Albert Watson Newton, AM, MBE (born on 23 July 1938), is an Australian media personality. He is a Logie Hall of Fame inductee, quadruple Gold Logie award-winning entertainer and radio, theatre and television personality/presenter. Newton has hosted the Logie Awards ceremony on numerous occasions through his career. He is known for his collaborations with Graham Kennedy and Don Lane.
Newton in 2013
Albert Watson Newton
23 July 1938
Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia
Newton started in radio broadcasting, before becoming a star and fixture of Australian television since its inception in 1956, and is considered both an industry pioneer, icon and one of the longest-serving television performers in the world. Newton is known for his association with both the Nine Network and Ten Network, in numerous shows including: In Melbourne Tonight, New Faces, Good Morning Australia, 20 to 1 and Bert's Family Feud.
In 2018, he was honoured by Australia Post, along with Ray Martin, Denise Drysdale, Daryl Somers and Kerri-Anne Kennerley, by having his portrait featured on a series of stamps, honouring "The Legends of Television" Newton's wife is singer and television personality Patti Newton (formerly McGrath). Their two children are Australian actor Matthew Newton and television personality Lauren Newton.
Newton was born in Fitzroy, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia. He had three brothers (Tom, Jack and Bob) and a sister (Alice). He was educated at St Joseph's Marist Brothers Roman Catholic college. In his early years he had thoughts of entering the priesthood and is still an active Roman Catholic.
Newton's first paid radio appearance was as a schoolboy on Melbourne radio station 3XY on 10 June 1952, doing advertisements dressed as a clown with Doug McKenzie, later to become "Zag" in Zig and Zag.
"... there was a radio program on 3XY Melbourne called Scouting Around, compered by the late Tom Jones. One week the broadcast was recorded at our Scout Hall, and as the direct result of this, I began to appear on 3XY."
This led to regular appearances on a Saturday morning children's show, in which he worked with Stan Rofe and McKenzie.
In May 1954, 3XY employed him as a junior announcer (aged 15); by 1955 he was presenting Melbourne Speaks, a vox pop program recorded on the streets of Melbourne's CBD.
After GTV-9 purchased 3AK in April 1961, all GTV-9 personalities were expected to present programs on 3AK. Graham Kennedy and Newton hosted a two-hour morning program.
Early television career
Newton began his television career at Melbourne's HSV-7, hosting The Late Show. For several years Newton worked with former manager Mason Jarrett whilst trying to find work on numerous television stations.
Newton left HSV-7 and went to GTV-9 in early 1959 to host a daytime television program In Melbourne Today. After appearing in a live commercial on In Melbourne Tonight with his friend Graham Kennedy at Easter 1959, he began to make regular appearances on the show and assumed hosting duties on some episodes. This began a lifelong association with Kennedy.
In 1959–1960 he hosted The Bert Newton Show (later re-titled Hi-Fi Club) on GTV-9, a series aimed at teenagers.
In 1960 and 1961, Newton, along with Graham Kennedy, appeared in the national Graham Kennedy's Channel 9 Show (a one-night-a-week national version of IMT). In January 1962, the show was cancelled and replaced by the similar The Channel 9 Show, hosted by Newton.
Television career 1975 to mid-1992
Newton mainly appeared on the Nine Network in these years. He appeared on:
- The Don Lane Show: Starting in 1975, Don Lane hosted his own variety show, The Don Lane Show, on Channel 9. Newton was cast in the role of sidekick and "barrel boy". Newton was dubbed "Moonface" on the show, and the nickname stuck. On the show Newton would frequently appear in outlandish costumes, often sending up celebrities. One of the most memorable events on the show was when Newton sent-up Demis Roussos, and Roussos was sent on to the set while Newton was doing the impersonation. Newton remained on the show until it ended in 1983.
- The Bert Newton Show: Newton briefly hosted his own program, The Bert Newton Show, recorded in Sydney for the ABC. It was not a success, and he returned to working with Kennedy.
- New Faces: In 1976, Newton replaced long-running compere Frank Wilson on the Nine Network's amateur talent program New Faces. The show was a success, and lasted until 1985. In 1992, Newton hosted another version of New Faces; however, it did not last for long.
- Ford Superquiz: In 1981, Newton (and wife Patti) presented a quiz show, Ford Superquiz, produced by the Reg Grundy organisation for the Nine Network.
- Tonight With Bert Newton: Tonight With Bert Newton, for the Nine Network, was a short-lived attempt to bring back the spirit of IMT. It aired in 1984.
