathan: He was fantastic, great guy.

Adam: When you were producing and then when you were on Daly at Night was there pressure or people wanting Delo and Daly to reunite? You did do a one-off special screened in May, 1961, In the Soup, and I know Ken came back to Australia for a solo stint on IMT in 1962.
Jonathan: Well, we stayed in touch and we kept talking about doing it, and then when Daly at Night finished, then there was pressure, “Can you get a hold of Ken? We don’t want to lose you”. I was very lucky because every time I’d start to leave they’d say “What else do you want to do?”, so that was pressure to get Ken to do The Delo & Daly Show.

Adam: It seemed every time you were about to get on an Ansett plane they kept sending you back.
Jonathan: That’s right! In fact Reg Ansett called me and he said, “Where are you going?” I told him, “I’m leaving” and he said, “No, no, no, no”. As you know I came back later and did No Sex Please, We’re British, and Ken and I also did Bert Newton’s show together, and so any excuse to come back. I love Australia.

Adam: Did you work with Bert Newton on IMT or was it later that you worked with him?
Jonathan: We only worked with Bert in his role that he had with Graham, but then when he had his show they brought us back to do that.
Adam: I did find a picture from 1984 of Bert with you and Ken for Tonight with Bert Newton.
Jonathan: Oh yeah, that would be it. It was that wonderful director Peter Faiman; he directed Bert’s show and he contacted us.
Adam: I saw Bert Newton last year on stage in Grease, and before that he was in Wicked playing the Wizard of Oz.
Jonathan: He has had quite a theatrical career, hasn’t he?
Adam: Yes. He had a morning show here in the ‘90s and 2000s
Jonathan: Right.
Adam: And then once that wrapped he’s been doing a lot of theatre.
Jonathan: I’m glad to hear he’s still working.

Adam: Did Daly at Night finish because you needed to go back to the U.S.?
Adam: Yes, and again the same thing happened. I think they started to figure out that it was a money ploy because I’d say, “No, I’ve got to go home” and that’s when they suggested, “How about if you get Ken and we team up the old team again?” I said, “I don’t know. If you want to do this it’s going to cost you a lot of money. We’ve got to hire a writer, we’ve got to get a bigger orchestra, we’ve got to have sets, and we’ve got to have guest stars”. Norm Spencer, he muscled the big shots at Channel 7 and they pulled it off.

With Norm Spencer (Photo: TV Week, Victoria edition, May 15, 1963).
With Norm Spencer (Photo: TV Week, Victoria edition, May 15, 1963).

Adam: The Delo & Daly Show took a while to get moving. From reading some of the articles of the time, it seems that there was a lot of negotiation going on before you actually shot the first couple of shows.
Jonathan: Sure, absolutely, they were terrified. Have you seen the show?
Adam: Yes I have.
Jonathan: OK, I’ll give you an example of that. I wanted a big black and white checkered floor and no permanent sets. I wanted to do it in a very sparse way, but then once in a while use realistic sets. One of the negotiations was about the floor. You won’t believe this, but that black and white floor cost a fortune. We would constantly negotiate.

Adam: It was a fantastic floor. Is it true that up the front of the floor were really big pieces but as you went further and further back they were little ones, and it was to give the perspective of depth?
Jonathan: Yes, it was a perspective.

Adam: It was a very modern set for the time. It was fantastic.
Jonathan: People raved about the look of it. I knew what I wanted, but I knew it was going to cost them a fortune. I remember spending hours with Keith Cairns, who was the head of the network, saying, “Come on, come on, give me a little more money”.
Adam: [Laughs].
Jonathan: [Laughs] But then it was a hit.

Adam: Did you ultimately feel that you got the time and money needed to make the show you wanted to make?
Jonathan: Oh absolutely, absolutely. They were just amazing to us and that’s how I got Hugh Stuckey to come aboard, and Hugh is as good as you get.

Adam: Did you already know Hugh at that point?
Jonathan: Yes, Hughie was writing for Graham when we were on IMT and so I knew him. I called him in to our offices at D.Y.T. and said, “Listen Hugh, we’re going to do this big variety show and I’m going to need all the help I can get”. Hughie and I just had a fantastic relationship. I could say something and he would go from there. He was a wonderful, wonderful writer. We’ve stayed very close, incidentally.
Adam: That’s wonderful to hear that you still speak to him. He wrote for A Country Practice, which is one of my favourite programs.
Jonathan: Have you ever interviewed Hugh Stuckey?
Adam: No I haven’t, he would be a fascinating person to interview.
Jonathan: Oh my God, he covers the whole gamut of Australian television between IMT and Neighbours, A Country Practice. You should talk to him; he’s a gem. Hugh’s a good friend, he even came to Hawaii once and we had a wonderful time together.

Adam: The show was filmed in Fitzroy at the old Regent Theatre, which became the HSV-7 studio.
Jonathan: The Teletheatre, yeah.
Adam: Was that a good place to film?
Jonathan: Oh yes. When I first saw it they told me, “This is where we’d like to shoot it”. I thought, Oh my God, this is a dump. But they assured me, “No, no, we’re going to come in here and redo the whole thing”. They really did a great job.

Ken and Jonathan on the cover of TV Times (February 19, 1964).
Ken and Jonathan on the cover of TV Times (February 19, 1964).

Adam: I watched a few episodes at the State Library of South Australia. The guest star on the first program was Maggie Fitzgibbon, who was appearing in the musical Sail Away. Ken tells you to stop clowning around and introduce her, and so you start your introduction with “Maggie Fitzgibbon first joined the Communist Party back in 1946”. You then get cut off by Ken who says that she has nothing to do with the Communist Party.
Jonathan: [Laughs]
Adam: The comedy holds up just incredibly well; it’s a ball to watch those shows. There’s a skit in that show where Ken is interviewing Superman, who is played by you. I don’t know if you remember that one?
Jonathan: No, no.
Adam: You’re telling Ken that you have to claim your suits on income tax because every time there’s an emergency you’ve got to leave the suit in the phone booth, and so you’re losing all these suits.
Jonathan: [Laughs]
Adam: There was a skit in another episode where you were a prison warden and Ken’s interviewing you. During the conversation the lights kind of dim and you say, “Oh my gosh, Ralph,” and you realise that you forgot to stop the execution.
Jonathan: [Laughs] I don’t remember these things but you have to understand that we did a lot of those shows and we would adlib a lot in the sketches, and then once we would finish that show we didn’t remember anything.

Adam: What was the weekly routine that you had while you were doing The Delo & Daly Show?
Jonathan: I don’t remember the night we taped, but let’s say we taped on a Friday night.
Adam: I think it might have been.
Jonathan: We would have the weekend off and then we would meet at my flat with Joe Latona, who was the choreographer and producer, and Hugh, and we would come up with what we were going to do and then we’d give that to whoever the music people were. If we taped on Friday night we probably rehearsed on Thursday and then did the show on Friday.

Adam: Was the show essentially what you did most of your time, or were you involved with other things?
Jonathan: I was writing 24/7. I remember going to mass, and on the way up to Communion I thought of something. I turned around and left the church! So it was a constant; a lot of work. It was a huge show to do every week.

Adam: Did you write with Ken? In a TV Week (Adelaide edition, September 7-13, 1960) you described a scene of one of you at the typewriter and the other pacing up and down. Was that the case for The Delo & Daly Show, or did you write more by yourself?
Jonathan: I did most of the writing and Ken did all the music. I had a tin ear, I didn’t know what I was doing musically but he made me sing and he protected me because he knew my limitations. So he did all the music and I did most of the writing; what writing there was, it was more structured stuff that I’d come up with and then we’d go from there. Hugh wrote a lot of the stuff we did.

Adam: Can we talk a little bit about people you worked with on The Delo and Daly Show? You worked with Vikki Hammond on Daly at Night and then she came over to The Delo and Daly Show as well.
Jonathan: She was wonderful.
Adam: I know she went into acting but I haven’t seen anything of her in a while.
Jonathan: Somebody told me that she kind of pulled out of the business, I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I did see her. When we went back in 1984 to do Bert Newton, Van Johnson was there and I knew him and we had lunch with Vikki, so that was in 1984 and I got the feeling then that she was not in the business any more but she came to lunch.

