I have no opinion of course on the whole Hey Dad! child molesting accusations that are currently circling though there are lots of things around that controversy that strike me as weird. I do have a tiny connection to the whole shambles, however, as I visited the set in (I’m guessing) 1989 to do a story for, I suppose, Smash Hits and now I look back on it, it wasn’t a happy place.
It was in the late 80s when what I might now think of as the Diesel factor was heavily in play (Craig Mathieson talks about this quite a lot in one of his books though I can’t actually remember which one; he’s talking largely about Ratcat). The Diesel factor comes from when we ran a story on Johnny Diesel, a tiny little story, which wasn’t written by me but I know who did write it (it was published without a byline because it was in the section where stories had no bylines) where the last line was a simple ‘Yum!’. Johnny Diesel’s first album was entirely unmemorable rubbish (the second one was quite good) and he had that Angels guy managing him and there was all this bollocks about recording in Memphis or something similar, and it was all about stonewash jeans ‘n’ Luke Perry ‘n’ 50s red petrol pump-style authenticity, and anyway Diesel and his management were so horrified by the ‘Yum!’ that they decreed they would never talk to another pop magazine again. And at the same time FM radio was dominated entirely by horrible classic rock, to the degree that I well remember a radio ad for a club that played house music or something and the approximation of house music that was manufactured for the ad was so bullshit it was hilarious. Anyway. The point being our supply of pop music people to write about was drying up so we decided to switch at least in part to TV, at least as an experiment, on the reasoning that really our readers were at least as much into TV as they were into pop and we’d have no trouble accessing TV stars, right?
So I went off to interview the cast of Hey Dad because as we kept telling ourselves it was a really successful show and our readership surely really liked it. Now I’ve built up to the whole thing I wish I could better remember what transpired, but I only recall a vibe. I went to an afternoon’s reading, in a hall in Glebe or Balmain or somewhere, and then I went to a taping at Epping. I didn’t see anything weird happening that I could now sell to NW, fortunately or unfortunately. What I did see was a pretty unhappy place, or at least put it this way, I thought the show was chronically unfunny, anyway, but I was surprised that the cast were so unwilling to pretend they enjoyed being there. I remember Julie McGregor being fairly sardonic about Smash Hits but being abstractedly friendly to me, and perhaps it was around this time she was involved in that bizarre Farmhouse thing with Michael Horrocks? And I remember Robert Hughes musing, I thought rather comically but a bit poignantly, about how his character had been working on the same architectural drawing for the entire length of the series (which hadn’t been going that long, considering how long it ultimately did go for, but I guess there was a feeling in the industry that surely they’d rung every possibility they could out of the premise of Hey Dad whatever that might have been and that feeling probably infused the production too). And I remember trying to challenge Simone Buchanan about whether she found the scripts funny and she wasn’t that willing to commit one way or the other, I think she claimed to occasionally chuckle at something the first time she read it but the imputation was clearly it was just a job.
I’m not going to push it any further, that’s all I remember, the other guys (both called Chris) were friendly enough. I imagine the story I wrote is around somewhere. I don’t even know why I brought it up. Well I do but it’s not like I have anything interesting to say about it, except it wasn’t a hilariously happy production the week I visited. I just put that down to it being a fairly bad show.