Public tastes were changing at a breakneck speed by the late 1960s and although traditional radio serials still had a loyal audience, housewives were increasingly turning to television to watch imported American daytime ‘soaps’ such as Peyton Place, General Hospital and Days of our Lives.
Promo: Without Shame brought nudity to radio and shocked Australia. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Pictured: Wynne Nelson stars in both Without Shame and The Castlereagh Line.
Australian radio stations were axing long running drama serials sending many producers to the wall, but Grace Gibson was a survivor. Station executives told Grace that if they were to broadcast drama serials in the future they could not run for longer than a hit song, thus four minute episodes came into existence. This new style of radio drama was pioneered by Grace; everything happened much faster and offered listener’s racier, sexier storylines.
Things changed forever in 1972 with the premiere of the sex and sin television ‘soap’ Number 96. The occasion was dubbed as the night that Australian television lost its virginity and audiences soon became accustomed to full frontal nudity, homosexual relationships, and assorted kinky happenings. Much has been written about Number 96 but it surprises me that the day that Australian radio quite literally lost its virginity has been almost totally overlooked and forgotten.
The year was 1973 and the serial was Without Shame written by Ross Napier. This was indeed the Number 96 of the airwaves and when the first episode was transmitted newspaper headlines announced, ‘Radio Goes Naked.’ Listeners were left gobsmacked when housewife Judith Farrow (Wynne Nelson) returned home early from church one Sunday morning to find her husband Philip (Guy Leclair) having sexual relations with her promiscuous 15 year old sister Belinda (Beryl Marshall).
Judith would later discover the naked corpses of the two lovers in her marital bed, the indications were that they had been stabbed to death with a carving knife whilst having sexual intercourse, and she would be sentenced to life imprisonment for a crime she did not commit. Once behind bars Judith would endure the most degrading deprivations, she was a woman without love, without pride and without shame. It was made clear by a butch warden that she would be at the mercy of inmates with lesbian tendencies but there were also dangers on the other side of the bars. The prison superintendent Elvira Wintergreen was running a prostitution racket using the inmates to service male clients. Judith would find herself being bashed and raped by a brute with perverted kinks, and would end up turning tricks in order to earn extra privileges.
After a successful retrial Judith would find it hard to cope with life on the outside. Her attempts to find the real murderer would uncover some shocking home truths about her philandering husband’s secretive double life. She would find countless mistresses, some had been left in the family way, and others had endured backstreet abortions. Judith would find herself embroiled in a quagmire of deceit when a naked prostitute called Gilda took a dive over the side of a high rise building, a man was shot to ensure his silence, and at Belinda’s exclusive boarding school she would find evidence of an obscene pornography racket which was being run by the students themselves.
If you are a fan of television serials such as Number 96, The Box and Prisoner: Cell Block H you’ll love Without Shame. Others in the cast include Michael Long (from Sons & Daughters), Lynne Murphy, Ron Roberts, Michael Somerville, and John Cousins. You can listen to a sample of the show along with clips of many other classic serials on the Grace Gibson website.
Promo top left: Kinkhead follows a beastly man who used and abused others to satisfy his own desires. Promo bottom left: In The Way of the Cat a newly released jailbird is out for revenge. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Newspaper Promo: Listeners of 2CA in Canberra were left stunned as they followed the exploits of a librarian who had gone bad in The Way of the Cat.
Kinkhead is another explosive production from the pen of Ross Napier which boasts an impressive cast list including Richard Meikle from The Young Doctors. This is the rags to riches story of Laurence Benson Kinkhead, an animal whose star fell as soon as it rose.
Kinkhead was a penniless drifter who became a prolific and renowned novelist overnight. He had insatiable appetites, and when the money started to pour in dolly birds and gold diggers came flocking. Kinkhead would make the best of the opportunities which now presented themselves but for every fan he won he would make an equal number of enemies – cuckolded husbands were out for blood and jealous fellow writers were ready to tear him down a peg or two. Following a string of literary failures and financial disasters Kinkhead would find himself heading back down to rock-bottom and his enemies would not be far behind.
