Denise Drysdale: “You name it. I’ve done it.”

Crazy costumes, hanging upside down in a straightjacket, diving into pools -Denise Drysdale's wild ride through television history isn't done yet.

In Part II of a special career interview with Denise Drysdale, she looks at back at her last 35 years in showbiz.

In 1989, having worked with some of Nine’s biggest TV names, Denise Drysdale was invited onto Hey Hey it’s Saturday, to replace Jacki MacDonald.

She would stay with the show for just over a year, yet while press stories swirled around behind the scenes friction, Drysdale only had good things to say about her time with the show when speaking with TV Tonight.

“I loved doing Hey Hey,” she said. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had a lot of fun. The audience just loved it. It gave me the exposure that I needed for another five years -national television on an enormously-rated show, that was fun and games, all these wonderful people on it.

“I still reckon one year on television equals three in the clubs!”

By 1996 she joined Frank Holden on a new version of In Melbourne Tonight, an ambitious reboot of the Nine variety series which had made Graham Kennedy a star.

It was suggested the show needed someone ‘like Denise Drysdale.’

“Tim Ferguson said, ‘Why can’t we have her?’ That’s how it happened. IMT with Frank Holden was good fun because I really was allowed to do anything. I hung upside down in a straightjacket. You name it. I’ve done it.”

But it was Programmer Gary Rice who lured her to Seven for her own daytime show, Denise, including with a fresh new TV face as her sidekick: Lawrence Mooney.

“He was very young, I think we made him get married to his first wife. They did Denise in the afternoon first and it didn’t work and then they moved it to mornings. I think Rove did the warm up.”

Denise ran for 4 years on Seven, which she acknowledges as a personally risky move departing from Nine.

In 2010 she would return to 10, where she had featured on Kommotion in the 1960s, for a new breakfast TV series, The Circle.

“(Executive Producer) Pam Barnes got in touch with me and said ‘We’re thinking of doing a new show,’ so I said ‘Do you want you want me to do the advertorials?’ But she said, ‘No, no, we want you to be part of the panel’. So I was thrilled again.”

Drysdale left the show after two years seeking a break in her work-life balance, following the birth of a grandson, but continued to perform with Ernie Sigley in clubs, for audiences large or small.

“There’s no such thing as a bad audience. If I hear somebody say, ‘Oh, they’re not good,’ then you haven’t worked hard enough. There’s no such thing as a bad audience. You’ve just got to work that much harder.”

Alas, there are no happy memories around her brief appearance in Seven diving show Celebrity Splash in 2013.

“I thought it was a swimming show. In the back of my head, I’m thinking, ‘I can’t swim but they’ll teach me to swim, it’ll be fabulous,” she continues.

“First day of training, the producer said, ‘Show me what you can do.’ …so I did a dog paddle and said, ‘That’s it!’

“On the day I climbed up to the five metre (diving board) and I did a pin drop, which isn’t even a dive, and I got through! The producer says, ‘Well, what have you got for next week?’ And I said ‘You got what I had.'”

She would subsequently bow out of the show due to injury. Her acting was so good it led to a role as Ginger in the Josh Thomas comedy Please Like Me in 2014. While she also voiced ABC animation The Flaming Thongs, she laments never having an ongoing sitcom role.

“I would have loved to have been in a sitcom. I did have an idea for The Body Beautiful that we got to a pilot stage. Brian Dawe and John Clarke wrote two episodes.”

The project, set in a brothel was due to feature Hazel Phillips, Noeline Brown and Tania Lacy as Drysdale’s on-screen daughter, but never saw the light of day.

By 2015 she also decided to relocate, selling her many possessions from her Neerim home for Queensland (although at the time she was unsure of where to settle). The press got in such a flap about her embarking on a nomadic lifestyle and selling up that friends began offering spare bedrooms for her to stay.

“I rang Patti (Newton) to put it on the radio that I was having a sale, and Channel Seven and Channel Nine were fighting over who was going to have the story. It was ridiculous. Channel Seven was down the bloody paddock looking up to my house doing a story. It must have been a slow news week!” she laughs.

“They did a live broadcast from the hall on Channel Nine with some of my stuff and there was a line down the street. They didn’t have any accommodation, there was no food in the town because all these people just descended for two days. It was hysterical.”

That same year she was back on morning television as part of Studio 10, forging a new friendship with Jessica Rowe.

“Jess is the most beautiful person. She’s like an angel and what you see is what you get,” she insists.

“We’re both on the same wavelength in funniness. When I started there and had a dressing room with Jess, so we were giggling from the time I reached Channel 10 to the time I left. We enjoyed ourselves too much so they they put her on the other side of the panel.

“We didn’t like that at all!”

She also has fond memories of the late Jonathan Coleman.

“One of the funniest things that’s ever been on television is when they had Cup Day with the daschshunds and the sausages,” she recalls.

“He’s dressed up with sausages dropping off him and sausage dogs were eating them with the pins in. We didn’t say that on air.”

She remained part of the Studio 10 family until its demise in December.

“10 years as a good run for a show and I’m lucky to have been part of it.”

Drysdale, 75, continues to entertain in clubs, most recently with Normie Rowe, and awaits the phone ringing with the next TV gig.

She recently watched the Beckham documentary, “I thought that was well done but he should have admitted to the affair” and all 156 episodes of an unnamed Turkish soap opera.

“I turned it up, even though it’s got subtitles, because I couldn’t hear what they were saying!” she laughs.

Family is important, along with the Gold Coast mountains she now calls home and a distant ocean view. So are her two Gold Logie Awards, which sit on her mantelpiece along with her Australia Post ‘Legends of TV’ stamp and a Jonathan Coleman memory.

“If it was just one Logie like it is now, I mightn’t have gotten one. Ernie would have got it,” she suggests.

And as she looks to the future she secretly harbours a desire to return to Channel Nine.

“I started there. I’d love to end there. I could be the cheeky chook, where I dress up in a chook costume and give out prizes to people at home. Go to strange places and just knock on their doors.”

There’s still time…

Denise Drysdale: “I’m a ratbag!… I don’t toe the line.

7 Responses

  1. I had the great pleasure to work with Denise on her cooking and gardening show – Dig and Dine with Denise that was made for C31 and the community TV channels. Yeap!, Denis has done it all.

    My favourite moment is when the sales team sold an episode to the Springvale Cemetery and Crematorium and as Denise walked through the rose garden with the Head Gardener asked “if he used blood and bone on the roses” and looked straight into the camera and winked.

    Such an incredible professional person and delightful human being.

  2. Have always adored Denise. Met her nearly 40 years ago & as she says, what you see is what you get. And I mean that in the most respectful way. Just a real sweetheart & down to earth Aussie gal <3

  3. Why is it you always feel good after reading an interview with Denise. If you haven’t seen her as Ginger in Please Like Me you are missing a brilliant performance.

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