Once “too gay” for TV, Mark Trevorrow makes his debut in Kid’s TV.

As one of two dads to koala Frizzy in Kangaroo Beach, Mark Trevorrow is pleased to see change is now mainstream.

It’s taken him four decades, but Mark Trevorrow is finally making his debut in children’s television on ABC Kids’ Kangaroo Beach.

Trevorrow, best known for his inimitable Bob Downe creation, is the voice of koala popstar Russell, joining Rupert Degas as one of two dads to Frizzy (Eliza Hynes).

In the double episode season finale, the cadets are super-excited to welcome their parents but when they fail to listen to a water safety demonstration the trainee lifeguards are faced with their biggest emergency yet.

“I love how the parents are such a bunch of nincompoops,” Trevorrow tells TV Tonight.

“Russell’s an aspiring pop star. I don’t know if he is actually a star. I think he might have once appeared on Countdown with a very minor hit.

“What I love about the show is that it’s co-produced by Lifesaving Australia. So all the stuff about safety at the beach is just so incredibly spot on. Each episode gets 2 million views. It’s actually is the second highest rating kid’s show they’ve got after Bluey.”

Although Kangaroo Beach marks his first kid’s TV show, Trevorrow is no stranger to performing for family audiences, as his alter-ego, Bob Downe.

“Little kids just adore Bob, because he’s just a silly clown,” he explains.

“I have shows where people bring their babies. Like, literally like nine month old babies that sit on the floor, looking up, spellbound for the entire time. I’m big with pre-schoolers.”

Yet the irony is not lost on Trevorrow that while Russell is just one of several parents, for many years as a gay performer, he struggled to get work on Australian television.

“Bob Downe’s character is 40 years old next year. There wasn’t even a scenario for a six foot two, skinny poofy boy. They were the days when you were told not to be too gay, by gay directors, producers and gay agents. It was f***ed!” he recalls.

“But now here’s a gay man being cast as a gay dad in a preschool animated TV show. Things have really, really changed in the most profound and wonderful way.”

“The audience hated me. The crew hated me”

While he was successfully performing in cabaret as Bob Downe, television was not always kind, as he remembers in one appearance on Hey Hey it’s Saturday in 1987.

“The audience hated me. The crew hated me. Everybody hated me,” he recalls.

“I was introduced to Donny Osmond in the corridor at Channel Nine in Bendigo Street in Richmond. He was on his comeback then with that leather outfit, that ‘Soldier of Fortune’ look. I was in costume and Donny looked me up down and withdrew his hand. He refused to shake my hand. It was just humiliating.”

He adds, “They weren’t in a hurry to book me again.”

Of course while Bob Downe was never truly out back then, he still caused ripples.

“He was kind of a closety, showbiz queen. That’s the only way you could play it,” he agrees.

“It was quite sly really. Everybody knew it was a gay man doing it. But slowly as the years went on I just did more and more and now it’s just me. Bob is me with a wig on, which I love.”

In 1988 Trevorrow had to get himself to Edinburgh after he was overlooked to appear in an ‘OzNost’ comedy showcase alongside Gina Riley, Wendy Harmer and Magda Szubanski, despite it being organised by former Last Laugh management, where he was selling out stage shows.

“I wasn’t included in the group because I wasn’t considered good enough. What other reason could there possibly be, than homophobia? My mum and dad were so outraged they gave me the money to go. I went and blasted them all out of the water. I had complete acceptance from television people right from my very first Edinburgh show. I did much more TV work in the UK back then, than I ever did in Australia.”

In the UK he would go on to host his own shows, Bob Downe All Over Britain, late night show Bob Downe Under on LWT, The Bob Downe Special for ITV plus regular apearances on Viva Cabaret with the Doug Anthony All Stars Stars and Lily Savage.

His own Australian TV shows would not come until he returned home.

“The first thing I had on my own here was the Foxtel series The Bob Downe Show in 1999-2000 and a pop culture history show The Way We Were presenting as me on the ABC. And then another show on 10 called Fabulous, Famous and Forgotten,” he says.

“And a show on Foxtel I did with Denise Drysdale called Karaoke-doakey.

“There was instant acceptance from British television”

“There was instant acceptance from British television at a time when I couldn’t get arrested on Australian TV.”

Trevorrow continues to perform around the country in a string of shows including Viva Bob Vegas, Jazzy, P&O cruises, Singing Straight and Adelaide Tonight returning to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival with TV industry doyenne Anne Wills.

Even though such casting was taboo during his early years, he welcomes Kangaroo Beach‘s approach to diverse families simply as part of its wider storytelling.

“They want it to be shown as just another part of the diversity of contemporary Australia”

“That’s what they want. They want it to be shown as just another part of the diversity of contemporary Australia,” he explains.

“You start off being a pioneering gay entertainer and then it becomes mainstream. And now I don’t get any jobs because Joel Creasey’s getting all the work that I should get!”

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if Trevorrow is speaking seriously or with a twinkle in his eye.

“Said dripping with contempt! He’s fabulous. Rhys Nicholson – they’re all fabulous. But now of course, I’m too old. It’s hilarious.

“It’s so ironic. I couldn’t get a job back then because I was too gay. Now I can’t get a job because I’m too old, but gay is not a problem!

“How ironic is that?”

Kangaroo Beach finale airs Sunday 14 May, 5.05pm on ABC Kids


10 Responses

  1. Thanks for the ink David! I mustn’t have had my brekky yet. Hangry! 🙂 haha …however there’s an error which I need to correct: In 1988 when the Oznost group of Melbourne comics went to Edinburgh, it was comedy guru John Pinder who decided I wasn’t good enough to go, not my darling champions, siblings Rick McKenna & Mary Tobin, who had bought the Last Laugh from Pinder in 1987! Credit where it’s due – including to my beloved late parents who were so outraged that they gave me the airfare to go – and to Richard Fidler who arranged my breakthrough debut UK gigs at the Fringe!

  2. Always reminded of this clip from Good Morning Melbourne from 1988, Bob Downe and Coralee Hollow (Gina Riley) and Good Morning Murwillumbah.


    Interesting too to see him interviewed on One plus One a while back.

  3. He did some great promos for Nick at Nite back in the 90s too. Especially for the Mary Tyler Moore Show “Marython” as well as some TV theme sing-a-longs as Bob Down.

  4. Good to see the diversity in children’s television shows which is way ahead of other Australian dramas. But they have to be careful not to become a cliche. We have already seen a daughter with two dads in Handball, Turn Up The Volume and now Kangaroo Beach. Not many other combos though.

  5. I admit I’m a Mark/Bob Downe tragic…I just love him, his talent, versatility and humour. I still watch him on YouTube. My favourites are the Ice Ballet with Lily Savage, singing Craclin Rosie with Paul McDermott, (what a duet they were) and the character Darryl Lee (not the chocolate brand) on K&K. Is there nothing Mark cannot do. He’s bought joy both on and off screen and I totally agree he is a Nation Treasure. It’s just so wrong that he had to leave the country because of the bigotry surrounding gay people when all that was need was people educating themselves, understanding and acceptance and unfortunately the struggle is still continuing today for some people. Love you Mark❤️

  6. I don’t know how they survived. So many were just almost always the objects of ridicule in every appearance or seen to be dying of AIDS. Such a narrow depiction and so damaging. Glad things have changed.

  7. Great interview, some fascinating insights about Aussie TV once treated gay performers.
    How outrageous that Mark had to go to the UK to get work.

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