Secret confessions of a radio station mascot


Hazards at work. They’re everywhere.

But when you’re a radio station mascot, they’re a daily occurrence. Just ask Keith Fowler.

Back in the 1980s, Keith – a highly regarded programming consultant – was the person tasked with wearing the famous Fox suit.

Whether cruising around in a convertible or waterskiing on the Yarra … the Fox FM mascot was a smooth-looking character, regularly featuring on Melbourne TV promos of the time.

Keith tells Radio Today there was no casting involved – he became the Fox FM mascot simply because he fitted into the suit.

“You’d drop about three or four pounds in weight, because it got very hot. It was a bit heavy and it was kind of cumbersome.”

Keith says wearing the Fox suit also came with a strict set of rules.

“You weren’t allowed to take the head off if there were any members of the general public around, and you weren’t allowed talk.”

“I very quickly worked out that I was going to have to kind of use my hands and body to signify things, because I wasn’t allowed to be a talking Fox. I had to be mute.”

Keith says the gender of the Fox mascot was never discussed.

But he’ll never forget the time a couple of young boys decided to find out for themselves.

“The amount of time I got punched in the genitals on purpose by ten year old boys – aiming for that precise spot – it kind of goes on a bit.”

“The eye level of the suit was level with the mouth, so you were looking out through the mouth. That was the only way you could see where to go.”

“The actual head itself was about a foot taller, maybe a foot and a half with the ears. So, it was much taller than I was, physically.”

“But, down below … basically the Fox crotch level and the Keith crotch level was at exactly the same point. Which is a bit of a pity, because if it had been lower, I might have had a far more comfortable existence.”

That was just one of the hazards of the job.

“I remember I tripped up somewhere one day, and I went down. I thought getting up would be easy, but it wasn’t … because the head wasn’t allowed to fall off, so you had all this extra weight on the top half of your body.”

“I was pushing up with my arms, and the Fox head is kind of refusing to move, so there I was … a bit like a turtle on its back.”

A major highlight though, was the day the Fox mascot lined up for a social cricket match against the Mushroom record company’s World 11.

“At that point, Simon O’Donnell was working for us, doing sport. That was the day I discovered just how incredibly motivated he was. He hated to lose at ANYTHING.”

“I batted last, because I was in the Fox suit and nobody thought that was going to amount to much.”

“We needed about 30 or 40 runs (to win). ‘Sod’ rolls over and basically whispers in my ear ‘Stay cool and let’s not ***k this up.’”

“As bowler approached, I could see their arm through the mouth, so I took a swing at where I thought the ball was probably going to land, and there was this nice kind of ‘clack,’ and Simon’s yelling ‘RUN! RUN!’”

“We actually ended up winning the match.”

Today, Keith looks back on the experience with a smile.

“It was a heap of fun, it really was, because people were kind of fascinated, so you got a fair bit of attention,” he says. “The staff thought it was hysterical, because they knew what was going on, so you’re kind of entertaining two audiences.”

“Getting punched in the goolies basically came with the territory.”

The Fox FM mascot also took the form of a popular plush toy during the 1980s.

These days, it’s a sought-after collectable.

Australian radio mascots over the years range from maddeningly cute and cuddly to scary, even downright strange. They include:

3SR’s Sonic Robot:

In the 1980s, Shepparton’s 1260 3SR had a rather odd-looking robot mascot (think Star Wars meets Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz).

Consisting of aluminium, with separate pieces for the legs, torso, arms and head, Sonic Robot was made locally in Shepparton around 1986.

Then-3SR announcer Glenn Holmes had the misfortune of wearing the almost medieval-style suit.

Glenn tells Radio Today “Sonic Robot had a ‘RADIO, radio’ on his chest along with a built-in voice synthesiser in the helmet.”

Just like Keith Fowler, Glenn got the job because he was the only announcer that fitted into the suit.

And a comfortable suit it most certainly was not.

“I actually only wore it once,” Glenn remembers. “It was a 30 degree day, and it was hot!”

“When I was finally released from the beast, I had a massive headache, was dehydrated and had to lie down for a few hours.”

“I did tell our Operations Manager David Watson to get someone else next time!”

Fellow former 3SR announcer Bernie Brittain recalls Holmes wearing the Sonic Robot suit.

“I do remember a kid being scared of it!” he says.

Nova Boy:

Portrayed as cheeky and lovable, Nova Boy continues to be an enduring station mascot, which personifies the Nova brand.