Three's a crowd? Ken, Vikki Hammond, and Jonathan on The Delo & Daly Show (Photo: Australian TV: The First 25 Years).
Three’s a crowd? Ken, Vikki Hammond, and Jonathan on The Delo & Daly Show (Photo: Australian TV: The First 25 Years).

Adam: Another person who you worked with quite a bit, and who was on Delo & Daly was Kitty Bluett.
Jonathan: Yes, Kitty was on The Delo & Daly Show.
Adam: Did you enjoy working with her?
Jonathan: Gosh yes, she was one of the funniest people and she had a wonderful husband. Kitty was just funny. You know there’s some people who are comedians but they’re not necessarily funny, she was just naturally funny.

Adam: You worked with her husband, Julian Jover, as well.
Jonathan: Yes.

Bill Bain, Kitty Bluett, and Joe Hudson (Photo: The Australian Women's Weekly, November 13, 1963).
Bill Bain, Kitty Bluett, and Joe Hudson (Photo: The Australian Women’s Weekly, November 13, 1963).

Adam: Then there was Bill Bain.
Jonathan: Oh God, yes. [Laughs] See we had really funny people.
Adam: He was quite a character as well, wasn’t he?
Jonathan: Yeah, I’ve always felt that you’re only as funny as the people around you and it’s better to have them get laughs because it helps you, so we found Kitty Bluett, Bill Bain, there was a little old lady, I cannot remember her name and we would put her every once in a while, she was hysterical. We liked character actors.

Adam: There was Joe Hudson, who was in The Horrie Dargie Quintet.
Jonathan: Oh gosh yes, we used him a lot.
Adam: And Addie Black.
Jonathan: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. This is fun to hear.

Addie Black (with Jackie Brown in the special In the Soup) was a regular on The Delo & Daly Show (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, May 17-23, 1961).
Addie Black (with Jackie Brown in the special In the Soup) was a regular on The Delo & Daly Show (Photo: TV Week, Adelaide edition, May 17-23, 1961).

Adam: Sounds like it’s good memories.
Jonathan: Wonderful memories because they were wonderful people.

Adam: And I think there was Lewis Tegart as well?
Adam: Oh my God, you are amazing! Yeah, absolutely.

Adam: Like you said before, there was Norm Spencer who was the director, and then The Joe Latona Dancers.
Jonathan: And The Take Five.

Adam: When you were on Australian TV, you worked with a lot of the same people over multiple programmes. Was that deliberate or was it just a random thing where everyone was working?
Jonathan: This is a very strange thing to say but there weren’t that many jobs for that many good actors, so if you got on a roll, which I was lucky enough to do, then you kept running into the same good actors. All the directors knew each other, all the casting directors knew each other and I was very pleased to keep running into good friends. It’s actually a pretty small community because there really aren’t that many shows you know.

Adam: The person I forgot to mention was Jimmy Allan who was the conductor of the HSV-7 Orchestra, which was on Delo & Daly.
Jonathan: Yes. You probably don’t know this but Jimmy Allan was a very funny person, he was a comedian.
Adam: No I didn’t know that.
Jonathan: Oh God, he was so funny.

Adam: Jimmy was married to Panda, wasn’t he?
Jonathan: Yes and she was a delight.
Adam: Did you work with Panda on IMT?
Jonathan: Yes.
Adam: I think she’s come back to live here. Jimmy and Panda lived in the U.S. for many years.
Jonathan: They lived in Vegas.
Adam: Did you see them over in Vegas?
Jonathan: No I didn’t, but are you in Melbourne?
Adam: I’m in Adelaide.
Jonathan: If you ever can find Panda please pass on my love to her.

Adam: Did you have any favourite guests on The Delo & Daly Show?
Jonathan: Yes. Dickie Valentine, he and I did a sketch, if you can find it it’s very funny. Dickie was a big star in England and I asked him, “Are you willing to do an almost totally adlibbed sketch? I know you’re a star, you’re a big shot – are you willing to risk it?” He said, “Let’s do it” and it turned out to be very funny. He was a wonderful guy. You know we had so many – Oscar Peterson was fantastic. Oh I’ll tell you who one of my favourites was, Jack Benny.

Adam: Was Jack Benny on the show or was he on something else that you did?
Jonathan: He wasn’t on Delo & Daly?
Adam: I’m not sure. I didn’t see his name in episode listings at the National Film and Sound Archive, but I did see his name on something else you and Ken did. You did the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal so I don’t know if that was a telethon with Jack Benny?
Jonathan: Maybe that was it.
Adam: He could’ve been Delo & Daly, but I didn’t see any reference to it.
Jonathan: I bet we did the telethon with him and stole five minutes with him to put it on The Delo & Daly Show. I bet that’s what it was.

Adam: That might be it. What was he like to work with?
Jonathan: It was funny because I knew this before I met him; he was the most famous comedian in show business in America for being the best audience, he laughs at everything a comedian does, he’s very supportive, wonderful, wonderful man.
Adam: That sounds like a tremendous experience.
Jonathan: Oh yeah, loved him.

Adam: Was there anyone that you were really sort of star-struck by, or was it just business as usual because you did this every week and didn’t have time to be star-struck?
Jonathan: I’ll tell you, when I left Australia I moved into movies and television, so I’ve worked with almost every big name. I worked for two years with Don Rickles on C.P.O. Sharkey, and that’s when you have to stay sharp every minute of every day. I would’ve thought he was going to be intimidating but he was not. So of all the stars I’ve ever worked with, I’ve never had a bad experience.
Adam: He wasn’t intimidating?
Jonathan: Oh no, he was a pussycat. He was a very gentle, loving, almost timid soul; you’d never believe it’s the same person. I thought I was going to be intimidated by Jimmy Stewart but it turned out that he became like a father to me. I’ve never had anybody that spooked me.

Adam: When you were on Delo & Daly were there any mishaps?
Jonathan: Yes every night, every night.
Adam: [Laughs]
Jonathan: We were so lucky that we were capable of adlibbing because we had a lot of things go wrong: doors that wouldn’t open, props that didn’t work. We taped the show but in essence it was live because we didn’t stop. The audience was there so we just ploughed ahead.

Adam: While you were doing The Delo & Daly Show, you and Ken did an afternoon show for a little while. Was that a split show, where you did half of it and Ken did the other half of it?
Jonathan: That’s so funny because Julie McKenna asked me that and she said, “You know, I was on that show with you”, and I said “You were?” It’s so embarrassing but I can’t, I bet you’re right, I bet Ken did “Name That Tune” and I did “Who Do You Trust?”
Adam: I think that’s exactly what it was. Definitely don’t feel bad about memories, I’m asking you to recall things that, I mean, you did a lot back then.
Jonathan: Well, I’m amazed at how much I have remembered so far, yeah.
Adam: I think that I have a clipping with a picture from The Delo & Daly Show, and underneath it mentions that you both announced Julie as a co-host or the hostess of the afternoon show. I will send that to you.
Jonathan: Oh wonderful, send that to me please.

With Julie McKenna (Photo: The Age, TV and Radio Guide Supplement, April 23, 1964).
With Julie McKenna (Photo: The Age, TV and Radio Guide Supplement, April 23, 1964).

Adam: When did the playwriting come in?
Jonathan: Well, the reason I stopped Delo & Daly was because I didn’t want to perform. I wanted to be behind the camera but the problem was when I got back to L.A., I became successful in television and movies. I didn’t like acting, and so what happened was as I was doing and becoming known in television and movies, I started to tinker with writing plays. Eventually I had my own theatre in Hollywood, and I would write plays and direct them. I made a lot of money because the plays started to go out on tour and I would put stars in them. That became my livelihood and, now, because my daughter is a producer of movies, I’m writing movies.

Adam: Wow that’s fantastic. When it came time to leave Australia was it a mutual decision? Did Ken want to go as well?
Jonathan: He wanted to go, but he wanted to keep the act going and I did not.
Adam: Was that a hard thing to tell him?
Jonathan: Yes. I didn’t realise how hard it was. I thought he was okay with it but I don’t think he was too happy with me. I just didn’t want to perform anymore and then I ended up doing all of that. We were very lucky as a comedy team.