- The Bert Newton Show: This was done for the Seven Network in 1989 as an attempt to woo some of the audience away from The Midday Show with Ray Martin. This, however, didn't work and was only on air for that year. It started out lasting one hour with a soapie following it called The Power, The Passion (which was an early role for Julian McMahon) but when that got axed the show was expanded to an hour and a half.
Move to Network Ten (1992–2005)
From mid-1992 until 2005, Newton appeared on Channel Ten as host of Good Morning Australia
- Good Morning Australia: In 1992 Newton moved into daytime television as host of The Morning Show, which soon changed title to Good Morning Australia (GMA) on Network Ten. The show revived Newton's celebrity status and was a continuing success for Ten. GMA was a mix of interviews, music, cooking segments featuring Newton's floor manager Robert Mascara, aka "Belvedere", doing the popular taste tests and innuendo which was primarily ad-libbed. Much of the screen time was dedicated to infomercials. Unusually for television, the show was broadcast live-to-air on Mondays and Tuesdays but for the rest of the week live-to-tape (recorded complete and aired later).
In October 2005, Network Ten announced that the program would be cancelled at the end of the year after a 14-year run. Although Newton was offered ongoing employment at Network Ten, he stated that he would return to the Nine Network in 2006.
Return to the Nine Network (2006–2012)
After finishing on Network Ten's Good Morning Australia in late 2005, Newton returned to the Nine Network in early 2006. He appeared on:
- Bert's Family Feud: In 2006, Newton returned to the Nine Network and hosted Bert's Family Feud, a revised version of Family Feud in 2006 and until cancelled on 8 May 2007.
- 20 to 1: From 2006 until 2011, Newton hosted 20 to 1 taking over from Bud Tingwell.
- What a Year: In 2007, Newton hosted retrospective program What a Year with comedian Julia Zemiro, replacing previous hosts Mike Munro and Megan Gale which took a light-hearted look at significant events from a chosen year in history.
- Millionaire Hot Seat: On 14 August 2012, Newton appeared as a celebrity contestant on Millionaire Hot Seat and won $5,000 for charity Sids & Kids.
In October 2008, it was announced that he would be taking over the role of The Wizard in the Melbourne production of the musical Wicked, after the sudden death of Rob Guest. He played his first performance on 12 November 2008. The production closed on 9 August 2009 and transferred to Sydney from 12 September 2009. Newton continued to play the role on the national tour, which began in January 2011, opposite Lucy Durack as Glinda, Jemma Rix as Elphaba, David Harris as Fiyero and Maggie Kirkpatrick as Madame Morrible. In 2011 he was part of the Australian cast performing Wicked in Singapore. Altogether Newton had a three-year run in this show.
In March 2013 it was announced that Newton would be returning to the stage in producer John Frost's production of Grease The Musical which commenced in August 2013. Newton played disc jockey Vince Fontaine.
Newton played the Narrator in the 2015 Australian production of The Rocky Horror Show.
Newton has appeared in several movies including:-
- Doctors & Nurses (1981) as Mr Cody
- Fatty Finn (1980) as Mr Finn
- The Wannabes (2003) as himself
- Remembering Nigel (2007) as The Agent
Newton published an autobiography, Bert!: Bert Newton's Own Story, in 1979.
Newton has been a part of the Logie Awards since the awards started in 1959. He has been nominated for many Logie Awards and has won several:
- Four Gold Logies: 1979, 1981, 1982, 1984 (for his roles in The Don Lane Show and New Faces)
- Hall of Fame: 1988
- Three 'Best Compere' awards: 1972, 1973, 1974 (for his role in In Melbourne Tonight and The Graham Kennedy Show)
- Gold Logie: 1978 (for The Don Lane Show); 1983 (for The Don Lane Show and New Faces), 2006 (for Good Morning Australia) and 2007 (for 20 to 1 and Bert's Family Feud).
- Most Popular Light Entertainment Personality: 1993 (for his role in Good Morning Australia)
Newton has also hosted the Logies (1968–1980, 1982, 1984, 1989, 1993 and 2010, and co-host in 2006). He holds the record for both the most Logies hosted and the most Logies hosted in a continuous run. Some notable moments of his hosting include:
- At the 1979 Logies awards Newton said to Muhammad Ali "I like the boy", not knowing that "boy" could be taken as a racial slur. Ali responded "Did he call me Roy?" and members of the audience, including Don Lane, shouted to Newton to say "Yes, Roy". Newton looked puzzled and later explained to the media that he did not realise that "boy" was used as a racial slur. Ali at least realised Newton's use was unintended and they kissed and made up. Newton also made light of the incident by saying: "I'll change my name, my religion ... anything.", referring to Ali's change of name from Cassius Clay when he adopted Islam in 1964.
