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From the Melbourne Sun, Thursday, June 25, 1987

Fair deeds and foul in radio's fun-filled past
By John Fraser

ARTHUR LYSTER, who admits he's pushing 80 and reckons this time last year he died medically three times, says some of the people in radio today "give me the..."

"If they'd tried to treat me the same way they're treating some of the blokes these days they'd have got a kick right in the, er, you'd better put ear.

"But one exception is Bert Newton. I'm very fond of Bert. We go back a long way. I reckon he's the tops, the best entertainer on the air and a master of the ad libs."

The admiration is mutual, Bert, manager of 3DB, says he's known Artie for 30 years and they're great mates.

"I think Artie was at AW even before I met him. He was an on-air natural, a bloke who used the mike instead of letting it use him.

"He was an extraordinary radio performer; just listening to him taught me a lot about radio.

"He was about the only bloke who could talk back to Norman Banks and get away with it.

And there was a saying around the station that if you didn't like Artie Lyster you probably weren't the 3AW type."

Artie did almost die last year when he managed to do himself horrible damage in incredible circumstances.

"I was chopping wood one day when the axe bounced back up, and I felt this diabolical pain in my neck. When I woke up three weeks later I learned that I'd missed being a paraplegic by that much."

Arthur Lyster insists if he can't take it with him when he goes "I'm not gonna go."

That telegram must mean a lot to Artie, who is as lucid and witty as ever.

When, last year, the doctors read him a litany of what was wrong with him, Artie listened dead-pan then said, "yeah, but what about the dandruff and me corns?"

He says he couldn't put up with the people in radio today, "they're lesser mortals who don't seem to want to laugh. It's big business and money is all that seems to matter."

Denis Gibbons and Ralphe Rickman, two former AW colleagues of Lyster, also bemoan the general, pervading grimness which has apparently taken over modern radio.

Gibbons was a notorious practical joker who once got a white chook from the market, stuck black feathers on it with glue and released it in the studio where Artie was doing his sports show.
(A fowl trick?)

"It's not true that it was a duck," says Gibbons, now a Radio Australia producer. "That would have been too gross."

They were big at dumping water on people in those days; "Harry" Gibbons has been credited with pouring water from a great height on the directors trooping in for a board meeting.

He brands this a foul, not fowl, calumny -- he says he only threw it over Graham Evans while he was reading the news. But one of the funniest things Gibbons recalls was The Day Of The Leprechauns.

One of the AW journalists allowed himself to be hypnotised by a professional at the Comedy or somewhere.

He really didn't believe he had been put under until the next day when the delayed instructions from the hypnotist caught up with him.

He started rampaging around the newsroom, overturning rubbish bins and roaring: "We must get rid of the leprechauns"

The boss fired him on the spot, but relented when the journo convinced him that he hadn't been on the sauce.

When Gibbons was at 3SR in Shepparton, early in his career, the announcers had to use the public lavatory in a nearby park. "So we'd put on the longest record we could find, around four minutes 19 seconds as I recall, so we could attend to nature.

The record got played a lot and the listeners must have thought all the announcers were obsessed with it."

Gibbons says even though there was always a lot of laughing in radio in those days -- he's written a very funny book called The Announcer Who Laughed -- and it was very much a seat of the pants job, "we were very professional and always got the job done.

But there's no fun in radio now. It's all grim business. "But perhaps we're going full circle, maybe the fun will come back because I think that that's what people want to hear,"

Ralphe Rickman has always had one of the most distinctive voices in radio. You can hear him nightly on the ABCs Music To Midnight. He, too, tends to have the odd wistful thought about how radio has changed in the 32 years he's been in it.

"When I wasn't at school I remember always having my head in a radio. In those days it was a crystal set with the aerial hanging from the trees in the garden.

"It was magic then, although I'd no idea I would ever wind up doing it for a living.

"We used to have some good times, and I suppose just being a survivor in radio these days is something to be proud of."

I understand there have been pressures on Rickman to change the format of his program to include more popular music, which would have his regular fans - and there are a lot of them - switching off in droves.

All Rickman will say is that radio managements do have greater control than they once did, although he is one of the last people in Australia still able to choose his own music.

"I know I've got a strong following." he said, "but I wish they'd let the management know."

+ Ian Richardson adds: I have to confess to being the journalist who was hypnotised. The hypnotist was Rocky Martin, later to change his name to the much grander, Martin St. James, and the theatre was the Tivoli. Although the Editor, Corbett Shaw, relented and kept me on the staff, our professional relationship never fully recovered.

+ The writer of the article, John Fraser, now tragically deceased, began his journalistic career as a cadet at 3AW.

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