There were many memorable moments working with Guy Blackmore on Eyewitness News. Not all of them happened in front on the camera which is probably just as well.
As presenters of the top rating TV news service we received invitations and offers everyday open events and make public appearances. Most we turned down due to time constraints or questionable value.
The Festival is the largest and longest running wine tourism festival in Australia. It showcases the rich diversity of the Barossa region and highlights the many reasons why it is recognised as one of the finest wine-producing regions in the world.
We were invited to the Vintage Festival launch in the mid 80’s and choppered into the Barossa in grand style to an almost royal reception.
A mid morning feast was laid out for those lucky enough to be invited and it was an honour to be amongst some of the great names of winemaking in Australia. Peter Lehmann, Wyndham Hill-Smith, Cyril Henschke, Grant Burge & George Kolarovich to name just a few. All provided some of their wonderful wines which we only too happily consumed.
The mid morning function eased into the early afternoon and the wine and the stories flowed freely but by about 3.00 somebody suggested we should be returning to Adelaide.
Two choppers took off in formation laden down with the spoils of the Barossa heading due South to Adelaide. Not 10 minutes into the flight my news reading partner Guy Blackmore came up with the startling revelation. “We’re going to get back to the channel way too early.“A cardinal sin if there was no reason to be there.
A quick conference call between the choppers and we set in a new course. It was off to the Southern Vales. Now this is where my memory drifts off into the mists of time. I thought we choppered in to St. Francis winery at Old Reynella. However, Geoff Blackmore , Guy’s brother, swears it was Clarendon winery. I’ll defer to his greater clarity on the day.
Whatever, someone phoned ahead and by the time the two helicopters touched down the winery had laid out some of their best wines and local produce, cheese, olives, fruit on tables under umbrellas overlooking the beautiful vineyards.
The hospitality was overwhelming and I have no idea who paid (if anybody).
By about 5 o’clock, even with the anaesthetising effect of quality red, I began to get anxious and reminded Guy we had a bulletin to read.
Minutes later we were in the air with a bottle of port and plate cheese and biscuits to fortify us on the 25 minute flight to SAS 10.
As we made our descent towards the helipad, which was clearly visible from the newsroom, we could see faces pressed up against the windows. They were not only worried about our late arrival but I think they may have been more than a little concerned about our sobriety.
Never one to miss an opportunity for mischief Guy suggested we put on a show for them. As he stepped from the chopper he raised a full glass of port towards the newsroom, took one step forward and proceeded to fall flat on his face. I raced to his assistance and when Guy was back on his feet we both took a bow and stumbled into the building arm in arm.
The looks on the newsroom faces were priceless.
With time rapidly approaching six o’clock we went straight to makeup. I think it was the news director who stuck his head through the door and said.“Are you fellas sure you’re right to read tonight.” We nodded in unison but said nothing. A slurred reply might not have been good. When he left I recall saying to Guy “This better be good. We are going t have to read the perfect bulletin. If we make so much as a slight stumble, a stutter or stuff up we are dead meat.”
The real threat of instant summary dismissal hanging over our heads we read the straightest, error free news we had ever read. Not one joke, not one giggle, not one aside. Although immediately after neither of us had any recollection of anything we had read in the bulletin.
Management were far from happy and let us know, but with our ratings consistently the highest any news service had ever received they were always going to cut us a bit of slack.
However, we both knew the day the ratings fell our news reading careers would be over.
It would never happen today but long lunches were common place back then. Ah! the wonderful days of contra.
But that’s a story for another time.