Richard Wilkins remembers Bert Newton: ‘The quintessential showman’

Bert Newton was the quintessential showman.

From his early days in radio, to his legendary role as sidekick to Graham Kennedy and Don Lane, to being a huge star in his own right, Bert was always up for a gag and always knew how to get the laugh.

His love of the slapstick is the stuff of legend. Many of us grew up on those wonderful skits — they’re ingrained in our psyche. He was always self-deprecating and keen to take the fall if it was a guaranteed laugh.

READ MORE: ‘We all grew up with Bert’: Tributes flow as beloved TV icon dies at 83

Bert Newton and Graham Kennedy on In Melbourne Tonight.

Landing his first radio job as a teenager before joining 9News at 20, Bert cemented his icon status through his role on Melbourne Tonight alongside Kennedy, with whom he had an ongoing partnership on TV.

He went on to host The Bert Newton Show from 1959 to 1960, before his second great on-air partnership began in 1975 on the Don Lane Show. Bert also co-hosted a quiz show with his wife of 46 years, Patti, and other memorable TV hosting gigs include Good Morning Australia and 20 to 1.

Bert also had roles in several major musical theatre productions, including Wicked, The Sound of Music, Grease, The Wizard of Oz and The Producers.

READ MORE: Bert Newton: A legendary life in pictures

Bert Newton as Santa Claus with the cast of Grease at The Regent Theatre on December 11, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.

Although he hosted and won many Logies during his career, my resounding memory of Bert was when he walked out onto stage at the end of the evening to present the award of the night.

He was always greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation before he even said a word, such was the love and admiration for this man.

My heart goes out to Patti and his family.

READ MORE: Inside Bert and Patti Newton’s 46-year love story

Patti and Bert Newton arrive at opening night of Chicago The Musical on December 19, 2019 in Melbourne. The pair were a regular at events and on red carpets.

Bert, thanks for the laughs and the memories.

To pay tribute to the legend, I’ll commandeer one of his most famous lines, from when he interviewed Muhammad Ali at the Logies: ‘Bert Newton; we like the boy’.

Thanks Bert. Rest in peace.

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