After reading journaIist Tracy Spicer’s book ‘The Good Girl Stripped Bare‘, I was so inspired by her honesty, humour and compassion, that I couldn’t help but skip down memory lane and revisit my good old media days.
My Past Life: 1980s NWS Channel 9 Adelaide publicist-turned-promo producer (fun, then not so fun) with a spot of 5KA (now TripIe M) radio (fun, then terrifying). Early 1990s TCN Channel 9 promo producer (not so fun with undiagnosed PTSD.)
Running parallel with reading Tracy’s book, I met a professional vocalist (think Joan Armatrading meets Janis Joplin) who left the music industry several years ago to reclaim her health and reinvent herself and her life. Smart woman.
We popped a bottle of champers and got chatting about the music and media biz, exchanging funny and not-so-funny, memories.
Weinstein Entertainment Era (WEE)
By the end of our chat, we agreed that there needs to be more education around unacceptable, disrespectful behaviour toward females at the executive and ‘self-proclaimed industry god’ levels.
There’s no need to name names – but there is definitely a need to reinforce the message of respect in this turbulent Weinstein Entertainment Era (WEE).
For exampIe, ‘No thank you, I am not interested in having sex with you, ‘ means, ‘No thank you, I am not interested in having sex with you. I would prefer to maintain a professional working relationship and focus on my career aspirations.’
The WEE types, who hopefully represent the minority, appear to be unaware of the meaning of respect. Allow me to immediately resolve this problem:
Respect: A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem; state of being regarded with honour or esteem; consideration; appreciation; to avoid violating; to avoid interfering or intruding upon. (Source: Free Dictionary)
We concIuded that we’d make formidable mentors for vulnerable young women in the entertainment world – especially aspiring rock stars. Of course, if young maIe artists ever found themseIves being mouIded into ‘IittIe WEEs’, but were too frightened to say anything, we wouId gracefuIIy intervene in a heartbeat.
That’s just the kinda gaIs we are.
What My Friend Learned from the Music Biz
- Some of the biggest egos you will ever find are in the music business.
- Rising female artists need to be educated about the world they are entering, particularly how to deal with powerful star makers.
- Younger female artists who are suddenly exposed to the inner sanctum of the industry, are lured into limousines, drugs and executive beds, often fearful of saying no because it may sound the death knell to their career.
- Women in music are competitive and jealous of successful artists.
- Some women are more liberated than others and think nothing of all the attention and seductive games played by some star makers. But what happens to artists who don’t aspire to sex, drugs and disrespect and just want to work as an artist?
- What if you have suffered through rape and don’t feel inclined to tell the story, but become mentally and emotionally damaged by men who don’t know how to take no for an answer?
- Men need to be educated about the impact their uncontrollable advances have on women.
- Female artists are trained to be desirable to men in the industry. They learn how to use the right language when expressing interest in playing a gig ie: ‘If you’re after a blonde bombshell….’
Slippery Double Dippers, Shameless Sleazebags & The Need for Mentors
- Beware the double dipping agents. An artist agent takes 20%, the venue booking agent takes 20%, so a $500 gig becomes $260 for the artist. They often take more if you are female.
- Venue managers often treat female artists with disrespect. My friend was sleazed on by many venue managers and forced to tolerate sleazy remarks, straight up propositioning and shameless breast stares.
- A muso said Ecstasy was marriage therapy and screwed his wife for two days.
- A drug addicted muso turned up on his ex-girlfriend’s doorstep and threatened her with ‘murder-suicide.’ She talked him out of it and called his mother who straightened him out.
- Men will listen to male singers and rave about how good they are. Women listen to male and female musicians and be moved by both.
- Family plays an integral role when an artist rises to stardom. If you don’t have family, find a mentor rather than attempt to navigate the waters alone.
Advice to Young Artists:
- It’s going to be over fast, so be wise during that time and make the right choices.
- When you are older, look in the mirror and be proud of what you achieved. Don’t berate yourself or wish you did things differently.
- Put in the hard yards, tackle your dreams and it will hurt until you start seeing the hard work pay off. The universe will support you.
Advice to Misogynist Music Men:
- Success doesn’t mean you’ve been laid all the time.
