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.”
- Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
- Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
- Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
- Singo and Howard on Compromise
- Singo and Howard on Monopolies
- Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
- Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
- Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
- Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
- Singo and Howard on Drugs!
- Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
- Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
- Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
- Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
- Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
- John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
- John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard on Aborigines
- Singo and Howard on Conservatism
- Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
- Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
- John Singleton changes his name
- Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
- New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
- Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
- Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
- Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
- Singo and Howard on Rights
- Singo and Howard on Crime
- Singo and Howard on Justice
- Singo and Howard on Unemployment
- John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
- Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
- Holed up, hold-up and holdout
- The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
- Workers Party Platform
- Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
- Singo and Howard on Business
- Singo and Howard on Discrimination
- Singo and Howard on the Greens
- Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
- Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
- Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
- Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
- Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
- Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
- The last words of Charles Russell
- Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
- Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
- Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
- Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
- "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
- Introducing the new Workers' Party
- Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
- Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
- Voices of frustration
- Policies of Workers Party
- Party Promises to Abolish Tax
- AAA Tow Truck Co.
- Singo and Howard on Context
- Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
- Singo and Howard on Apathy
- Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
- Singo and Howard on Decency
- John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
- Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
- Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
- The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
- Who's Who in the Workers Party
- Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
- A Farewell to Armchair Critics
- Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
- David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
- David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
- Bludgers need not apply
- New party formed "to slash controls"
- The Workers Party
- Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
- The great consumer protection trick
- The "Workers" speak out
- How the whores pretend to be nuns
- The Workers Party is a Political Party
- Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
- My Journey to Anarchy:
From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
- Workers Party Reunion Intro
- Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
- Singo and Howard on Young People
- Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
- Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
- Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
- Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
- Singo and Howard on Consistency
- Workers Party is born as foe of government
- Political branch formed
- Government seen by new party as evil
- Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
- Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
- Singo and Howard on Licences
- Singo and Howard on Gun Control
- Singo and Howard on Human Nature
- Singo and Howard on Voting
- Singo and Howard on
- Singo and Howard on Education
- Singo and Howard on Qualifications
- Ron Manners on the Workers Party
- Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
- Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
- A happy story about Aborigines
- John Singleton on Political Advertising
- Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
- Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
- How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
- The Discipline of Necessity
- John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
- Libertarians: Radicals on the right
- The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
- Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
- Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
- Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
- The impossible dream
- Why can't I get away with it?
- The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
- Time for progress
- The loonie right implodes
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
- Censorship should be banned
- "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
- John Singleton on Advertising
- John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
- Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
- Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
- John Singleton defends ockerism
- Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
- The Census Con
- Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
- Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
- Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
- John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
- John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
- John Hyde's Progress Party praise
- King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
- Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
- Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
- John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
- Save Parramatta Road
- 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
- Smoking, Health and Freedom
- Singo and Howard on Unions
- Singo and Howard Smash the State
- Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
- Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
- A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
- Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
- Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
- John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
- Thoughts on Land Ownership
- 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
- The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
- The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
- The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
- Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
- The mouse will roar
- Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
- Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
- Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
- Hancock's playing very hard to get
- Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
- Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
- John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
- John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
- Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
- John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
- I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
- Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
- John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
- Singo and Howard on Ballet
- Product innovation comes first
- Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
- A party is born
- Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
- John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
- Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
- Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
- John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
- Counterculture must exclude government handouts
- John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
- John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
- Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
- Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
- Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
- Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
- Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
- Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
- John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
- Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
- John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
- Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
- Return Australia Post to Sender
- Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
- John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
- John Singleton on cigarette advertising
- Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
- John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
- John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
- Gortlam rides again
- Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
- John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
- 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
- Singo asks two prickly questions
- VIOLENCE, TV BAN, DRINK - SINGO SPEAKS HIS MIND
- Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
- Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
- Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
- An Ode to Busybodies
- Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
- How many tits in a tangle?
- Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
- John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
- A speech from the Titanic
- A crime must have a victim
- John Singleton vs Australia Post
- Minimum wages the killer
- Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
- John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
- John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
- John Singleton vs Don Lane
- John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
- John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
- Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
- John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
- Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
- Charity: An Aesop Fable
- Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
- New improved moon
- Announcing people ... YES, people!
- Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
- John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
- Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
- John Singleton schools ad course
- John Singleton: advertising awards
- Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
- John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
- John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare