Showbiz days

By Erica Louise Photos Yanni

Showbiz couple Bob and Judy (nee Banks) Phillips currently live on a small farm in Moorooduc surrounded by horses and lemon trees. In earlier decades, Bob and Judy were deep-rooted in the Australian media industry, rubbing shoulders with the heavyweight stars of stage and screen. As a nod to their former careers, the couple are involved in a weekly showbiz program on the Mornington Peninsula’s RPP FM radio station.

Judy began her career fame playing Jane in the smash hit stage production of Salad Days. Her career blossomed after accepting further roles in Lock Up Your Daughters and Robert and Elizabeth. She later co-hosted a quirky children’s television breakfast show with the talented Tedd Dunn, who created the wonderful Fredd Bear character.

“Somehow with the Fredd Bear’s Breakfast-A-Go-Go show we revolutionised breakfast TV in the early ’70’s,” said Judy.

Bob grew up working on dairy farms in Rye before working as a carnival hand, which kick-started his career in entertainment. He later became a cinema projectionist before moving into television. He climbed the media ladder behind the screens where he worked as a producer and executive producer for such icons as Graham Kennedy, Don Lane, Daryl Somers, Bert Newton and Steve Vizard. His work saw him meeting international personalities Bob Hope, the Beatles and the iconic Jerry Lewis.

The couple gravitated towards the Peninsula over 40 years ago, purchasing a 10-acre Moorooduc property.

“Our property is a paradise away from the hustle and bustle of showbiz. Totally by accident we produce some of the best lemons you would find on the Peninsula,” said Bob.

During lockdown, the couple set up a complete, fully functioning, home radio studio on their farm, where it’s not unusual to hear a horse neighing at the door mid-session.

“Our son, Andrew, has moved up to Brisbane and the only other family members are two horses Flynn and Miley, rescue horses who were destined for the knackery,” Bob explained.

In the 80s Bob and Judy founded TV World, Australia’s first TV, Movie and Media Museum, with an enormous collection of memorabilia including Dexter the talking robot from Perfect Match. Although well supported by the media with patrons like Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton and The Seekers, the operation has since closed.

“Judy and I ran the museum for approximately ten years and it became one of the Mornington Peninsula’s favourite tourist attractions. Unfortunately, we were not able to secure government funding and the collection was eventually disbanded with major exhibits going to the Australian Centre of The Moving Image (ACMI) at Federation Square,” said Bob.

While the couple miss the golden days of Channel Nine’s ‘Television City’, which Bob describes as a ‘bustling production complex with something akin to the MGM studios in Hollywood,’ Bob and Judy remain tuned into the industry as co-hosts on the RPP-FM ‘Sugar and Spice’ radio show. The program has been running for 25 years.

“Sugar and Spice is a curious, fun mix of comedy, rock n’ roll, and talk show guests ranging from medicos, cooking experts, horse racing tipsters, authors, talking dogs, politicians and showbiz stars,” said Bob.

Because the Australian entertainment industry is small and close knit, the couple have been able to introduce radio show listeners to personalities such as Rhonda Burchmore, Marcia Hines, Daryl Braithwaite and even the late Helen Reddy.

Bob believes it is now tougher to get a foothold in the industry. “When I began in the early years of Channel 9, it was possible for youngsters to start in the mailroom and rise to the rank of director or executive producer. These days, studio cameramen (and women) and floor managers etc., are being replaced by technology. Set building and design is mainly outsourced. None of the major networks maintain large studios.”

There are still opportunities for Peninsula residents however, Bob believes the Peninsula Short Film Festival is a great way to showcase local creative talents. For those interested in the performing arts, Judy views tenacity as important as talent.

“One must learn to deal with rejection and poor reviews. Try to gain experience, join an amateur theatrical group, take dance classes, work up some good audition material,” she said.

To follow Bob and Judy’s journey, tune in to ‘Sugar and Spice’ every Thursday from 9 – 11am on RPP Radio 98.7 FM. Or read more about their careers in Bob’s recently re-published book Like No Other Business – 60 Years of Oz TV, available from all major book stores.

Peninsula Essence – December 2020