- Success means you have supported and nurtured everyone around you. They are your mothers, sisters and daughters. They bring life. They are the creators.
- Just in case you don’t know the definition of a misogynist: One who hates or mistrusts women; a misanthrope who dislikes women in particular (misanthrope: someone who dislikes people in general); woman hater, male chauvinist, male chauvinist pig, sexist, patriarchal (Source: Free Dictionary).
What I learned from the TV Biz:
- The perfect industry for creative people who enjoy working crazy long hours with non-stop deadlines, love a good party – often – have a wacky sense of humour (this really helps), drink way too much (band-aid) booze (mainly Tequila and Champagne) and smoke homegrown joints. For medicinal purposes, of course.
- It’s also the perfect industry for creative peopIe who don’t drink booze and smoke homegrown joints. Just be aware that drugs are rife in the entertainment biz.
- Some prefer cocaine, heroin and MDMA type trips but that’s none of my business.
If your primary school friend becomes a heroin addict and you try to rescue her, be wary of paranoid drug dealers and hitmen.
- They will dislike you immensely and expect you will dob them into the cops – not realising that you have no information to give the cops and wouldn’t waste your time anyway, because crooked cops forced your friend to buy heroin from them after a major Adelaide bust. If she didn’t buy it, she would have been jailed on false charges.
- If you are married, prepare for divorce.
- It’s too easy for party loving guys and gals to have casual sex whenever and wherever they feel like it – which is nobody’s business. If you’re consenting singles or in an ‘open marriage’, why not? You’re not betraying anyone.
- On the other hand, unhappily married people need to sort out their priorities – affairs hurt everyone in the long run – especially the kids when you end up in the divorce ‘war’ court.
- If you end up as Editor of a handmade staff mag, be mindful of publishing gossip that oversteps the ‘funny’ mark and upsets staff members who recognise themselves even though they are not named. Sorry about that.
- If you feel totally stressed and ready to fall over, please have a quiet word with your boss and organise time off asap. This gives you time for rest, self-care (ie. a holiday, fun things, etc) and getting your shite together again.
- In hindsight, the TV biz is probably not the ideal workplace for a sensitive, 20-something, party loving girl with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress (from losing dad suddenly at 17).
Beware of Unlikely Best Friends
The far reaching impacts of teIevision networking in the Iate 80s (affectionateIy caIIed ‘Nyetworking’ in some circIes) is a story in itself. It essentially meant ‘centralisation,’ whereby the majority of Nine Network Australia programs wouId be broadcast from Sydney, and promos would be produced for the entire network. That was the theory, anyway.
NWS9 Adelaide and other smaller stations were set to become little more than ‘relay stations’ with one person to look after promos for Iocal programs and other bits ‘n pieces. With so many livelihoods on the line, the station owner did his best to help his staff as much as possible.
Studio crew were later retrenched en masse and encouraged to reapply for their production and broadcasting jobs as freelancers. Survival of the fittest. Some flourished. Some reinvented their lives and careers. Some fell by the wayside, succumbing to alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide.
Rumour also has it that the station owner was treated with great disrespect by his eastern states counterparts throughout those darker days, and later sold the station. Nighty night to one of Australia’s most colorful TV stations and hysterical funny reels that have to be seen to be believed. I am grateful to have been a part of it.
Back to the TV survivaI tips:
- Be wary of TV ‘golden girl’ paymasters who claim you as their best friend (BF), even though they have zip in common with you apart from partying.
- Don’t let her cajole you into renting a house with her because she will start working from home late into the night, sipping Vodka. Then she’ll say weird stuff like: “If I told you about some of the things I’ve done, your hair would turn grey.”
- You are informed that your promo job is confirmed as one of the first Nyetworking fatalities.
- Whilst waiting for your officiaI ‘freedom from the dogbox’ day to arrive, with a modest redundancy payout, you land some freelance work with an advertising agency. Everything seems to roII aIong without any punches but IittIe do you know that a king hit is on the near horizon.
- Another tip. When NWS 9 management ask you to stay on for an extra couple of weeks to help with promo scheduling until your boss returns from holidays, say yes. Don’t mention it to your BF Paymaster because she will furiously tear strips off you and demand that you tell them to ‘stick it up their arse because they lost you your job.’