Promo: My Father’s House is the story of a young lawyer embroiled with sickening underworld gangsters. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Pictured: Television favourite James Condon stars in My Father’s House, Heir Apparent and The Big Fisherman which are available on CD.
The Way of the Cat, also written by Ross Napier, is the spine chilling story of a young medical student called Jeff Chambers who falls for the charms of his local librarian. The relationship develops quickly but he will soon discover that he doesn’t really know what makes Cynthia tick at all. It soon transpires that he has fallen in love with a nasty piece of work who is involved with a violent armed robbery racket. His former fiancée will hold him responsible for putting her name in the frame with the police and on her release from jail she will stop at nothing to exact her revenge, she intends to destroy everything and everyone he cares about.
My Father’s House is a tense tale of violence and romance starring James Condon (from Neighbours) as lawyer Robby Leyland. After travelling the world sowing his wild oats, Robby will be lured back to his ancestral home of Bannockburn to take control of the family law firm. Through circumstances not of his own making; he is forced to embark on a life of crime, becoming a Jekyll and Hyde type character who does what is necessary in order to protect his home and family.
Unfortunately Robby will find it impossible to escape this seedy underworld of violence and murder, and with master criminals on his back he will find himself obliged to conceive and carry out the crime of the century. This gripping saga also stars Gordon Glenwright (from Carson’s Law and Class of ‘74), Edward Howell, and Owen Weingott.
Newspaper promo: Listeners of 2CA in Canberra were hooked on Heir Apparent when it aired in 1975. Poster: Heir Apparent features power hungry backstabbers in the big business world. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions.
Heir Apparent takes us into the murky world of big business with a lethal cocktail of dirty dealings, industrial espionage and envy. We meet orphan Linc Merritt who has been raised by his wealthy Uncle Clive (James Condon), and groomed to succeed him as head of a mammoth engineering corporation. The problem is that Linc’s passion lies elsewhere; he loves photography and decides to go it alone.
He is called back into the family business when Uncle Clive finds himself in serious trouble. There is a mole in the company, a corporate spy and when the old man dies in suspicious circumstances Linc will find that his own life is now in danger. Fans of The Sullivans will be interested to know that this serial also stars Dinah Shearing as an overly efficient personal assistant called Mrs Hendricks, we wonder if she knows more about the sinister happenings than she is letting on!
Strip Jack Naked (aka Deadly Obsession) introduces us to Jack Rickard (Mark Kelly) and Alan Teasdale (Marcus Hale), the best of friends who will become the worst of enemies when Jack falls for the charms of Alan’s fiancée. A deadly feud will result, and when the woman they both desire is killed things escalate to worrying proportions. Jack will find his career as a professional steeple chase jockey in tatters, he will be stripped of his livelihood and his friends, and will begin to wonder if he will be stripped of his life as well.
The 1973 serial Harvest of Hate is a terrifying story of a strange town, populated by strange people, and where strange things have been known to happen. Curtis Baron (Ric Hutton) has built Midway up from being a small rural farming community to what it is today, a prosperous town, but a place where the locals keep their eyes and ears shut. Known by some as ‘Midway to Hell,’ you never ask questions, and prosperity covers evil.
Curtis is a man with a constant craving for money and power; he has interests which will spread evil and corruption across the entire countryside. Even his own daughter has seen her love for him turn into a deadly hatred, and a hatred that could well engulf her. Across 130 episodes you’ll meet some very colourful characters, and will discover what goes on inside the big imposing house on the hill. The cast includes Michael Long, Les Foxcroft, Lynne Murphy, Ron Haddrick and Wendy Playfair (from Return to Eden).
Promo: Two friends lust after the same woman in Strip Jack Naked. Recording: Strip Jack Naked has been recovered from its original format using CEDAR Cambridge technology, the world’s finest audio restoration gear. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions.