Adam: And you’re still in contact with him now?
Jonathan: Oh yes, absolutely.
Adam: I guess after experiencing something like that with someone, the two of you experiencing what occurred during that time.
Jonathan: Yes, because it’s a gift and we were appreciative of it, and we’ve stayed in touch over the years. He was my best man.
Adam: That’s great. He was on The Lawrence Welk Show afterward.
Jonathan: Right.

Program cover for No Sex Please, We're British (Adam Gerace private collection).
Program cover for No Sex Please, We’re British (Adam Gerace private collection).

Adam: You came back to Australia a few years later for the play No Sex Please, We’re British.
Jonathan: When you asked about mishaps on Delo & Daly, I can’t think of a specific thing, but I can tell you when I did No Sex Please I broke my arm.
Adam: Was that a work-related injury?
Jonathan: Oh yeah, yeah, I broke it several times. It was a very physical show. They flew me to London to meet Michael Crawford who was in No Sex Please in London, and he said to me, “You’d better be in good shape, you’re going to get killed in this”. And I did, I got my arm broken twice. When my arm was broken the first time, the St Kilda football team was in the audience. After the show they wanted to meet me so they came back with the coach to the dressing room and asked, “What happened?” I told them, “When that door came down, I broke my elbow.” I was told to come the next morning to the Football Club and the trainers would be put at my disposal, and they’d have me back on the stage that night. So every single morning I would go to the St Kilda Football Club and the trainers would work on my arm and they got me through the play.

This can't end well. Jonathan in a scene with Allan Kingsford Smith (Photo: No Sex Please, We're British program).
This can’t end well. Jonathan in a scene with Allan Kingsford Smith (Photo: No Sex Please, We’re British program).

Adam: Was it Harry M. Miller that brought you back for No Sex Please?
Jonathan: It was Harry Miller. When I broke my arm the second time it was because the stage hands were on strike and they had substitute stage hands. They were supposed to put a mattress in place when I went diving through a window and the mattress wasn’t there. I broke my arm and I left the next day. I left Australia and Harry Miller was livid; he said he was going to kill me! But I didn’t have any more limbs I could break so I left. The author of No Sex Please, a man named Anthony Marriott who also directed the play, found out that I walked out on his play and cost him a lot of money. The funny part is a year later I was living in London and I ran into Anthony on Piccadilly. I thought he was going to hit me! Well, we became best friends and he and I wrote plays together.

Adam: I came across an article written when you were on C.P.O. Sharkey with Don Rickles. Your schedule for that show was from 10 in the morning to six at night, and then you would go to your theatre on Hollywood Boulevard and stay there until 11. You’d then get home after midnight and do some writing. The theatre group rehearsed plays for weeks and then performed them. Weekends were sort of family time and leisure, but you were still writing during that time. It seems like you’re someone who always had a very heavy load when it came to work.
Jonathan: I’ll tell you a funny story, my daughter has produced some really big movies, and she’s very successful and she works 24/7. About a year ago, I said “I’m worried about you, you are back and forth, you’re always on an aeroplane, you’re working 24/7; I’m very concerned about your work schedule”. She looked at me and she said, “Daddy, shut up”, and I shut up, and she said, “You must never say one word to me about a schedule because when you were raising me you were working. You had to be in makeup at 6.30 in the morning, and you didn’t leave the theatre until 11.30 at night. Don’t you ever say a word to me about working too hard”. I said, “Okay, that’s it, never another word”.

Adam: I guess looking back at that, is that a regret?
Jonathan: Well, it’s a regret in that it cost a marriage and it cost time with my kids, but to be honest with you I’ve come to terms with the fact that creative people are in fact slaves to their talent. It’s what you do, you know, it’s a way to make a living.

Adam: I think sometimes people have this idea about creative people that you just wait for the inspiration to happen, and that’s when you’ll write or that’s when you’ll act or sing.
Jonathan: [Laughs] There’s no waiting for it to happen, it just happens. The most frightening thing in the world, and I’m sure you know this, is an empty page. There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank piece of paper.
Adam: Absolutely, I understand that one. The thing is if the inspiration’s not coming you need to get working anyway until it comes; and maybe it will and maybe it won’t.
Jonathan: Yes.

Adam: Do you still write on yellow legal pads, or is it computer now?
Jonathan: No, I still do it and then my wife puts it on Final Draft, a computer program.

Adam: Was one of your biggest plays A Good Look at Boney Kern?
Jonathan: That probably lasted the longest. I think we got 15 years out of it. I’ve had other plays that came closer to Broadway, but they didn’t last as long.

Adam: Do you have a favourite?
Jonathan: Yes I do, my favourite is called Mind If I Join You. It starred Dan O’Herlihy, who was an Oscar-nominated actor, an Irish actor. Greer Garson produced, and she almost got it to Broadway. I think that’s my favourite. Although I got very close to Don Knotts when I was doing Boney Kern, and then Gary Burghoff did it after. When you say your favourite, the experience with Don Knotts was we became very, very close friends and so that all becomes part of it.
Adam: It’s not just the play itself, it’s what goes along with it.
Jonathan: Not just the play itself, exactly.

Adam: I was going to focus mostly on the Australian work and the plays, but Bewitched fans are probably going to kill me if I don’t at least mention it. Do you remember working on Bewitched?
Jonathan: Yes of course, I did several of them.

Adam: Was that a good one to be on?
Jonathan: Oh yeah, because we became good friends, Aggie Moorhead and I, do you know the show?
Adam: Yeah very well, very well.
Jonathan: Okay, well Elizabeth would sit between Aggie Moorhead and me and try to keep peace because Aggie and I would argue about religion. Finally Elizabeth said, “I give up, I can’t follow either of you”, but we had a wonderful time on that show. I spent a lot of time there. I did two or three of them but I also was shooting other things near their soundstage so I stayed in touch.

Adam: Was Elizabeth Montgomery a good person to work with?
Jonathan: Oh yeah, her father was a pro’s pro and so she was naturally very professional and very warm and had a great sense of humour.

Adam: I know people who like that show, and there’s a lot of them out there, will enjoy hearing that. And Agnes Moorhead, was she a fundamentalist, I can’t remember what denomination she was.
Jonathan: Oh no, she just – her whole thing was if you don’t believe in God but then you find out that he existed you’re in trouble, so she said “I’m just going to go with the fact that he exists”.

Jonathan and Elizabeth Montgomery in the Bewitched episode "Samantha's Shopping Spree".
Jonathan and Elizabeth Montgomery in the Bewitched episode “Samantha’s Shopping Spree”.
Jonathan, Agnes Moorehead, and Steve Franken in the Bewitched episode "Samantha's Shopping Spree".
Jonathan, Agnes Moorehead, and Steve Franken in the Bewitched episode “Samantha’s Shopping Spree”.

Adam: What about The Ghost & Mrs. Muir where you played a newlywed with Yvonne Craig and go to the haunted house? I think I saw that on TV again so they keep on.
Jonathan: Oh that was great, that was family.
Adam: With Hope Lange.
Jonathan: Yeah, she was a great girl. I had a lot of fun on that show because Charles Nelson Reilly was on and he was really funny. I got to know Eddie Mulhare who turned out be Dan O’Herlihy’s good friend, and Dan O’Herlihy ended up doing my play. I ended up going on Petticoat Junction as well. It’s wonderful the fact that they’re still going.

Adam: Returning back to Australian television. I guess for someone like me who wasn’t there, what was the TV climate in Australia like at the time? Looking at what was available, there was the international content and also a lot of the old movies, but it seemed to very much be a time of the variety show.
Jonathan: Somebody told me that the last big variety show was our variety show, is that possible?
Adam: After you guys left, IMT continued for a few years after that, but with the exception of probably Don Lane’s show, I can’t think of too many more.
Jonathan: I think Hughie, Hugh Stuckey, said to me fairly recently that the variety show as we did it was kind of the last one. It was a budget thing, a show costs a lot of money. You know who I’ve been in touch with is Olivia Newton-John. I’ll tell you a story, a friend of mine said, “I want you to come over to my house. I want you to hear a little girl sing in my living room,” and I said, “Oh dear God, no, don’t do that to me”. He said “No, no, I just want you to give her a little encouragement”. So I went over and she sat on a stool and she sang for me. I said, “You’re very good, you know what you should do? There are things called coffee houses here in Melbourne and you should go to these coffee houses and you should sing. You will get some experience so you’ll get some confidence singing in front of people; and if you do that, I’ll come to the coffee house”. “Oh, would you do that, would you do that?” “Absolutely”. She became one of the biggest stars in the history of Australia.
Adam: That’s fantastic, what a story.
Jonathan: I just had an email from her about six months ago. In fact she thanked me on some television show years ago and she said, “There was an American comedian over here and he told me that I should…” I knew her sister, Rona, very well.