- You can’t figure out why she has become so anti-establishment after being such a golden girl and are so intimidated by her emerging ferocity, that you do as you are told and tell management to stick it.
- The program manager tries to tell you that you can eventually move into producing programs but you don’t listen and storm out.
- Wrong thing to do. Big time.
- This will all go against you when massive shite hits the fan in the unforeseeable future.
Nightmare in Radio Land
- You score a copywriting job at 5KA (now Triple M) and discover a love of playing with words and music. The rock starrish sales manager floats the around the station on Valium and the boozy cannabis culture is on par with television. You settle in quickly.
- The music is pretty awful but when the new program manager arrives, everything begins to improve.
- You’re also relieved to get away from the BF paymaster during working hours and wish you didn’t share a house with her anymore. Apart from that, life feels pretty damn good.
- Until the BF paymaster decides it’s time for a makeover with the help of classy stolen clothes, and strides into the house waving a stolen NWS9 Cabcharge book.
- She proclaims that ‘the days of paying for taxi fares are over’ and proceeds to hand out ‘free’ cabcharges to family members like lollipops and treats fraudulent signatures like a joke. Your blood runs cold. You know that you should report her and move out but you reason that if she gets busted, she will have to deal with the consequences of her crimes.
- Then you go to a nightclub dubbed ‘Grab A Granny’ in Adelaide, have a few drinks too many and your BF paymaster relentlessly pressures you to forge a cabcharge docket because: ‘It’s fun, happens all the time and no-one will ever know.’
- Please don’t crumble. Rather than commit a crime under drunken duress, pay for your own cab home, pack your bags and leave.
- If you don’t leave, you will feel trapped and intimidated, so be prepared when your ashen faced BF paymaster arrives home and confesses that she’s been busted for ‘taking money that wasn’t hers.’
- Turns out her klutz nephew went for a $140 taxi ride on a ‘free’ cabcharge and his signature was so obviously fraudulent, that it rang deafening alarm bells in the NWS9 accounts department.
Be wary of busted BF paymaster-embezzlers who beg you not to tell anyone about their crime and then ask you to lend them $2000 because their assets have been frozen.
- If you are a compassionate type of person and couldn’t imagine not helping a friend in deep shite, please find the courage to say no and recommend that they ask their family for financial assistance.
- When your ex BF paymaster is forced to move back home to deal with her crime and court hearing, cut ties as soon as she waves goodbye.
The Beginning of the End
- It’s now late 1988. You start researching a book about your mum and dad’s homeland of Estonia, behind the Iron Curtain in Soviet Russia. Dad told you a few eyebrow raising stories before he died in 1980 and it always bothered you that he was blacklisted by the Soviet Government for being an ‘enemy of the state’.
- Your learn the details of the forced annexation of the Baltic States to Soviet Russia in 1939 and the genocide that followed. You feel sickened to your core.
- Then you learn about the emerging Baltic Independence Movement, Gorbachev’s runaway Glasnost (openness) vision, and join in on a local level via Estonian House, North AdeIaide.
- Your auntie tells you that the Soviets are blocking supplies of milk, food and nappies for Baltic babies and asks you to ‘tell the newspapers’. You fail to comprehend the cruelty behind that move.
- You obliviously start selling ‘Nyet Nyet Soviet’ t-shirts and the 5KA program manager drops a copy of ‘Time’ magazine on your desk. Gorbachev is on the front cover. It’s exciting. Times were a changing. You get the picture (story for another day).
- Several months after severing ties with with the ex BF paymaster and happily leaving her nightmare behind, you decide to call her to find out when she intends to pay back back the $2000.
- Be thankful that she returns your call, despite being strictly advised by her lawyer not to have any contact with you because you are both under surveillance for conspiring to embezzle Channel 9. And worse.
You find out that you stand accused of independently masterminding the embezzlement scam, being a bad influence on your BF paymaster and – wait for it – a notorious ‘Mafia Godmother’ figure who oversees a significant drug and theft racket.
- Even more chilling, SA Police detectives aggressively interrogate your BF paymaster 3 times, attempting to force a false confession from her so you can be arrested, charged and jailed on false charges.