With his distinct appearance and shape, Nova Boy is instantly recognisable and, it would appear, universally liked.

In 2021, Nova’s marketing department told Radio Today “We did some research on him and there was zero negative sentiment about him at all.”

“People either loved him or liked him.”

Alex the Seal:

It’s one of the great misheard song lyrics.

Alex the Seal is also the name of the radio mascot at Geelong’s Bay 93.9FM.

Fuzzy and squishy with a big goofy smile, on a scale of one to ten, Alex ranks eleven on the Cute-O-Meter.

Alex proved a hit with the crowds just recently at the annual Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

KZ Koala:

Another cuddly character, KZ Koala wore a dinky little tiara emblazoned with the 3KZ logo.

KZ Koala Club was a Sunday morning show in 1983, hosted by award winning writer, voice artist and actress Moya O’Shea.

Now based in London, Moya tells Radio Today how she came to land the hosting gig.

“I was working in the Breakfast show at 3KZ when one day, Les Heil, the general manager, called me into his office, telling me that the radio station was rating badly on a Sunday morning and the only thing that wasn’t on Melbourne radio at that time was a kids’ show.”

“Therefore it had been decided that I would create one!  It was to be called the KZ Koala Club and somehow the koala was to feature in the show. The rest was up to me. Oh, and they’d had koala suit made so it could make public appearances.”

“I basically had a blank slate and had to fill an hour every Sunday morning. I wrote produced and hosted the show and also provided the voice of KZ Koala which was a weird series of recorded happy/sad/pensive/bored/angry burbles that the clever production guys would play in as required. The whole show was pre-corded during the week.”

“Each show had a plot line and there were jokes and contests and always a story at the end. We used a lot of old Warner Bros and Hanna-Barbera records as 3KZ had a brilliant record library with some crazy stuff in it.”

“If the competition had a good prize, we got a full bag of mail on a Monday and Tuesday morning – KZ Koala got more mail than anyone else on air. One time a child kindly sent him some gum leaves and I mentioned this in the show and from then on we got masses of gum leaves every week and the mailbag stank of eucalyptus.”

“KZ Koala and I appeared at Moomba and in different events around Melbourne but the most wonderful thing we did together was to go and entertain the children up in Mount Macedon after the Ash Wednesday bushfires. To see the devastation as we drove up the mountain was heartbreaking. The kids had lost everything but they were so good hearted and we (me and the actor in the koala suit!) were incredibly moved by their welcome.”

The KZ Koala Club was so successful that after a year it went from a one hour on a Sunday morning to two, which meant Moya had twice as much work to do

“KZ Koala didn’t even open his own mail,” she says.

Rockin’ Roo:

A few years after its launch, Brisbane’s 4MMM adopted a new on-air branding – FM104, featuring the guitar-strumming Rockin’ Roo.

The Rockin’ Roo was also featured at Geelong’s K rock during the nineties.

Rickety Kate

And just when you thought you’d seen everything … we have Rickety Kate, a mascot used during Test cricket broadcasts by Melbourne radio station 3DB from the 1930s through to the 1950s.

Kate was a doll made from black velvet fabric with red wool hair and a grass skirt.

She had light globes for eyes, which lit up whenever a wicket fell.

When 3DB began broadcasting the Test cricket results from England, fans would form a live studio audience, following the event throughout the night.

During these broadcasts, those in the studio audience would take their cue from Rickety Kate.

When a wicket was taken and Kate’s eyes lit up electronically, the audience would sing the special Rickety Kate theme song to give the cricket commentators time to grab the details coming through on cables.

Do you have a great radio mascot memory? We’d love to hear it.

*Fox FM mascot photos courtesy of Nigel Haines

*KZ Koala mascot photos courtesy of Moya O’Shea

*3SR Sonic Robot photo credit: Shepparton Times

*Rickety Kate photo credit: Arts Centre Melbourne Australian Performing Arts Collection

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1 Feb 2024 - 6:54 pm

Sorry, I have no photos, however 3LK Horsham had 2 mascots in the early ‘70s, ‘Funny Barrel’ and ‘Walter The Worm’. I had a brief stint as ‘Funny Barrel’ on the stage of Horsham Theatre’ on one occasion. Unfortunately, the tap on the face of ‘Funny Barrel’ lined up with your very limited vision. One, hot afternoon I misjudged my footing to the edge of the stage and fell ‘ a over t’ off the stage. I’m sure the audience thought it was part of the act ! Never again did I don that bloody suit.


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