Pip James and Suellen O’Grady, “On the Lane to Singleton,” The Weekend Australian Magazine, February 16-17, 1979, p. 6.

Two entirely different showbiz personalities — John Singleton in Sydney and Don Lane in Melbourne — have just started new nightly shows on TV. PIP JAMES talks to Singleton and SUELLEN O’GRADY to Lane.

John Singleton stretches out on the grass surrounding the Channel 10 pool. His dog, Thug (who looks like one but isn’t), reclines peacefully beside him, one canine leg draped protectively over the Singleton calf.

“Don’t forget to tell ’em what a hard life I have doing this show,” he says, squinting drowsily up at the golden afternoon sun.

Only John Singleton could be lying contentedly here, talking to the press, with less than three hours to countdown for the fourth edition of his latest exercise on national television.

Not only is it perfectly true he doesn’t work hard at his now show — spending only half an hour boning up on his guest list the afternoon before (“Oh well, I already know most of the people we have on. I know what they want to talk about and what they’re going to say; what do I need to research them for?”) — but he’s also proud of the fact.

Channel Ten, too, seems to be pretty proud of having discovered a property who thinks he doesn’t need to work at being a television personality, and who is without an ego when it comes to fronting up on the box.

“He doesn’t act like a star and demand the star treatment,” they say in hushed voices, as though they’ve never heard of such a thing.

You could be taken in by the lackadaisical attitude and think he has never done a tap of work in his life, until you realise something has put the harsh hollows and lines into his face that you don’t find in other mid-thirties faces. “I always said I’d retire at 35,” he says almost defensively, “and I did.”

The truth behind John Singleton’s insouciance is a kind of “here I am, take me or leave me alone” air, which travels freely into his television style. He doesn’t need to work for a splinter of the money he’s used to earning elsewhere. He’s mildly amused that anyone could even want him to do this kind of “Tonight-style” show; to want to make him play “grown-up games” in a grown-up’s suit, cut his hair and try to talk “toffy” so people can understand what he’s saying.

“It’s just the way I am, mate. You don’t talk so good yerself,” he says, flicking his eyebrows up and down, like an Anglo-Saxon Groucho Marx, and you can’t help laughing as you say, “But I’m not on television.”

He had already sold his house and decided to go bush when Kerry Packer talked him into taking a film crew along with him. He ended up making a surprisingly sensitive documentary with director Alan Catt, about the plight of the water buffalo in the Northern Territory. (The Federal Government has decided they should be eliminated because they are stomping up the creeks and billabongs and ruining the National Park.)

He prefers his “don’t care” attitude to the worries of being too involved in the television game. “I’ve seen people here sweating over the ratings. They age 15 years, honestly. They have to put make-up on before they can go home and face their kids. They think it’s important. This is very dangerous.”

He’s an iconoclast from way back. He’s against welfare (“families should look after their own”) and zoning laws that prevent him from pulling down some semi-historic building and putting up a block of units.

“There’s nothing historic in Australia and if people think there is they should all chip in and buy it, not expect the Government to do it for ’em.” And he’s a great believer in Australia: “People can’t understand me because I don’t speak American.”

As far as The John Singleton Show is concerned — as with the man — it’s very important it succeeds. “I personally want to think it’s a very fantastic show that’s contributing to the entertainment and education of people watching it. We’ll always cover the issues that affect our lives. Government, education, religion, law enforcing agencies, drugs, taxation … the lot.”

The Singleton show has been on the road now for 30-odd years.

*****

Consider Don Lane for a minute.

But not the easily-dismissed Don Lane of the magazines. Not the one whose love-life is said to resemble that of Errol Flynn in full flight, or the one who constantly feuds with Bert Newton, leaves Australia for the US, then returns to host yet another talk show.

This other Don Lane needs to be considered more seriously, for he is the one who is Australia’s show-business institution: the one whose face and television program will be seen four nights a week on 66 channels across Australia from Monday.

Because his idiosyncratic formula of chat interspersed with stars and songs will be spearheading the entire Nine Network’s evening line-up, this Don Lane must take a graver approach to the business of being entertaining than those titillating stories would have us believe.

His bid to rate four nights a week, at a time when the airwaves are crammed with talk shows (Peter Couchman in Melbourne and John Singleton in Sydney are constantly chatting) is no casual gamble. Already on his side he has immense past success and Lane, together with the Nine Network, has no intention of slipping from his position.

If it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reasons for his prolonged stay around the top of the ratings, it’s also hard to pinpoint the man himself, despite his extraordinary publicity.

He lives alone in comfortable luxury in Melbourne’s salubrious Brighton. “I’m quite content. I see a couple of ladies, contrary to what you might hear, but really, I’m the ultimate loner.”

He gives nothing away. He seems able to talk relaxedly for hours and never once say a revealing word about himself. He is an expansive man with a healthy ego, yet he can’t resist making fun of himself when the opportunity arises.

He has an enviable suntan. He likes to play tennis. He takes a lot of vitamin pills. He is proud of his house and garden and fond his Alsation dog. And that is about the sum knowledge of the man away from work. People around him say his is kind and charming and genuinely scared of hurting people: “Because television is such a funny familiar medium, people come up to me and start telling me about their families or their husbands’ haemorrhoids, which is weird, but touching, because they forget I’m a stranger and regard me as part of their family.”

He sees the line between his public and private life as an increasingly thin one. “I can be shopping by myself, but when someone comes up and says, ‘are you Don Lane?’ and I say yes, then I’m no longer a private person. I would feel very guilty if I were rude to people who come up to me to talk or ask for my autograph.”

“I’m not kidding when I say it’s a big responsibility.” But it is one he enjoys more than anything else. Despite what people say about the difficulty of keeping up ratings and standards every night, Lane has great confidence in his immediate future. He’s wanted to do his show four nights a week for some time, as has his former producer, Peter Faiman. He’s pleased the network executives have decided to back him, and even more elated that the show is likely to end up being programmed on major US television networks.

“When the show went to air two nights a week, every night was opening night. We really had to bang away at it, promote it really heavily. We could be sitting there talking to someone who’s really good, and just when it got interesting, you’d have to cut them off because the segment was finished.”

“Some nights we’d be so chock-a-bloc we’d have to knock good people back, and other nights we couldn’t get the people we wanted because they weren’t available on the nights we went to air. In the past five years, we’ve done enough hype. We’ve done enough promotion. So what we’re doing with this show is making it nice and easy, a laid-back variety program.”

“Another consideration was the US interest in the show. All the talk shows there are stripped (run every night through the week) and if we break through there, that’s what they want.”

Lane thinks the show will succeed because “people know by now we never lie. We have a certain amount of integrity. We always do honest promotions and I believe that counts.”

Apart from its new laid-back ambience, the basic format of his show remains the same — a preponderance of famous names, local personalities, a few song and dance numbers, and at the centre of it all, Lane. They’ve got a few surprises in store, but Lane shies off revealing them “because other networks will copy them before we even do them.”

“But we’re going to do funny things with cameras. Like we might put a camera in a London phone booth and ring the number to see who answers. Can you imagine? They wouldn’t believe Australia was on the telephone to them. They’d probably never heard of the place.”

He plans to bring in overseas names specifically to appear on the show, and American and European associates are already working from a giant list of possibles. “People in America are really interested in Australia these days.”

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  212. VIOLENCE, TV BAN, DRINK - SINGO SPEAKS HIS MIND
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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