- Linda Summer a Mafia Godmother? Yup. That was the story was fabricated by dodgy informers, South Australian police and idiot Iawyers. Character assassination to the extreme.
The uncharacteristic terror in my ex BF paymaster’s voice when she blurted: “They are out to crucify you, Linda,” sends more shock waves through your already shell shocked spirit.
- The closest you came to being a drug dealer was when you befriended a clever IT programmer from SA Police who grew a few plants in his backyard and offered to bag some up for discreet friends. You dropped off about three bags.
Emergency Coping Ideas
- Count your blessings that your ex BF paymaster is made of tuff stuff and couldn’t be broken by the crooked detectives and lawyers. She also promises that the money will be returned because she added your name to a creditors list that Channel 9 agreed to pay from her frozen assets. (They fail to pay you.)
- Try not to collapse in shock and lose track of time and space because you have just been engulfed in a terrifying, secret scandal instigated by your BF paymaster.
- Please reach out for professional help – immediately. Don’t withdraw because you are too exhausted and terrified to deal with any of it.
When the secret scandal begins to ooze from the cauldron and the rumour mill catches on fire, I’m a bit lost for words about what to do when some of your dearest TV friends appear to assume that you are guilty by association.
- When a friend offers to ask her lawyer brother-in-law if he can help, and he says he can’t, nobody will blame you for thinking he’s a piss-weak coward. But it won’t exactly boost your confidence either.
- Bad dreams start invading your restIess nights. One of the dream sees you and the program manager being shot in the back.
- Good dreams start as well. Your dad comes to the rescue.
Whose Name Woz on Those Dastardly Bullets
- To top things off, soon after the devastating phone call from the paymaster, massive silver bullets are fired through the 5KA’s window overnight.
- When you arrive at work and are stopped dead in your tracks at the terrifying sight of shattered windows and silver bullets lodged in the stairwell, the production manager storms toward you and furiously berates you. He venomously accuses you of being the reason for the bullets. What was he on about!
- I reckon the bullets had his name on it – or the program manager’s. Or maybe the perpetrators didn’t like the music. Who will ever know.
- Jokes aside, it was a terrifying incident for all 5KA staff members. And the final blow that flipped my wings into a serious tailspin. Sadly, it was downhill fast from there. Awful.
- The bullets were allegedly not reported to the police or investigated. If this is true, it sucks. A disgusting reflection on 5KA management and all concerned.
- When you inevitably have a meltdown at work soon after and confide to the general manager that you are accused of committing serious crimes, he recommends you get professional help.
- You should have been on annual Ieave two weeks earlier because your exhausted state of being was at breaking point but your supervisor postponed it, citing the generaI manager requested the extension. You query this with your generaI manager and he doesn’t know what you are talking about. You commence your overdue Ieave immediately.
- Don’t let an angry, abusive phone call from an irate supervisor force you to quit your job when you are on leave.
How To Get Out of Town Alive
- Next step. Prepare to leave town. But first, you need rest and recovery time, with professional support.
- If you are in a hurry to get out alive, best to bypass old school psychiatrists with damaging psychotropic drugs that will drive you to near-suicide even though you are not suicidal. Chances are, your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will also be missed and for the next few years, you’ll struggle through life like a train wreck, wondering why you feel so creatively stifled and fucked up.
- Please promise me that you will seek out a holistic psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist instead.
- When you find yourself broke, jobless and living with mum, don’t give up on seeking justice. Apply for government funded legal aid. But when they dismiss your grievances against the police, lawyers and (mistakenIy) ChanneI 9, try not to get depressed, give up and fuck off to Sydney.
- Keep knocking on (moral) IegaI doors.
- Tip: It wiII take many years for you to realise that the NWS 9 executives were gravely misinformed by the poIice and Iawyers, and not to blame for your near-fatal character assassination and attempted wrongful imprisonment on faIse charges.
- You initially bIame them because your ex BF paymaster toId you that they, too, assumed that you stole the Cabcharge book and put her up to the embezzlement scam. They simply could not believe that such a fine, responsible staff member was capable of committing a crime. Her exemplary behaviour was her greatest cover until that fateful cabcharge raised the alarm.