Adam: Another person from your time here, who still performs every now and then, is Toni Lamond.
Jonathan: She came over to America and did pretty well.
Adam: I don’t know if Denise Drysdale had started when you were here, that might’ve been a bit later on?
Jonathan: No, I didn’t know her but I’ll tell you who I just talked to, Helen Reddy. She was at a hotel here in Hawaii and we had a little chat. I really miss and try to stay in touch. Obviously Helen is still around and Olivia is still around. Is Toni Lamond working again in Australia?
Adam: From what I know, she does the occasional cabaret show.
Jonathan: There’s nothing for them; there really isn’t a variety show now is there?
Adam: No, there isn’t and that’s the problem because I think a lot of them still would like to work.
Jonathan: Why is there no variety on television now?
Adam: It just seemed to change, and I think after probably the ‘80s where you had Don and Bert. The landscape changed, and even now the biggest thing is not even drama series anymore, it’s really reality TV.
Jonathan: Oh yes, isn’t that a crime? What do the young talented singers and comedians do, where do they go?
Adam: There’s not really a lot for them to do, I mean live music is still fairly good and I guess that’s the closest that you’d have to the old sort of nightclub acts, but in terms of TV there’s not a lot.
Jonathan: That’s so sad, wow.
Adam: It’s a shame that it hasn’t kept up. It is a shame because so many would probably want to keep doing it and I think we’re poorer for having this kind of experience.

Adam: What are you working on at the moment?
Jonathan: I’m currently writing screenplays for my daughter. So far only options, but we press on.

Adam: And finally, how do you look back on your time in Australia?
Jonathan: I look back on Oz as some of the happiest days of my life. I made lifelong friendships and loved going to work every day.

Jon today (Photo: Jonathan Daly private collection).
Jon today (Photo: Jonathan Daly private collection).

Jonathan’s IMDb page is here. With thanks to Rad Daly, Jonathan’s son, for putting Jonathan and me in touch; and the staff of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, State Library of South Australia, and State Library Victoria. Top photo from No Sex Please, We’re British program.

…And Then I Wrote

Kellie FlanaganMaybe it’s happenstance, but there’s something just a little delightful about where Kellie Flanagan lives and the career that she has chosen. In her most well-known role, Kellie played the young daughter of the eponymous Carolyn Muir in the television series, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. Mrs. Muir (Hope Lange) moves with her two children, Candace “Candy” (Kellie) and Jonathan (Harlen Carraher), housekeeper Martha (Reta Shaw), and the family dog (Scruffy who played…well, Scruffy) to the seaside Gull Cottage. Her real estate agent (Charles Nelson Reilly) warns her against it, thinking of any excuse including its isolation (it is, of course, haunted). Mrs. Muir is, however, not fazed telling him, “That’s perfect, I’m a writer”. Today, Kellie is herself a writer and while not living in a seaside shack, she does live in the Sierra Nevada foothills with her husband and teenage daughter. No word on whether she’s encountered a ghost of the likes of Captain Gregg (Edward Mulhare), but she did encounter a “bobcat and her twin cubs emerged from their den to play tag” in her neighbourhood park. That neighbourhood park is Yosemite National Park.

Kellie once posted on her blog Willa Cather’s words: “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen”. In talking with Kellie, you find that she has many more stories to tell after 15; although by then she had started journaling her experiences. It was also by 15 that Kellie had lost both of her parents, and she had left show business a few years before. Kellie was “discovered” at three in Santa Monica and put into television commercials before a role in a classic episode of Star Trek called “Miri”. The episode dealt with a place where adults had been decimated by a disease they had started in a scientific attempt to prolong life; and one which the children would contract once they entered adolescence. Did I mention it causes you to go mad? It may be that entertainers are told to never work with children or animals, but you could understand if Kellie subscribed at that time to “Don’t trust anybody over 30”.

School Daze. Kellie, with Michael J. Pollard and John Megna, in Star Trek.
School Daze. Kellie, with Michael J. Pollard and John Megna, in Star Trek.
Miri (Kim Darby) plots with the children, as Kellie looks on.
Miri (Kim Darby) plots with the children, as Kellie looks on.

That being said, in one of her next roles, as Hal Holbrook’s daughter, Mary, in Wild in the Streets, Kellie faces off with a rock star named Max Frost (played by Christopher Jones) who sets out to make 30 the mandatory retirement age, and put anyone over 35 in rehabilitation camps, with his plan, “in groovy surroundings we’re gonna psych ‘em all out on LSD, babies”. Young Mary (Kellie was eight at the time, although she is likely playing younger) thinks that she may know a thing or two more than this 24-year old. Well, Max and his counterculture band (literally and figuratively) do have trouble focusing on the cause – they always seem to be coming down from something or, in the case of Diane Varsi’s character Sally LeRoy, tripping out while lying in the top of fountain.

Kellie as Mary Fergus in Wild in the Streets.
Kellie as Mary Fergus in Wild in the Streets.

Lucky for Kellie, there were some more benign senior forces at play when cast in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. In the first season of the show, Candy didn’t see the Captain. But with a switch from NBC to ABC, she did. In one episode in the second season, Candy is the star as she falls for a boy (played by Mark Lester of Oliver!) from London, England. It’s not all smooth sailing, with the nine-year old Candy worried that compared to her rival Penelope Hassenhammer (try saying that one as many times as the cast; she was played by Debi Storm), “I haven’t any sex appeal” and asking her mother for a training bra, “I need all the help I can get, look at me”. It’s a shining moment for Kellie.

And they call it puppy love.
And they call it puppy love.

Lucky for Australia (other countries await), both Seasons One and Two of GaMM recently received a DVD release from Madman Entertainment, and Kellie can be seen again in this and the other episodes. Being an Australian myself, it’s only fitting I guess that Kellie and I have been in contact. And what better way for a writer to communicate than with writing, which is how we conducted this interview. In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger refers to those rare authors who, after reading their work, “you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it”. I think you’ll find in Kellie that type of person.


Adam: You didn’t come from a “show business family”. How did it all start for you?
Kellie: While it’s true that I didn’t come from a show business family, my mother Geraldine was very stylish, as I recall, and loved fashion. My two older sisters, Jill and Wendy, who are 17 and 16 years my senior, did some local modeling in their teenage years.

The story goes that Geraldine was working part time for a small department store called Henshey’s in Santa Monica. I was about three years old at the time and precocious for having been raised by a bunch of adults and teenagers. I also have two older brothers; my birth was an afterthought, when my parents were almost 50. They called me “how-come-you-come”.

My mom also went by the name Jerry. She could really sew, and made me little linen masterpieces for holidays like Easter and Christmas. Her trademark was a seemingly endless trail of button, because she adored the buttonhole setting on her sewing machine. Often I would wear outfits that included a crinoline skirt, a dress, a little coat, hat and patent leather shoes. My mom got a big kick out of dressing me up, I think.

Geraldine organized a fashion show at Henshey’s Department Store, the story continues, and put me on the runway at the end of the program. Someone in the audience with some Hollywood connection called an agent and described me as “like a little Shirley Temple without all the curls”.

The very next day, I was sent out on an audition and I got the part. It was a toothpaste commercial starring June Lockhart, and I played her little girl. I remember there was a pool, a very blue and inviting swimming pool. The sun was hot. By the end of that job, I had a new agent in Dorothy Day Otis, who handled children exclusively. The career took off from there, with my mom and Dorothy at the helm.

Adam: The Trekkies won’t be happy with me (not that I have any reason to think that they read my blog, but I hope they do) if I don’t ask you for a couple of memories from the set of Star Trek. What struck me of that episode (“Miri”) was the intensity of the scene where Captain Kirk is pleading with the children. Was this your first television role?
Kellie: That was the first season of a show that wasn’t expected to be much of anything. The big excitement on the set, as far as I knew, was that Mr. Shatner was rather attractive and scandalously being divorced (I think he was Catholic, and we were Catholic, and I remember overhearing my mother complaining).

