Reg Whiteman, who was the man who entertained as Fat Cat for several decades, died in Perth on Thursday, aged 82.
Whiteman died in Royal Perth Hospital following poor health.
A founding member of the WA Ballet Company, he worked on TVW’s variety program as one quarter of dance troupe Guys and Dolls, and performed at the opening broadcast of Perth’s Channel 2 in 1960.
He hung up his Fat Cat suit 20 years ago but remained an integral part of Seven and was remembered by colleagues as a “terrific gentleman” who was passionately committed to his feline alter ego.
Telethon executive director John Crilly said, “Reg lived and breathed that character. Presenter Keith Geary, who worked alongside Whiteman, described him as “tough as old boots”, saying he did not shy away from a challenge, whether it be skiing, hot-air ballooning or paragliding in the Fat Cat costume.
“We had to pull him out of the river and wring him out once and I remember another time when we accidentally set him on fire,” he said. “But, with Reg, the show would always go on.”
The character was created by Greg Byrne and his wife Judith in a competition with the prize being $100, but it went on to become a national character including being produced later in Adelaide where Ralf Hadzic played the role. Fat Cat and Friends was written, directed and produced by Murray George for 13 years.
In Perth, the larger-than-life feline continues to send kids to bed every night at 7.30pm.