Vale: Don Lane

Showbiz legend Don Lane, known affectionately as the "Lanky Yank," has died following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Bert Newton & Don LaneShowbiz legend Don Lane has died, aged 75.

His manager Jayne Ambrose said Lane passed away this morning.

He had been living in a nursing home in Melbourne and was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Along with Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton, he will be remembered as part of a trio of legendary TV stars from the 1970s and 80s who ruled the airways when variety shows drew millions of viewers each week.

Lane arrived in Australia in the mid ’60s after being spotted working in Hawaii by Channel Nine producer John Collins. He hosted shows including as The Tonight Show, Tonight with Don Lane and Sydney Tonight, which included his appearance in the now-famous coaxial split with Graham Kennedy in Melbourne.

But it was his 1975 run at GTV9 in Melbourne on The Don Lane Show for which he is best remembered. His live “Tonight” show ran for close to two hours, two nights a week with Lane moving between opening monologue, interviews, and musical numbers. It attracted A-List stars with regular appearances by Sammy Davis Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Robin Williams, Billy Connelly, Dame Edna, Tony Curtis, Peter Sellers, Phyllis Diller, Liza Minnelli, ABBA, The Village People and a cavalcade of Hollywood names.

But it was Don and Bert, that viewers loved most. The rapport between the two performers was television magic. Newton’s “wheel” segment would frequently extend beyond the realms of live television scheduling delivering hilarious, spontaneous comedy. Lane was the perfect straight man to Newton, for a show that ran until 1983.

Lane’s on-air attack on James Randi, who had criticised Lane-show favourite psychic Doris Stokes, remains one of television’s greatest stoushes.

Known affectionately to all as the “Lanky Yank” during this glory period, he was also a daily guest on Bert Newton’s radio show in Melbourne on 3UZ.

After the end of The Don Lane Show he moved back to the United States for two years, before hosting You’ve Got to Be Joking, Late Night Australia and 1987’s Logie Awards. In 2003 he was inducted into the Logies Hall of Fame.

An avid basketball fan, he also commentated NCAA basketball for the ABC and NBL on Foxtel.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2005 and moved into a care facility in 2008.

Bert Newton today paid tribute to his colleague.

“Don was a very important influence in my life – both as an entertainer and a friend. He was the most generous performer I have ever worked with, always happy to share the camera and the comedy.

“Before Don and I worked together on The Don Lane Show, we had actually never met. Our friendship began on camera and lasted for more than 30 years. Australian television and, in particular, variety television, owe so much to Don. He gave it new life and his show became one of the most prestigious and important programs in history.

“My memories today are of an outstanding performer and a friend I loved very much.”

Nine CEO David Gyngell said, “Today Australia lost one of its finest all-round entertainers. Don Lane was a stalwart of the industry and a great mate to so many of us here at Nine.

“While Don may have passed, the memories and the laughs he provided will remain with us for many years to come.

“Our deepest condolences are conveyed to Jayne Ambrose, PJ and Don’s extended family.”

A funeral will be held on Friday with a public memorial to be announced.

….we love your faces.

Nine has announced A Tribute to Don Lane to air at 8:30pm tonight in place of CSI.

This post updates.

30 Responses

  1. Very sad news.
    My deepest condolences to his family, friends & fans.
    We grew up watching “The Don Lane Show”.
    He was a true showman,
    and from what I’ve heard a true ‘Gentlemen’.

    He will be sadly missed.
    We are honored he chose Australia to live.

    Thanks for the memories, Don.
    You’ll always be a Legend to us.

  2. I never missed The Don Lane Show, even though I was quite young. I used to have the biggest crush on him. So funny when I think about it now, old enough to be my dad.
    Another great gone, but not forgotten.
    RIP Don..

  3. I best remember Don Lane for his hosting of NFL (American football) highlights on ABC on Tuesday nights in the early 1990s. It was only years later I heard of the legendary Don Lane Show.
    Will be interesting to see how his death is reported in the US.
    A true showbiz legend. RIP

  4. Looking forward to a Gin and Tonic dearest Don its been to long!!
    But seriously, earth has lost one of the most generous and loving entertainers…
    my thought and prayers to Jane and P.J

  5. Don Lane was a great performer and a true legend.

    The Don Lane Show was groundbreaking and paved the way for many artists to gain national exposure.

    His teaming with Bert was legendary and hilarious – there’ll never be another match like it.

    And there’ll never be another Don – RIP mate, thanks for making me laugh.

  6. Thanks for posting this, despite the sadness of it – I had a couple of tears watching a channel 9 news update relaying the news that Don had died. My childhood and adolescence and young adulthood were paralleled by his greatest period on Australian screens. Don was Mr Showbiz – big on charm, attitude, heart and charisma. He gave a generation of aussies variety with a capital V. I clapped eyes on him at the ABC canteen several years ago, and his presence and star quality very much in abundance. He gave much joy. He will be missed.

  7. Just terrible news, I was lucky enough to meet and interview Don a few years ago, he still had it, Cracking jokes and talking about the current state of television.

    Ah terrible terrible news, condolences to his family and friends.

    Even though I’m only 32 I still remember watching some of the Don Lane Show as a kid and thinking he was the coolest guy, and when they bought out the DVD Best of, I couldn’t watch it enough, he truly was one of a kind.

    RIP, we have lost a legend.

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