The episode was my first television show – prior to that I’d done print and television commercials, but never a series TV show. My agent, the fabulous Dorothy Day Otis, got me the job and the set was lots of fun because of all the kids and all the dust and disarray and wildness of the episode.

Kellie was credited as Blonde Girl, even with a little green.
Kellie was credited as Blonde Girl, even with a little green.
Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) and the children await their fate.
Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) and the children await their fate.

The Starship Enterprise lands on a planet that’s just like Earth except there are no adults, or what the remaining population of children call, “grups” (I still think of the word adult as grup in my head, today). When kids hit puberty, they get this horrible skin rotting condition, waaay beyond acne, then basically foam at the mouth, go mad and die.

So there’s the big scene where the kids are sort of revolting and Captain Kirk is talking with them, and I remember the director or someone put me on the table – physically lifted me up so I could be seen (wearing a green wig) and plopped me on the table, which felt quite special. There was lots of commotion between takes, and at one point Dorothy came up to me and whispered in my ear. She told me what to say when the scene started up, a very simple line any kid could remember. I was only about six or seven years old, and petite, so I looked younger. When the camera rolled and the scene started up, I hollered out what Dorothy had told me to, “Call the police!”

Kirk (William Shatner) appeals to the children's sensitivities.
Kirk (William Shatner) appeals to the children’s sensitivities.
It's not going so well (Kellie with Steven McEveety, Shatner, John Megna).
It’s not going so well (Kellie with Steven McEveety, Shatner, John Megna).

As I recall, it was a cut/print at the end of the scene – they wound up keeping the scene with the Dorothy-dialog in it, and that’s how I got my SAG card. Dorothy was the greatest.

Adam: There was some time between Star Trek and other television guest roles, but then you appeared in Family Affair and The Andy Griffith Show. Newspapers singled you out in the Andy Griffith episode, asking that viewers “Watch, too, for a blinding grin at the end by a blonde youngster named Kellie Flanagan, it’s worth the whole show” (The Bridgeport Telegram, March 18, 1968, p. 14). Was your routine and that of your family still “normal” or was there a momentum starting to build?
Kellie: The gap in my television work between Star Trek in 1966 and other shows later on was filled in with commercial television appearances and print work. My dad Cornelius (Neal) kept a very good scrap book and he had a hand-written list of all the commercials I worked on in film and print. If I recall correctly, there were over 100, many of them classic American companies that are still in business today.

My routine was still fairly normal throughout that time, or what was considered normal for me. I had a lot of little jobs and many auditions. I went to St. Monica’s Catholic School, was a Brownie with my mom as Troop Leader, and took dance lessons in Malibu from a French woman named Marjorie Jeanne. Sometimes I took riding lessons and diving lessons, I loved The Flintstones and Captain Kangaroo.

At St. Monica’s we wore plaid pleated skirts with suspenders, white pressed shirts, white socks and black and white saddle shoes. That was my school uniform. I also had an “interview uniform”, that was similar, so I could just change in the car as my mom drove from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills or where ever the interview was for that afternoon. Usually we were able to schedule afternoons rather than mornings so I didn’t miss much school.

I had friends from school and a best friend, named Stacy who did not go to school or church with us. Regarding interviews and working in the business, I remember that I always had the choice, up to a point. For instance, if my mom and I agreed that I would go on a particular interview, I had to go and couldn’t change my mind at the last minute.

After an interview, Jerry would ask me a series of questions, including “how did it feel?”, and we would talk about what would happen if I got the job. If I agreed to do the job, I had to carry through and again, couldn’t change my mind. I do not remember one instance where I had to do a job I did not want to do. To my recollection, I always had a say in things and was encouraged to use my instincts when it came to reading people (that is, the people who were interviewing me, usually casting or ad people or directors).

To summarize, I think at this point things were pretty normal for me, or as normal as they would be. The details of the business didn’t get in my way of having fun or being a kid at that time.

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir cast. Back row: Edward Mulhare, Hope Lange, Charles Nelson Reilly. Front row: Kellie, Harlen Carraher, Scruffy, Reta Shaw. (c) Twentieth Century Fox, provided by Madman Entertainment.
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir cast. Back row: Edward Mulhare, Hope Lange, Charles Nelson Reilly. Front row: Kellie, Harlen Carraher, Scruffy, Reta Shaw. (c) Twentieth Century Fox, provided by Madman Entertainment.

Adam: How would you describe the GaMM cast members: Hope Lange, Edward Mulhare, Reta Shaw, Charles Nelson Reilly, Harlen Carraher, and wire-haired fox terrier Scruffy? Do you still see Harlen, or did you keep in touch at some point?
Kellie: Hope Lange was beautiful and sophisticated, and always impeccably turned out. Her hair was perfectly coiffed, her skirts were pressed and her sweater sets matched with effortless grace. Well, of course! She was an actress and basically I only remember seeing her on set when we were working. At one time I believe she was getting a divorce. From that I recall a little whispering that we should behave and not bother her. I have never researched to see if that is true. [Adam’s note: This is, indeed, true. Hope and Alan Pakula separated in 1969, with the divorce finalized in 1971].

The Ghost and the Muirs.
The Ghost and the Muirs.
With Reta Shaw.
With Reta Shaw.

Edward Mulhare had to have his beard and mustache put on and removed every day, so he was in make-up a lot. In the first season, the character I played did not see the ghost. So we didn’t have scenes together, except when he was popping in and out, until the second year of the show. Reta Shaw was a lot like she was on the program, very hustle bustle and funny, lots of cracks and comments. Charles was wild and he and the other actors and the main producers, guest directors and guest stars, would have a great time at the every-Friday night wrap parties. Lots of food, cocktails, cigarettes and grownups talking, gossiping and laughing about the business and most of it was, quite literally, over our heads, as kids. It was a very happy set. Lots of fun, everyone was always very nice and accommodating to us, and there were no problems whatsoever that I recall.

Harlen, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Kellie.
Harlen, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Kellie.
Harlen, Kellie, Scruffy, and Algie the Seal as himself.
Harlen, Kellie, Scruffy, and Algie the Seal as himself.

Harlen and I did not keep in touch, that would have been something my mother would have done and so since she died in 1970 a lot of relationships fell by the wayside. I don’t know if Harlen continued in the business, though I have heard that as an adult, he’s an engineer for the City of Los Angeles. I’ve heard there’s a bar he likes to hang out at occasionally in Culver City or Hollywood or something, and always have heard he’s a “nice, regular guy”. It has never occurred to me to get in touch with him, and (as you now know) I am a terrible correspondent. In the last couple of years people have suggested that we get in touch so perhaps that will happen at some time.

Scruffy was named Scruffy in real life, and when I once asked my mom how much money I made she told me, “Scruffy makes more!” In my life at that time, we did not have a dog. I had a cat, a rat, miscellaneous reptiles, but no dog. At least once handlers put dog food on my cheek for Scruffy to lick off, a trick of training that I was not pleased with at all. Honestly, and I know people don’t want to hear it; I was not a big fan of Scruffy! Somehow I must have already known to avoid working with kids and animals.

Adam: Newspaper publicity pieces at the time had stories from the GaMM set at 20th Century-Fox on Pico Blvd., including you and Harlen being taught to ice-skate by Hope Lange and schooled in the Queen’s English by Edward Mulhare; as well as the two of you playing a particularly long game of tic-tac-toe when you weren’t teaching Scruffy to play ball. You’ve also written of being schooled on set with Harlen. Was it a happy set to be on?
Kellie: I don’t remember anything about ice-skating, and it sounds as though that may have been a photo opp. If it was anything genuine I think I would have remembered it, but I can’t deny it either. We were schooled in learning how to say “blast!” and “shipshape and Bristol fashion”, and a few other phrases but that’s all I remember. The tic-tac-toe game you refer to was definitely from a publicity shoot, as I have the Polaroid and stills. As I remember it, tic-tac-toe was just something to do while we were photographed, and that was one of those times when the dog food was put on my face. This all sounds like publicity, I don’t really remember anything specific.