Grace Gibson’s raciest serial launched in 1982 and overturned the four minute rule by moving to a six minute episode format. The Castlereagh Line proved hugely successful with its mixture of seduction, murder, rape and a major cliff-hanger at the end of almost every episode. Audiences were hooked as they followed the adventures of the folk who ran a stagecoach line in northern New South Wales. The exploits of the ruthless drunkard and rapist Jack Seager (Ric Hutton) and the long suffering Lottie Long (Wynne Nelson) proved too hot to handle for many radio stations in the USA, the Caribbean, and South Africa who refused to play it. Those that were brave enough to run the show soon found they had a ratings smash on their hands.
The success of The Castlereagh Line resulted in another close to the bone serial hitting the airwaves in 1984 in the form of Time is the Catcher written by radio veteran Russell Writer. This steamy big city saga revolved around a complicated dope smoking prostitute called Dee Dee Davies (Belinda Giblin) whose life would change forever when she propositioned journalist Ed Rushton (Matthew O’Sullivan).
Just hours before Ed had been dumped by his wife of 23 years; he was three sheets to the wind and had allowed himself to be snared by this magnetic hooker. Unfortunately he would develop an unhealthy obsession with Dee Dee, his determination to get her off the game would lead to a series of violent events which could destroy them both.
Left Promo: In Harvest of Hate a ruthless man rules a country town with an iron fist. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Pictured: The Macquarie Award winning actress Lynne Murphy stars in Harvest of Hate, Without Shame and The Big Fisherman. She also appeared on radio in Dr Paul, The Life of Mary Sothern and on television in The Young Doctors. Right Promo: All 910 episodes of The Castlereagh Line are now available on CD. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions.
Dee Dee had gone through hellish abuse; she had fallen pregnant following a brutal pack rape incident, and had proved herself more than capable of exacting her revenge using pitchforks and any other weaponry at her disposal. This murderess had worked her way up from selling her body to sleazy punters on the streets of shame, and was now servicing powerful men who frequented the passageways of power as a high class call girl.
Dee Dee was a lady living on the fringes of society; she was mixed up with some very dicey scams and was associated with notorious underworld figures. The journalist in Ed was quite literally hooked on this hooker and would put his life on the line as he endeavoured to blow the lid on a can of worms full of vice, corruption, violence and murder. Although this was a work of total fiction actual news events at the time began to mirror the storyline rather than the other way around.
Time is the Catcher proved to be particularly popular with listeners of Radio Manx on the Isle of Man who soon discovered that the game of life is one big trap and time is indeed the catcher. Other cast members include Michael Beecher (from The Young Doctors), John Bonney, Peter Gwynne (from Matlock Police) and Hugh Watson.
Promo Right: Time is the Catcher takes us into the world of a street walker with a shocking past and an explosive future. Copyright IRS Grace Gibson Productions. Pictured right: Belinda Giblin from The Box and Sons & Daughters stars in both The Castlereagh Line and Time is the Catcher. Pictured left: Michael Beecher became a household name as Dr Brian Denham in The Young Doctors, his fans can hear him playing Arthur Connolly in the thrilling serial Time is the Catcher.
You might need something with a more biblical sting in the tail after all of those raunchy happenings to restore your moral fibre. Two serials adapted from the best-selling novels by the American clergyman Lloyd C. Douglas will hit the mark. The Robe stars Ron Haddrick, Lola Brooks, Wendy Playfair and Richard Meikle, and tells the story of the homespun garment worn by Christ prior to being crucified on the cross. We meet Marcellus, a young Roman Tribune, who reluctantly acts as the executioner and learn of the mark this deed will leave on him. We also follow those who acquired Christs robe and hear of the impact this will have on their lives.
The Big Fisherman broke all sales records in the English speaking world when it was published and the radio adaptation stars James Condon, Richard Meikle, Margo Lee, Wendy Playfair, Lynne Murphy and Ron Haddrick. The clanking armour of Roman soldiers can be heard everywhere, but a group of warring peoples have heard the voice of Jesus and will stand-up to be counted. This is the story of Simon Peter of Galilee, one of the greatest first teachers of Christianity who laid down his fishing nets by the sea in order to become a Fisher of Men. Like his master he would die on the Cross.
Listeners worldwide can order all of these serials and plenty of other Australian radio classics exclusively from the Grace Gibson Productions website.