“TV royalty” branded “squatter” by Today Tonight

Recently our 6:30 shows have featured stories on Young Talent Time, Prisoner, A Country Practice and notoriously, Hey Dad. But last night a classic Australian TV star became an unwilling subject of another story –Number 96‘s screen siren Abigail.

Abigail was Australian television’s first sex symbol, or as TT promos told us, “Television royalty.”

“We discovered the once-glamorous Abigail living as a hermit,” said reporter Jackie Quist.

She is living 300km north of Melbourne “about as far as you can get from the glit and glamour of television.”

An elderly and elusive Abigail was filmed “hidden under a large hat and veil”, perhaps rather like the camera that filmed her surreptitiously when she opened a door at her makeshift home. Abigail appeared to not realise she was being filmed at the time.

The reclusive 70s icon is reportedly living “in squalor” in an abandoned Sunday school hall after her home was devastated by Victorian floods. She lives with husband and actor Adrian Wright.

“Here there’s no power, no bathroom, no hot water,” said Quist.

TT claimed Wright was refusing to leave the church in the small community, but a Uniting Church minister said she had given permission for the couple to stay.

“People in need are in need, and you do what you can for them,” said Barbara Russell.

The minister thought they would stay 2 or 3 weeks but the stay had now extended to 2 months. While the Uniting Church won’t evict them she believes they would be better staying somewhere “more appropriate.”

But Wright was also unwilling to talk to TT, instead filmed from a distance as he yelled abusively at the  intrusion.

The story featured neighbours and locals giving mostly negative quotes about the couple.

Last year TT made a similar story about how Gold Logie winner Rowena Wallace was to become homeless. Wallace had agreed to the interview and it had a happy ending as viewers inundated her with offers of accommodation. The show even got a follow-up story out of it.

In the case of Abigail and Wright, the couple must have wanted to keep their privacy, but Seven was having none of that.  “Where Are They Now?” stories are flavour of the month. Our old TV stars are being uncovered under rocks and swiftly showcased as either golden day heroes or social villains.

It doesn’t matter if you want to participate in the story or not. It doesn’t even matter that you’ve been evicted out of house and home by the forces of mother nature this year. You make good telly.

This was a sad story made even sadder.

UPDATE: McLeod’s Daughters / Hi-5 creator/ producer Posie Graeme-Evans will be sharing more of her thoughts on Abigail’s circumstances on A Current Affair tonight.

48 Comments:

  1. Well done to ACA on their report last night. It set the record straight without any kind of sensationalism and it was nice to see this site featured in their report!

  2. Secret Squïrrel

    Welcome back Lucy and Koverstreet. How refreshing to see you two having a sly crack at Seven, not that they don’t thoroughly deserve it. Were you guys away last week when there were exactly the same type of stories about ACA and Sixty Minutes?

  3. i was sucked into watching this too, and shocked at how this can be legal to be broadcast without consent. it was a nothing story anyway all based around a quick hidden camera shot of an elderly abigail. so what if she wants to live a simple life in the country, it is none of our business and she’s not doing anyone any harm. I am only watching TT lately as I have recently been filmed for an upcoming story.

  4. Like most I’m appauled at TT’s shameful journalism, but unlike most I’m more aware of how bad their current situation is after the floods than the ignorant headline grab the TT story showed. These great past actors have chosen a life of privacy and have gone to reasonable lengths to keep it that way. To have their home and life turned to mud by natures rage and then TT to assassinate their privacy in a covert sting has no doubt taken any dignity that these people may have had. If either of them had of rang TT and offered a story for a fee, Australia would of understood as a way of getting food back on the table, hot water and lights at night. But Mr Wrights anger was justified as a story was about to be broken nationally and their despair was not going to get one red cent. TT’s blooded shame in steeling this great couples dignity should only be washed by offering a financial assistance and the public need to play Judge, Jury and Executioner on this pathetic TV Station. Nothing is free TT, pay for your ratings.!

  5. Chief Squirrel

    What a horrible beat-up the TT story was.

    Besides, I don’t get it… to me she looks like perfectly a lovely lady… Is TT really saying there’s *shame* in a mid-sixty year old lady not having the figure of a mid-twenty year old?

    Had they watched their own story (i.e: Andrew Mercado’s insert that Abigail deserves better) they might have realised how low they are.

    Speaking of bloodsuckers…

    It should also be noted that Abigail didn’t appear “under a veil”. That’s a bog-standard mozzie hat she’s wearing. If she’s answering the door at her flood infested home, then the place is probably swarming with them.

  6. Thanks dear Posie for speaking up!
    Please get more Drama happening soon love!

    People will be surprised by this comment but I have it on good authority that Peter Meakin didnt know this story was going to air.

    Having met Abigail she really is one of the sweetest people who unlike some stars doesnt crave or need to be in the public spotlight 24/7.

  7. What an extremely low point in Australian “journalism”. Such an insult to our intelligence, I can’t believe Seven would not think that the sneaky hidden camera wouldn’t disgust the viewers. As David said, Rowena Wallace was a willing participant in her homeless expose’, but poor Abigail didn’t even know she was being filmed.

  8. it’s been a laugh the way they chased a big story with the hey dad scandal. that interview they did with the niece was shocking. not the stuff she said. the woman interviewing her was terrible. than they tried to find her uncle when 9 already found him. now this stupid story.

  9. Armchair Analyst

    Abigail did look and was hot and sexy back in the 70s. Abigail made a decision to be reclusive nobody forced her to it, its just a sad and devastating that she was one of the many victims of mother natures fury. I dont think that people should persecue anyone who has gone throgh what many people like her have gone through. Today Tonight clearly invaded her and her husbands privacy.

  10. The main problem I have with the story is that it was boring and simply not in the public interest. If Abigail had been using her former fame to cheat the church out of money or if she had way overstayed at the church property without permission, then yes, there may have been a story, and a very spurious and uninteresting one at that. However, early in the broadcast it soon became clear that she was authorised to live on the property as the church admitted it had granted her their permission to be there until her home became habitable. Once TT had confirmation from the church that she had permission to live there, the story should not have proceeded. Instead, they used the opportunity to go the hidden camera route and made it a voyeuristic b*tch session.

  11. @Posie, thank you for sharing what must be an extremely distressing situation for your friend and work colleague. I’m not sure how the producers of TT/ACA can live with themselves as they deliberately set out to harass, intrude on and distort situations that are difficult enough to deal with as they are. These are real people that are being targeted, just like us, who deserve respect, compassion and assistance, not derision and unjustified rancour.

  12. If only I had a few billion dollars left lying around, I could buy channel 7, sharpen my axe and swing it all over and this rubbish show will get the chop immediately. I do not want to own a network full of rubbish. Not only will this get the chop but anything looking like copies will go and so will shows I don’t see worthy of staying.

    Seven seem to be getting worse as the days go on and it makes SBS look a lot better each day. I watch SBS more regularly than Seven including digital channels, moreso during summer when 7 have nothing on! Once upon a time 7 was my number 1 and most of the shows I watched were either axed like Wheel of Fortune or they were so bad to watch and I had to drop them like DWTS and 7 News. This was before Packed To The Rafters came along and before Nine said ” We heart TV”

  13. Who watches this trash? There’s such a thing called Privacy TT! I think Abigail should sue TT for invasion of privacy if they didn’t get her permission.

  14. And no, I didn’t watch the item. Abigail rang me, very distressed – we worked together in the past – and I did what I could to try to reach Peter Meakin y’day and left extensive message with his assistant. My calls were not returned. Funny about that. Posie

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