Being schooled on set was great, and only took three hours a day, which I think is plenty for school. We had a bus – I think it was a school bus – parked right outside the main doors to the soundstage and that’s where we went to school with our teacher, Mrs. Bone. That was a very fun name for a teacher to have, and played in perfectly with the whole haunted house theme of the show. She had a funny way of sneezing, where she’d do a big wind up – ah, ah, AH… – and then a little tiny “choo”.

Kellie and Harlen in 1968. (Photographer: Ivan Nagy. Adam Gerace private collection).
Kellie and Harlen in 1968. (Photographer: Ivan Nagy. Adam Gerace private collection).

When we had days where we weren’t needed a lot, we were released to go across Pico Blvd. to Ranch Park, where they even had a swimming pool. Often our schooling would involve studying in my individual dressing room, which was a little hot aluminum box next to the school bus. It may have been a small trailer, with a bed, makeup table and lights, restroom, and little dinette area.

No air conditioning, and it sweltered so badly that once a snake given to me by another kid who worked on the lot (Darby Hinton, he was in Daniel Boone) was forgotten over a long weekend. We should have taken the pet home to cool Santa Monica, but instead we left it in the dressing room at Fox and came back after the break to a dead snake.

Adam: Early in the run of GaMM, you were Burl Ives’ co-star in the Thanksgiving TV-special, All Things Bright and Beautiful. What are your memories of that?
Kellie: Appearing in All Things Bright and Beautiful with Burl Ives and other stars including jazz great Lionel Hampton, was an absolute high point for me and my family. The show was directed by the same person who did Wild in the Streets – not sure which came first though I think it was Wild in the Streets before All Things Bright And Beautiful – both directed by Barry Shear.

Mr. Ives, as I called him, was a completely genuine person and when he spoke it was very special. The fact that he could play guitar and sing made him a huge hit with a kid like me. This show was shot on location, I don’t know where, but I think we were picked up in a car every day to get there, a sort of limo called a “stretch”.

The night the show was set to air, which I believe was on Thanksgiving in 1968, our family was gathered to watch it on TV together. The phone rang and it was Mr. Ives inviting us to come to the hotel where he was staying and watch it with him. He was in a suite at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. My mom, dad, me, my sister Wendy and her son Erik, we all traipsed over into Hollywood and got to the suite in time to watch the show. I have a Polaroid from that night with Erik, who was five, me and Mr. Ives all on our bellies posing with a snow white polar bear rug and the head of the polar bear like one of us in the photo.

Burl Ives, Kellie, and her nephew Erik (Kellie Flanagan private collection).
Burl Ives, Kellie, and her nephew Erik (Kellie Flanagan private collection).

I do not have a copy of this show, though I sure wish I did. What I do have is an audio recording and it’s just priceless to hear my little voice and the man we all know as the wayfaring stranger. I think that’s one of the things he was called! Just a great guy.

Adam: Your favorite GaMM episode, “Puppy Love”, comes from the second season. Candy falls for the dreamy Mark Helmore, played by Mark Lester. He was a hot commodity after Oliver! and Run Wild, Run Free. What was it like to play front and centre, and did you share Candy’s crush (not Candy Crush, mind you) on Mark?
Kellie: The GaMM episode “Puppy Love” was indeed my favorite of all episodes, I am not too shy to say it. One of the reasons that show was so much fun is that so many kids were cast to play Candy’s gang of friends, plus Penelope and Mark.

The scenes in “Puppy Love” are pretty funny to watch, and they were really fun to shoot. I completely preferred that the entire episode focused on my character, because I was a ham and considered myself underutilized on a regular basis – so it was great to have lots of lines to memorize and to be in just about every scene of the episode.

It’s also funny to watch, because you can really see what was becoming or would become or perhaps already had become my actual personality. It’s all just very… Kellie. Since I was raised before video cameras were everywhere, my childhood was documented in a way that not many kids my age would have been familiar with. So when I watch scenes from “Puppy Love”, like the dancing and singing, and Candy mooning over Mark, and the fighting and hurt feelings and I-don’t-care-attitude in the end, that’s all very much like me and for that reason is special to watch. I also think I was a pretty good little actress from what I can tell.

With Mark Lester (Kellie Flanagan private collection).
With Mark Lester (Kellie Flanagan private collection).

Mark Lester was nothing compared to having my own friend from real life on the show that week. Johnny Garacochea lived across the street and up three houses from where we lived on 18th Street in Santa Monica. His dad owned a Basque bakery, and his mother was young and pretty, very classic homemaker-type. My mom talked his mom into letting Johnny do some acting, and then I guess my mom talked the producers into letting Johnny be on the show – he was a nice kid and great looking kid from a very nice family – so that was more fun for me even than having a star like Mark Lester. I was not interested in boys at that age, so it wasn’t a factor really, though Mark Lester was and from what I can see still is, as Candy would say, adorable.

With Michael Barbera, Christopher Shea and Johnny Garacochea (credited as John Garrison).
With Michael Barbera, Christopher Shea and Johnny Garacochea (credited as John Garrison).

Adam: One more quote from a newspaper article that discussed your love of wildlife (you had two pet alligators?!): “One moment, Kellie will be playing with the multitude of dolls who “accompany” her to the studio each morning. The next minute, she may be conducting a serious conversation with an adult three or four times her age on a current national event” (The Abilene Reporter-News, September 28, 1969, p. 12-E). This paints a picture of an articulate young lady. Do you relate to it? Do you think that that was something you brought to the set, or a byproduct of working so young?
Kellie: The description you cite about me as a child having typical childhood pets and also perfectly adult conversations, is quite true and very much speaks to uniqueness in my upbringing. First, let’s address the alligators. My mom was an experienced mom with four kids before me, including two boys. We had all kinds of lizards, snakes, turtles and other animals including rats, mice, and cats. There was an instance of two alligators in the bathtub once, and I do recall seeing that, but I think it was a one-time thing and a self-limiting problem. In other words, my mom kyboshed it and out they went.

I did have a couple of Caimans, and we’d rig the Slip ‘N Slide over the backyard play slide and let the little critters off at the top until they slid into a bucket of water at the bottom. I don’t know if you could get them anymore and that’s probably exercising very poor judgment to drop a reptile down a waterslide, so I do not recommend or advocate that in any way 😉

Jerry and Neal’s youngest child (my brother Terry) was 14 when I was born. By the time I started acting really regularly, my brothers and sisters were out of the house. I was raised with adults and spoken to as an adult more or less from the time I was very little. My brothers and sisters made a great game of teaching me to say “bullshit” to anything a nun asked me. That caused confusion amongst the sisters at St. Monica’s, and was hilarious to my own brothers and sisters, to see a little kid thrown a crabby curse word out for any question asked.

My father had a tremendous sensibility for words, and was always working on word puzzles, jingles, poems and rhymes. He taught me big words from a little age, like “pusillanimous”. I tested well in school and on IQ charts, and I remember being pretty fearless. I believe that I brought a lot to the table in that regard when it came to acting. Also, I was petite and they like that in the business, because you are an older child who can play younger, which makes her easier to direct. She will have better memory and ability, and still look like a really little kid.

Then, once I began working that reinforced itself. As I was exposed to more of the creative adult world, that influenced me to the point where by the time I was 11 years old, I knew everything. At least I thought I did.

Adam: Child actors are surrounded by big names and, particularly in the case of GaMM, some veteran performers. Were you in awe of any particular person/people you got to work with, or has that come with time?
Kellie: The most impressed I remember being (besides Dom DeLuise who was just a riot) was when Harry Nilsson the songwriter was on the show. My sister had his records, or maybe we got them later, but I knew he was a rising star and as I recall he was very young and kind of awkward but extremely kind and generous with the music he played for us that week. I still adore his music and can sort of work my way through one of his songs on guitar, the charming “Puppy Song”, I think it’s called.

With Dom DeLuise as Elroy Applegate in "Today I Am a Ghost".
With Dom DeLuise as Elroy Applegate in “Today I Am a Ghost”.

Looking back, I am astonished and impressed by the caliber of the people with which I had the honor to share a sound stage, if only briefly. We spent a lot of time, as kids on the show, going to school and then going to bed, so except for a few episodes – and Jonathan’s interaction with the ghost – we weren’t in the show as much as kids on today’s shows (like Modern Family) or even other shows like The Courtship of Eddie’s Father or Family Affair, that really centered around the children.

