Bert Newton remembered: Australia celebrates life of an entertainer


Channel 9 is screening the tribute special Bert Newton: Let Me Entertain You

Since news of the death of entertainer Bert Newton was revealed on Saturday evening, his life is being celebrated across the country.

His long-time home Channel 9 is screening the tribute special Bert Newton: Let Me Entertain You at 8.35pm Sunday, taking over the primetime slot from 60 Minutes. The special will also be on 9Now.

The special, to be hosted by Tracy Grimshaw, Hamish Blake, Eddie McGuire and Shaun Micallef will celebrate the man whose star shone brightly on Channel 9 for more than 60 years.

Bert Newton, passed away, aged 83, after a long health battle. His passing was first reported by showbiz journalist and friend of the family Peter Ford on social media.

Shortly after Ford spoke to 3AW’s Simon Owens who quickly turned his Saturday night show into a tribute program.

Listen to Simon Owens and guests remembering Bert Newton

Ford revealed that all this year Bert had been in hospital and for the past few days in palliative care. “It has been a horrible last chapter for Bert,” explained Ford.

Ford recapped some of Bert’s career highlights including his radio years and 20 years in theatre, in addition to his much-celebrated TV career.

Ford was a producer for Newton during his radio days at 3UZ.

Bert Newton: Networks and 3AW pay tribute

Michael Healy, Nine’s director of television, released this statement after learning of the passing of one of the greats: “Bert Newton was a giant of our industry, entertaining generations of Australians across our television screens. He brought unbridled joy and laughter into our homes as part of so many programs, partnerships and formats. He was loved by us all at Nine and we wish Patti, Lauren, Matt and their families our sincere condolences at this sad time.”

Other guests on Owen’s 3AW Saturday show included Philip Brady, Kamahl and Derryn Hinch. Brady recalled Bert’s first TV role was at Seven before he later moved to Nine in the late 1950s.

Nine remembered Bert’s remarkable career has been recognised by an incredible collection of awards including 18 TV Week Logie Awards, of which four are Gold Logies. He also hosted the ceremony a record 19 times.

He also received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 1979, for services to the Performing Arts.

Bert Newton: Career snapshot

Born on July 23, 1938 in North Fitzroy, Bert was one of six children. He was very close to his mother, Gladys, who died in 1981. His father, Joseph, served in World War II, returning when Bert was seven years old and died in 1950 when Bert was 11.

That same year Bert went along to the Melbourne 3XY radio studios to watch a broadcast of the Peter’s Ice Cream Peter’s Pals program and was captivated by the magic of entertainment.

He made his radio debut shortly after on the same 3XY show. When he left school, St. Joseph’s Marist Brothers in North Fitzroy, Bert was given a full-time job with 3XY as a turntable operator. Impressed by his talent and enthusiasm, the management put him on air as an announcer. He was just 15 years of age.

Bert attracted the attention of the Seven Network in its first days of broadcasting and was signed up to compere The Late Show joining his good friend, the late Noel Ferrier. Bert’s opposition was Graham Kennedy in the same timeslot on the 9Network. In March 1959 they ceased being rivals and teamed up on Channel Nine.

Bert Newton and Graham Kennedy

It was the start of an historic partnership that viewers were to love when the inimitable team fronted In Melbourne Tonight. No one who saw Kennedy and Newton on IMT would forget their brand of humour and entertainment and Bert became one of Australia’s favourite sons with his impeccable sense of timing and his natural warm humour.

Bert and Don the next partnership

Bert later went on to team up with Don Lane to host the highest rating national tonight show in Australia’s history, The Don Lane Show. Their unique and award-winning partnership entertained a massive audience from 1975 to 1983.

In 1976 Bert became compere of the 9Network’s New Faces program, which was on air for 22 years. This show was a particular favourite of Bert’s and he was always very proud of the show and its success.

In 1986, Bert joined Radio 3DB Melbourne as general manager and on-air announcer. He remained there for two years, being the last on-air personality to be heard on the pioneering radio station, which ceased operating in April 1988.

Bert back to Seven and then new home at 10

1989 Bert returned to the Seven Network to host the daily program, The Bert Newton Show.

In 1991 Bert starred in the theatre production of The Wizard of Oz. In the title role, he received rave reviews across the country.

Shortly after, Network 10 signed Bert for Good Morning Australia with Bert Newton which aired from 1992 until 2005, becoming one of the longest running and most successful daytime shows on Australian television.

In 1996 Bert starred as Cogsworth in the Disney stage production of Beauty and the Beast, for which he won a Mo Award.

Bert took to the stage again in 1999 in the production of The Sound of Music, playing the role of Uncle Max.

2001 saw Bert reprise his role as The Wizard of Oz in the musical of the same name. He has also played the role of Franz Liebkind in Mel Brooks’ award-winning musical The Producers across Australia.

Back home at Nine on Family Feud

In February 2006, Bert returned to the 9Network after 20 years to host Bert’s Family Feud and the top-rating 20 to 1.

Two years later, in November 2008, Bert took on the role of The Wizard in the stage spectacular, Wicked.

In July 2012, he joined the Melbourne cast of Annie, taking over the role of President Roosevelt.

The following year he returned to the stage in Grease the Musical, playing the role of disc jockey Vince Fontaine.

In 2015 he narrated the Australian production of The Rocky Horror Show.

Bert is survived by his wife, entertainer Patti Newton, whom he married on 9 November 1974, his two children, Matthew and Lauren, and six grandchildren.

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