The Dripps File
I was doing the 7-10 weeknight shift on 7LA Launceston, Tasmania.
Well it didn’t really end at 10, I had to then read a ten minute news bulletin. A straight read with no audio grabs or commercial breaks.
The person who took over from me was my mentor, John Dripps who used the 10 o’clock news theme as his cue to finish his last drink at the Metropole Hotel , stock up for the night with half a dozen bottles and stagger around the corner to the studio.
Regular as clockwork his quizzical blurred visage would peer through the studio door window at 5 past 10.
On this fateful night Big John had obviously been quenching a powerful thirst and was to put it delicately, “very pissed.”
He staggered through the door, tripped over the radiator (this was Tasmania and it got very cold) and passed out.
Now here’s my dilemma. Do I keep reading as though nothing had happened, while Big John is slowly being toasted, or do I apologise on air, stop reading and run around and rescue him. Such an on air admission would take a lot of explaining to management and surely would have ended with Mr.Dripps being given the “heave ho.”
I decided to press on, only pausing only long enough between stories to sniff the air to see if he’d caught on fire. I picked up the pace and read the last four minutes of news in 2.30. Then, after a very brief weather forecast, I introduced John Dripps and played his theme music.
As it played I raced around the studio console to find Drippsy sleeping peacefully, and warm over the heater, smoke beginning to slowly rise from his clothing. A jug of water served two purposes that night: to wake him from his slumber and douse the budding fire.
To his undying credit and my admiration, without even asking “what the F was going on'” Big John leapt to his feet, skirted the radiator and console while brushing off the burning embers of his wooly jacket and slid into the chair as his theme music faded. “Thanks Graeme, I’m John Dripps and welcome to the late night show. Let’s soothe away the hours together on 7L “eye.”*
It was a Master Class in the art of “the show must go on.”
P.S. John Dripps is the only news reader I’ve every heard go to sleep half way through a story, snore contentedly for more than a minute, wake up, then continue reading where he left off as if nothing had happened.
I know there can be some dull news days but……..
* John Dripps and 7L “eye”