Adam: American International Pictures went hippie (to paraphrase Salli Sachse, one of their long-term contractees from the Beach Party movies) with Wild in the Streets. You had a small but pivotal role as a bit of an antagonist to Christopher Jones. What do you remember of him?
Kellie: I get a huge kick out of Wild in the Streets and always have. Some of the scenes were really fun to shoot, like the political rally. Others were dramatic, like the scene where Hal Holbrook rips the posters off the walls in a drunken rage.

With Hal Holbrook.
With Hal Holbrook.
Millie Perkins puts an end to the Fergus children (Kellie, Michael Margotta, and Don Wyndham) listening to the new Max Frost.
Millie Perkins puts an end to the Fergus children (Kellie, Michael Margotta, and Don Wyndham) listening to the new Max Frost.

I spent an afternoon with Richard Pryor while filming that movie – we were on location near my house (which makes me wonder if my mom told the director about Douglas Park) – and we had a scene together that involved crawdads. Richard and I played with the crawdads, as I recall, and when the day was over, got to dump the bucket of crayfish into the water in the pond at Douglas Park near 25th in Santa Monica.

Shelley Winters was a big force back then – we were not supposed to be on stage when she was on – because of her salty language choices, we were told, but also because I had no scene with her in the movie. I loved her in The Poseidon Adventure.

The music in the movie was really fun, too, as were the costumes. When the movie premiered in Hollywood it was a big deal, as I remember. Something tells me that Martin Luther King’s widow Coretta Scott King appeared at the premiere – but I don’t know why she would be, it was just months after her husband’s death. So that makes no sense but I have that memory of not seeing her but being told she was there.

That movie has gotten Rotten Apple Awards among others. It was listed in the comedy and drama section of video stores at one time. I have no memory of working with Christopher Jones, really, but I do remember the sets in that movie, including the end set. Also those were my boots I wore at the end, they were always taking my shoes for things and just spray-painting them whatever colors the wardrobe department needed.

Once, when I was a teenager, that movie was playing at the local dive theater near my place in Venice, and I got a bunch of my friends in to see it for free, but when the lights came on only dedicated few remained. I love counter culture and the photos of me in the storm trooper outfit with the peace sign are some of my favorites. I really got to act in that movie, the tears were real.

Mary Fergus after her father's drunken rage.
Mary Fergus after her father’s drunken rage.
Kellie, Christopher Jones, and Salli Sachse.
Kellie, Christopher Jones, and Salli Sachse.

Adam: I conducted some research into PTSD a few years back. Something you wrote on your blog resonated with my thoughts:

“A new apocalypse is upon us: a generation of men and women are cut down or condemned to live without limbs, intestines, brain matter, sometimes even without souls. PTSD and TBI tear our young vets apart even after they’ve survived the roadside bombs. Soldiers return from tour these days as hometown heroes, and kill themselves with desperate resolve — overseas and stateside suicides are reported now in numbers unheard of in any war, ever before”.

You described Vietnam as “the war of my childhood”. I read that during GaMM you participated in events for the U.S. Marine Corps, including a ‘Toyathon’ (organized by Los Angeles children’s television personality Sally Baker, a.k.a. Hobo Kelly) and even collecting coffee cans for Marine wives and mothers to pack with homemade cookies. While many children of your age grew up with Vietnam, did you find yourself exposed to more of it as a result of working?
Kellie: I have a vague recollection of cans and fundraisers but I think the real reason I remember the war is because my family was involved. My oldest brother Shaun went to Vietnam very early on in the sixties, “before anything was happening”, he says now, though he was a paratrooper and Green Beret so that’s a little hard to imagine. He was away from home one Christmas and we kept the tree up until he returned later that year. He is 20 years older than me and was married and out of the house by the time I remember much.

Santa Monica was a pretty small town in those days, and I recall that we’d listen to the nightly news on the radio, and they’d read names of the war dead town by town. We had to wait all the way until they got to the “s” for Santa Monica. I don’t know how often this happened, or what station, but I remember being with my parents in the kitchen listening to the radio, very tense until we heard the names and didn’t know any of the dead.

I grew up in an Irish-German household where talk of politics was not verboten and both of my sisters were very active politically on a local level over the years. My sister Jill lived in the south for a while when the Civil Rights marches were going on.

The reason the suicides resonate with me is because I was involved in production on a series called the Civil War Journal for A&E, over 60 episodes and many that I wrote myself. It was a doc style series in the ‘90s hosted by Danny Glover. That gave me a little taste of war and so I caught wind of the suicides early and was really frustrated to note that our government wasn’t counting a lot of them as suicides and I could see right away the numbers were extremely alarming.

Adam: Your mother, Geraldine, passed away in 1970. How did life change after that?
Kellie: My life had already changed drastically when my mom Geraldine died in 1970, because she’d been sick for a long time before that, but when she did die just a few days before my 11th birthday, there was no going back to the way things had been.

When Jerry was diagnosed with cancer, there were exploratory surgeries and other surgeries to try and arrest the thing – she had a colostomy bag from the colon cancer and on the second year of GaMM she joked that she didn’t have to leave the soundstage to go to the bathroom. So I guess she had a pretty good attitude at least in front of me.

She got sicker and sicker, though, so I went to live with my sister Jill who was living with Davis Factor, Jr. at the time. He was the very kind and wealthy grandson of Max Factor of makeup fame. Davis was in the process of getting divorced when they met and moved in together. So it seemed at that time that Jill was in the most stable relationship but also Jill had always stayed close to me and taken care of me. I was very comfortable with her and with Davis, who had three children of his own.

At first, we lived in Marina del Rey, in an apartment with rented furniture, every piece of it, which was fun. Davis had two boats, a yacht and a speedboat. We’d take the speedboat to dinner at different restaurants in the Marina.

I learned to water-ski, eat clams and abalone, started going to a public school for 6th grade when we moved to the Peninsula where each street carries a nautical name: Anchorage, Buccaneer, Catamaran, Driftwood, Eastwind, Fleet, etc.

We lived on Fleet in a big black house with yellow trim and a turquoise door. We had a pet fox that we bought at a pet shop in Century City. When that fox ran away, we got another. My bedroom was downstairs in the two story house, and I was allowed to pick out everything for the remodel down there. It was two bedrooms with a master bath area in between, open style, with a fabulous claw-foot tub and loads of beautiful handmade Mexican tile, and an enclosed latrine. We had kittens, and lots of little trips and things were going about as well as you could expect.

The morning after my mom died, I knew she was gone because I told myself, I’d know. I didn’t want anyone to have to tell me, I thought that would be the saddest thing. I saw her one last time when some nuns smuggled me into the elevator and up to Intensive Care between their long habits. She was very sick and I remember a tear sliding slowly down her wrinkled cheek, it was heartbreaking.

Geraldine Flanagan (Kellie Flanagan private collection).
Geraldine Flanagan (Kellie Flanagan private collection).

So, what changed? Everything changed. My dad was an alcoholic so once Jerry died, Neal went off the rails. There had been no insurance, I think, and so finances were tapped, including any money to speak of, because in catastrophic situations – and this was an utter catastrophe to lose my mom – a child actor’s money can be used, and I had already been head of household financially for many years.

My dad sold our house in a very desirable area of Santa Monica, sold all our things I guess, except for a few pieces. He moved to Inglewood – not desirable. I still saw him – when we all lived at home he was a great daddy to me and I loved him tremendously – but as his disease progressed it became more clear that he was not fit to handle a child my age. He left me in the car once while he was in a bar and I got mad and started honking the horn and he got mad and then one of my brothers or sisters came to get me and they all got mad. Once he drove drunk with me in the car down a very windy road and it was terrifying. He flashed his gun at the grocery store for no good reason. So pretty soon, I didn’t see dad anymore. He died on the hospital when I was 15 from liver disease due to alcoholism. The last time I remember seeing him was at my 9th grade graduation.

