And the Logie goes to … radio hosts who give acting a crack


Does the movie Houseboat Horror ring a bell?

Described on its VHS video cover as ‘A new wave of blood gushing suspense,’ it was widely considered by critics to be one of the worst Australian films ever made.

And radio announcer and former Countdown host Gavin Wood – who played DJ Jimmy Costello in the 1980s slasher flick – loved every minute of it.

Houseboat Horror was the scene of Wood’s acting debut, which required him to make a couple of weekend trips to Victoria’s Lake Eildon for filming.

Wood tells Radio Today the movie is so bad, it has its own cult following.

“It was just a fun thing to do on weekends. We just had fun. We fell over a lot. And we laughed a lot.”

It was also a good distraction.

“When you’re doing Breakfast radio, you work Monday to Friday and by midday, you’re stuffed. But on the weekends – driving up to Eildon was good! Stay in a houseboat on the Saturday night, come back on Sunday afternoon.”

Wood says Houseboat Horror cost just ten thousand dollars to make.

“That paid for the beer.”

Wood had no intention of pursuing an acting career.

“I take my hat off to actors. Anyone who can interpret a script and do it convincingly – it’s a gift. I was never an actor and never claimed to be an actor.”

“The beauty of it was that we all worked for nothing and we just had a bag of fun.”

Wood’s family didn’t share his enthusiasm.

“My niece said ‘When does Uncle Gavin die? This is really boring.’”

Wood is just one of a number of high profile radio announcers to display their acting chops over the years.

John Laws showed off both his acting and musical talents when he appeared in an episode of the beloved children’s TV show Skippy.

The Sydney talkback radio king played Jack Jamieson, a slick operator selling blocks of land in Waratah National Park.

‘Honest Jack’ even tries to sell off Ranger Headquarters as the ideal home.

Laws performed his own rendition of the ballad The Wild Colonial Boy in the episode, which went to air in 1970.

Laws wasn’t the only radio announcer to grace the Skippy set.

Jack Hume – former ABC radio presenter the first male announcer on Adelaide’s 5DN – appeared in the feature film Skippy and the Intruders.

Hume also had roles in the Australian films Dust In The Sun and The Sundowners.

Former 3AK and 3AW announcer John Blackman found himself parachuted into the ‘paradise’ known as Holiday Island to make his acting debut.

Blackman played bumbling advertising rep Russell Parker in the 80s TV drama.

Whilst Holiday Island was based on a sun-drenched fictitious island resort in Queensland’s Whitsundays, the bulk of the show was shot at Melbourne’s Nunawading studios – often in the dead of winter.

Blackman remembers the actors would suck on ice to disguise the steam on their breath, doing their best not to shiver as they delivered their lines.

Of his audition for the part, Blackman once said “I bumbled and fumbled and mumbled my way through it, and of course, the inevitable happened: Someone said ‘Perfect! You’re the ideal Russell Parker.’”

Jane Kennedy – who most recently co-hosted Triple M’s former national Drive show Kennedy Molloy – started her radio journey as a newsreader at Melbourne’s 3UZ.

Later, she moved to Triple M, presenting news for the top-rating Kevin Hillier and the D-Generation Breakfast show.

Becoming an integral member of the D-Gen team and Working Dog Productions, Kennedy would go on to play the ambitious, publicity-hungry current affairs reporter Brooke Vandenberg in the hit TV series  Frontline.

And blink and you’ll miss him, but did you know Graham Kennedy was an extra in the 1959 movie On The Beach?

Kennedy’s foray from radio announcing into acting started with a very minor role in the post-apocalyptic science fiction film starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, which was shot in Melbourne.

Kennedy appeared briefly in a nightclub scene.

The Australian entertainment legend went on to play Clive Parker in an episode of the ABC TV drama Power Without Glory.

He also acted in more films, including Don’s Party and The Odd Angry Shot.

The transition from radio announcing to acting was never a stretch for Kennedy.

He once told an interviewer “From the age of 17 when I first went into radio, I acted.”

“I believe I’ve always been an actor.”

*John Laws photo credit: Australian Television Information Archive

*Jack Hume photo credit: State Library of South Australia

*Houseboat Horror is set to be re-released in digital format in June this year.

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