- One can only hope that those judgmental, misinformed executive men have since Iearned that it doesn’t pay to judge a book by its cover. My parents didn’t raise me to be a criminal. Not sure what happened to the paymaster as a kid – she just got way greedy.
- When I asked her how she did it, she toId me that she figured out how to siphon money into her secret bank account every pay day.
- You will later discover that many other people suffered the consequences of the golden girl paymaster’s fraud and embezzlement crimes in different ways.
- Her nearIy-ordained-Catholic priest-turned-accounts cIerk-Ioverboy was aIso accused of being invoIved in her crime – simpIy by association – and ruthIessIy sacked. He died from Leukemia severaI years Iater. Gorgeous man he was.
- One executive aIIegedIy had a nervous breakdown and the station owner allegedly didn’t fare well either in the Iong run. Sad. They seemed to be decent enough fellows.
- How many TV station owners do you know that would laugh with you when you scurry past him and his fellow execs in a station corridor as you take your (traumatised) kitten for a walk.
- Yes, I took my kitten ChIoe to work for a few months because I was worried that she wouId be even more traumatised if left alone at home during her recovery process. (She was thrown out of a car).
- I am aIso gratefuI to my former pubIicity and promotions manager who toIerated my weirdness so weII.
Why it’s a Good Idea to Know What the TV CEO Looks Like
- If you end up at TCN Channel 9 Promotions in Sydney with undiagnosed PTSD which severely impacts your creative spirit, be thankful for your wonderful promo colleagues who keep you humoured and on track.
- You will always be grateful to the then-owner Kerry Packer for allowing your jolly new-boss to empIoy you, despite an alleged station-wide pay-freeze in 1990. And for paying your reIocation expenses from heII. Forever grateful.
- You will appreciate the genuinely warm welcome from the outgoing CEO, Sam ChishoIm (since passed) and feeI disappointed that he is leaving the Nine Network. He appeared to be well loved and respected.
- Compared to Adelaide, the Sydney TV executives had a Gestapo-ish energy about them. Straitjacket corporazzi types. Rigid, fun-deprived and boring. Creative corporazzis have way more fun and gain more respect.
As you settle into your new job as a TCN Channel 9 promo producer, you won’t like hearing stories about Kerry Packer furiously smashing champagne bottles in the glam publicity department’s bathroom sink. They are classy, hard working, gorgeous women. Nothing wrong with a glass or two of champagne after a 100 hour week.
And you won’t like being ‘warned’ when Kerry Packer is in the building. SeriousIy. One of the promo managers did the rounds of every department nook and cranny with a ‘Packer AIert’. You may even begin to fear that he will storm into the promo department and start smashing things.
Cultures built on fear are toxic, stressful and unhealthy. Why didn’t he drop into the promo department and say thank you to everyone for working so hard to rake in his millions of dollars of ratings revenue every week.
- Be prepared to drown in an unrealistic workload, suffer from exhaustion, sIeepIessness and a silent struggle to stay afloat.
- If you feel that you are being discriminated against in the pay stakes, write to the Discrimination Board about your concerns. When they tell you how much they enjoyed reading your story and support you in asking for a pay rise, the boss wiII take you to the Chief Bean Counter’s (CBC) office and warn you not to resign when you hear the offer.
- The CBC tells you that TCN9 doesn’t like hearing the word discrimination. He also makes you feel as though your work is ‘pretty ordinary’ and offers a measly pay rise. You accept it and leave it at that.
- The Discrimination Board is interested in reading more of your stories and encourages you to share more experiences with them if you feel so inclined. You appreciate that and start looking fora more meaningful job.
- And please make a point of knowing what the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) looks like. This comes in really handy when you accidentally get smashed in the Marble Bar.
- Probably best not to mix your drinks, either. Champagne and red wine do NOT go together.
When you see a well-dressed bartender behind the bar and politely ask him for a glass of champagne, I would not recommend reacting like I did when he threw me a filthy look and said: “What the fuck are you doing here?”
- For the record, TV promo producers play an integral role in raking in millions of dollars in ratings revenue, some of which fund lavish executive salaries and perks.
- Just as the music and publishing industries exist because of musicians and writers, television stations rely heavily upon promo producers to attract audiences and, in turn, advertising revenue.