Adam: After leaving show business, you attended high school and UCLA. You’ve written of that time that you still have your “private journals from Venice High School in the late-1970s, where Mrs. Schneider impressed the value of a strong essay, and Mr. Batcho tortured students with seemingly endless notes in crisp red pen”. I have fond memories of my teachers and how they shaped what I wanted to do. Can you tell me a little about how you got into writing?
Kellie: By the time I was 15 I kept a journal – a very torrid, dramatic and crazed journal just as you’d expect a teenage girl to keep. So by my teenage years, writing was already an important part of what I identified as me. When I was in 11th grade I entered a random contest to write an essay about trees with a chance to win a one-week stay with a forest family in Fort Bragg, California. The essay contest was sponsored by Georgia-Pacific, a big logging and paper concern.

By this time, I was living with my sister Wendy, her son Erik (five years younger than me) and Wendy’s new husband, Bill. Wendy was the English Department Chair and teacher at Venice High, and her husband Bill was known as “Coach” because he coached football and other sports. Probably it was Wendy who found out about this essay and encouraged me to give it a shot.

Kellie in 1973, Marina del Rey (Kellie Flanagan private collection).
Kellie in 1973, Marina del Rey (Kellie Flanagan private collection).

I have no recollection whatsoever what I wrote, maybe something about my love of nature, but it did the trick, because I won the essay contest and pretty soon was on a flight up north to Fort Bragg, where I was set to move in with this logging family – the dad was one of the bosses in the forest – and stay for a week to learn more about trees and logging and basically a big publicity stunt for Georgia-Pacific.

It would have been great, except, a tragedy had occurred. The logging family’s older daughter’s fiancé had been killed in a logging accident just a week or so before. This I found out on the flight to Fort Bragg. To my shock, when I arrived, they put me in her room and put her with her little sister to sleep. I could not believe this, and thought she needed her own space, but they wouldn’t hear of it. I couldn’t even believe they were having me there, it was so fresh.

The trip itself and the overall experience were wonderful, and I saw many sides of the forest that week. But I learned something really powerful about myself that had nothing to do with trees. One night, the grieving girl came into her room where I was getting ready for bed. She was very young, not much older than me, but I was the one with the wisdom on this particular subject of utter despair. We began to talk. She cried and told me about her dead fiancé and we talked for a couple of hours, and in that time I began to see that some of the painful experiences I’d had – losing both parents – had given me a gift of compassion and understanding that would be a wellspring I’d draw on forever. I mean, it didn’t all come out so succinctly in my head like that, but I realized I had helped her through a tough night – one of many, I’m sure – and in doing so, had healed myself a little. So that was pretty big for a kid.

At the end of that trip, I got to basically hitchhike home via little airports. I had a school dance to get to – spring formal – and the regular connecting flights weren’t working right to get me back home on time. The people in Fort Bragg set me up with the pilot of a little plane who flew me as far south as he could, then radioed ahead to see who else was going further south that way. None of this could happen today! After a few flights I got home, in time for the dance.

Well, that’s a long way to go to talk about writing – but I guess it’s the storytelling and the understanding that goes along with it that I am drawn to. I dropped out of UCLA by the way. If there wasn’t a parking space I flipped my car around and went back home to the beach. I didn’t even have enough sense to properly drop the classes, just didn’t go. So I got my education doing TV documentaries – I have a specialty in Civil War and post-Civil War westward expansion and art of those same periods. During my television career, coming up through the ranks as a production secretary and production-assistant all the way to producer and director – I was always saying, “I can write that, do you want me to write that?” So I just whittled away at it and eventually got to do a lot of writing for television and then freelance writing and now I’m writing you!

I have always been a bad correspondent, though, and am notoriously forgetful with letters.

Adam: When you’re not writing yourself, who/what do you like to read?
Kellie: I read a lot of memoirs because I have been dabbling in memoir for years. My favorite is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. For fiction, one of my favorites is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I also like Things Fall Apart, The Good Earth, and I have a lot of reference books I love, many for writing. We also read Outside Magazine and I pay attention to lots of sources online. I watch a lot of TV!

Adam: A few years ago you relocated with your family to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. You wrote of that time:

“Most of my identity went missing as we moved. Even after 18,000 pounds of belongings trucked its successful way from Culver City, lugged over the Grapevine and climbed into these foothills, I still struggled to find where I belonged”.

How did you find your place?
Kellie: We left Los Angeles for the Sierra Nevada Foothills eight years ago. One of my favorite movies is Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. If you don’t laugh too hard, I’ll tell you that this move from the city to the mountains is a little like my Africa – or how Africa was for Meryl’s character the writer Karen von Blixen who went by the pen name Isak Dinesen. OK I know it’s not that dramatic but that’s what goes on in my head. We had always intended to leave the city; we thought when our daughter went into middle school. Instead, my best friend had a nearly-deadly stroke that left her in the ICU at UCLA all summer in 2006. She recovered pretty well, amazing recovery, Lazarus-like. It made us realize we wanted to get while the getting was good, so we migrated to almost five acres about half an hour outside the entrance to Yosemite National Park, in the beautiful and currently drought afflicted foothills. We stayed as close to Los Angeles as we could afford to and still be in the mountains.

To a certain degree I’ve found my place. I don’t know that I’ll live here forever. I feel really blessed to have found work that I love most days – something I can do that’s in my field and to be able to work from home, all that is a big joy and a big surprise. Our daughter is delightful and is super busy in her junior year of high school now. She wants to be a forensic scientist not an actor so that was worth the move! My husband Dave and I have been married for almost 19 years, he is a landscape architect and has a great job in the city. I have a dog I adore, and a flock of chickens, and beauty surrounds me. There’s also a hell of a lot of fires, lately, but that’s part of the adventure – and something I never dreamed I’d be writing about, in terms of being a reporter, certainly. So I love the turns my life has taken, and consider myself very fortunate to have made it this far.

At Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park (Photographer: Steve Montalto/HighMountain Images. Kellie Flanagan private collection).
At Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park (Photographer: Steve Montalto/HighMountain Images. Kellie Flanagan private collection).

Adam: What’s next?
Kellie: I have been a stay-home Mom for almost 17 years and have had a bunch of part time jobs, mostly in the areas of entertainment, but not all. For a brief few weeks, I was a waitress in a tea shop my sister-in-law owned here in the mountains. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but only lasted three weeks. That’s twice I haven’t made it as a waitress, so that means I wouldn’t be a very good actress, right?

Inside my head I am constantly writing. For a long time before this, I was a writer who didn’t write. I have a half-finished memoir about the time from around 1966-1976 so it covers the television years and also, what I think are more interesting, transitional years of teen angst and coming of age.

A little more than two years ago, I started working for Sierra News Online, and it has been an amazing experience. I had no clue about journalism, had never tried it or studied it.

Since I began working for SNO I’ve probably written many hundreds if not a thousand little stories. Some are very tiny and others hold some weight. Mostly I enjoy writing the human interest pieces and people respond very well to those. So we are trying to structure things so I can do more of that. The website is a very interesting place to be, it has grown exponentially since I began and it’s fascinating in terms of the business end of things.

It’s my goal to publish at least one book, though I have a few in me, and I am working ever-modestly toward that goal. Send help!


The Ghost & Mrs. Muir can be purchased through Madman Entertainment’s website, as well as online and in-store at several DVD outlets. Kellie is on Facebook and I’m sure she would love it for you to drop past there. She also has her blog where she writes about life, past and present, as well as posting photos of her passions (such as repurposed furniture), and her menagerie of cats and dogs and chickens and things (I’ve been inspired in my phrasing of that from The Muppets Take Manhattan, I’m sure of it). Besides stories of her own life, Kellie writes on the blog and Facebook page of her experiences of telling the stories of others. As she mentioned in the interview, Kellie worked on the series Civil War Journal. It was there that she produced or scripted programs on Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, the unsung heroes of that battle, the Battle of Fredericksburg, the “boy generals” of the Civil War, the prison camps, and many other subjects. Her work in production, producing, writing and directing has also involved documentary treatments of Mata Hari and John Wilkes Booth, and even country music stars. Oh yes, she did tell his heart, his achy breaky… Perhaps what I like most about Kellie’s Internet presence is her insights on being a writer, sometimes sharing the insights of others. I love this quote of Mignon McLaughlin that Kellie posted: “There’s only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that’s a writer sitting down to write”. Now where’s my Evian (who am I kidding, it’s tap). You can also find Kellie at Sierra News Online.

Top photo of Kellie by Roxy Kobashi.