- In 1973, American actor Michael Cole, best known for his role in the TV series The Mod Squad, accepted an award while obviously drunk and ended his barely coherent thank-you speech with the word "shit", to which Newton, after a classic pause, merely added 'congratulations'.
- In 2006, after the awards, he had a fall and injured himself. The injury was visible for a number of Bert's Family Feud episodes.
Honours and awards
On 12 June 2006 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to the entertainment industry as a presenter, actor, comedian, and through support for a range of medical research and charitable organisations".
Newton was the first Melbourne-born King of Moomba in 1978.
"For Bert" was written by GTV-9's musical director Brian Rangott. The lyrics include:
- Everything I do,
- I do for Bert –
- Some may think Bert's not much,
- But they like his gentle touch –
- Everything I do,
- I do for Bert!
In 1997 Newton was the subject of a This Is Your Life tribute. His wife Patti was honoured with her own tribute in 2001.
The Best of Bert Newton was aired in 2002. Channel Nine Salutes Bert Newton was broadcast in early 2004, depicting the career of Newton from his earliest days.
In 2001 he was awarded the Centenary Medal.
Show business awards include a Mo Award (1997), a Television Society of Australia award (1981 and 1983), three Penguin Citations and three Pater (Professional Excellence in Television and Radio Arts and Sciences) awards for radio.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of television in Australia, Channel 9 ran a show titled 50 Years, 50 Stars, where they looked back at the Top 50 stars of Australian television. Bert Newton was listed as the No. 1 Australian TV star of the past 50 years.
On 23 July 2008, Channel 9 marked Newton's 70th birthday with a star-studded one-hour special of This Is Your Life hosted by Mike Munro.
Newton was reputed to have lived at home with his mother until the age of 36, prompting widespread gossip that he was gay. In 1974 he married Patti McGrath, a co-worker. The Newtons have a son, Matthew, and a daughter, Lauren. Matthew Newton is an actor and has appeared in a number of Australian films and television dramas. Lauren Newton married swimmer Matt Welsh.
Having suffered a bout of pneumonia, Bert Newton was admitted to hospital and then later discharged.
- Newton, Bert (1977). Bert! Bert Newton's Own Story. Toorak, Victoria, Australia: Garry Sparkes & Associates. ISBN 0-908081-24-3.
- Blundell, Graeme (2003). King: the life and comedy of Graham Kennedy. Sydney: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 0-7329-1165-6.
- Lane, Don (2007). The Don Lane story. Frenchs Forest, NSW: New Holland Publishers.
- "Stamp Issues".
- Bert Newton: 50 years on TV. TelevisionAU 7 July 2007 | Retrieved 30 March 2013
- Blundell, Graeme (2003). King: The Life and Comedy of Graham Kennedy. Sydney: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 0-7329-1165-6.
- Blundell, Graeme: op. cit., p. 169.
- Blundell, Graeme: op. cit., p. 232.
- "The cult of Bert", Sydney Morning Herald, 23 October 2002.
- "Bert still has the passion". Sydney Morning Herald. 13 August 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
- Vickery, Colin; Devlyn, Darren (4 September 2009). "Channel Nine stars' salaries to be slashed". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 5 September 2009.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Bert Newton shines on in Annie", Herald Sun, 24 July 2012, retrieved 30 March 2013.]
- "Bert Newton returning to stage for Grease after heart surgery", The Australian, 25 March 2013, retrieved 30 March 2013.
- Trove website.
- Video on YouTube
- Gardnier, Stephanie (29 January 2012). "The social kiss: plain cheek or what?". The Age. Fairfax. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
- Blundell, Graham (2014). Bert (First ed.). Sydney: Hachette Australia. p. 165. ISBN 9780733631641.
- It's an Honour – Member of the Order of the British Empire
- "Australian Government It's an Honour website". Retrieved 18 December 2007.
- "Governor General of Australia website – Order of Australia (AM) award" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 February 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2007.
- Craig Bellamy, Gordon Chisholm, Hilary Eriksen (17 February 2006) Moomba: A festival for the people.: "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) PDF pp 17–22
- "Bert Newton named Victorian of the Year". AAP. 1 July 2008.
- "Bert Newton Media Man Australia". www.mediaman.com.au. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
- "Back to Bert". www.theage.com.au. 30 May 2002. Retrieved 30 May 2002.
- "Bert Newton undergoes major heart surgery". Sydney Morning Herald. 24 November 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
- Camp Quality (2007). Laugh Even Louder!. Gosford, New South Wales: Scholastic Australia Pty Limited. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-74169-022-4.
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