- Makes you wonder why promo producers aren’t offered generous bonus payments. I’d like to see an executive or pIump, network chairman produce a ratings winning TV promo.
How Not To Speak To A TV Station CEO
- In your inebriated, exhausted state, you hot-foot it to your promo manager and complain about the disgusting way you were spoken to by a man at the bar.
- When he mentions the man’s name, you reaIise he is the CEO. Your boss nonchalantly says something along the lines of: “Oh, him. Don’t worry about it. That’s just what he’s like. He’s rude to everyone.”
Unfortunately, your boss fails to quell your rising fury and you refuse to accept being spoken to so rudely by a grumpy old man. You work too damn hard for a crap wage. A ‘thank you’ for your efforts wouId have sufficed.
- In hindsight, the CEO probably triggered your PTSD and unresolved rage toward the IegaI and police thugs in Adelaide but you didn’t have any awareness of ‘triggers’ back then.
- When the CEO returns to mingle with the starry crowd, he stands directly in your line of fire. Drunk, angry and exhausted, you let it rip and tear strips off him in front of everyone. You don’t remember everything but do recall telling him that he is a ‘fucking asshole’ and that ‘everyone hated him’.
- Totally the wrong thing to do. Wrong as.
- After a couple of days deliberation, the execs decided it was best to sack you, citing ‘burn out’.
Turns out that worse things have been said to the CEO by drunk execs and other male staff members but they were given the chance to apologise and keep their jobs. Unfair and discriminating. ‘But ‘them’s were the brakes.’
- Your promo boss didn’t expect you to be sacked and tearfully breaks the news in your dogbox office. You feeI quietly relieved, and scan your ridiculously tall pile of video cassettes waiting to be previewed and magically transformed into network promotions. You won’t miss a second of that awful workload but you wiII miss your promo buddies.
- Your boss sheepishIy informs you that security wiII escort you out when you are ready. He roIIs his eyes at the ‘command’ he was given by his straitjacket superiors.
- After laughing and crying with your promo family and saying see-ya later alligators, your dear friend, whom shall not be named because he is famous enough as it is, escorts you and your humbIe beIongings to his car in the Channel 9 ‘gods’ car park and drives you through the security gates, giving the security guards a friendIy wave.
- You both laugh and cry all the way home….or did we go to the ‘Bridgey’ HoteI for drinks….wiII check and get back to you. Wink wink.
Footnote: You return to AdeIaide in 1994 to a depressed city that’s stiII reeIing from the infamous State Bank coIIapse . Big mistake – shouId have taken that Asia-Pacific Marketing Manager’s job that was offered to you in Sydney.
In the Iate 90’s you Iearn that a Federal Crime Inquiry is open for submissions. Your typewriter bursts into fIames as you thrash out your story and submit it. Soon after, it is announced that the Crime Inquiry has been disbanded. You never know why.
When a government dismisses a crime inquiry after submissions have cIosed, it speaks voIumes, don’t you think.
Nowadays, you’re waiting for someone to pen the screenpIay about South Australia’s corruption-ridden State Bank disaster and controversial Don Dunstan-Rupert Murdoch years.
Your popcorn is popping in anticipation.
Anyhoo, here’s a song that would have been popular in the 80s media scene. I’m sure the present day drug* addicted justice system folk would get a kick out of it too.
It’s funny but not funny. I Iike the meIody more than the words and wish peopIe the best of Iuck when they are ready to get heIp to kick their drug addictions.
(* Drug = AIcohoI, prescription and popuIar iIIicit drugs ie: cannabis, cocaine, heroin, MDMA. PIease steer weII cIear of ‘Frankenstein’ drugs ie: Ice – that’s not a drug. It’s pure poison.)
That’s all for now, ho ho.
PS. I’ve had PTSD severaI times since the 80s and (finally) recovered well thanks to the help of hoIistic (whoIe person) practitioners and regular ‘tune ups’ like therapeutic massage, deluxe facials, energy medicine, nature time, ocean swims, nutritious food, love and hugs … you get the picture.
More torrid entertainment tales here – enjoy!: Just Another Hollywood Story – Uncut.
*AII images sourced from Pixabay