PETER’s tours of Australia – 1970, ’71 & ’72
Following an unprecedented response by viewers to Channel 7’s broadcasts of Department S in 1970, PETER was invited “Down Under” for a tour of Australia’s major cities to help promote the networks self-styled “TV revolution”.
On his arrival at Sydney airport on March 1st, PETER, who was wearing a cream-coloured suit, matching lime green shirt and tie, with white patent leather boots, was greeted by an estimated 35,000 hysterical fans, all of whom proceeded to stampede through police safety barriers in an attempt to get near to their idol. Unfortunately, PETER suffered concussion in the crush, and had to spend the next three days in hospital.
PETER’s next port of call was Melbourne, where he managed to take a well-earned break to soak up the sun at his luxury hotel before making a guest appearance on the Mike Walsh Show, which was broadcast at 9pm on March 5th. After taking part in an interview with the show’s host, PETER performed two songs from his album.
During his week-long stay in the city, PETER also made a guest appearance in the crime thriller ‘Homicide’, which was shown on Channel 7 in May of 1970.
From Melbourne, PETER moved on to Brisbane where, once again, he was met by hoards of screaming fans – many of whom had quite obviously skipped school for the day if the ranks of different school uniforms where anything to go by!
In order to avoid subjecting their VIP guest to a further stint in hospital, airport officials managed to organise a safe exit for the somewhat nervous-looking star who, by this point in time, had already spent more than two hours dishing out kisses to housewives, handshakes to their husbands, and autographed photos to their teenage daughters.
As part of Channel 7’s promotion, PETER was asked to record several ‘links’, using slogans such as; “Channel 7 is beautiful… long live the revolution!” – a statement which soon became the catchphrase for teenagers throughout Australia.
During the same month, one of Melbourne’s leading TV listings magazines ran the headlines: ‘Enter Wyngarde – A beautiful job for a dandy,’ which reported on PETER’s involvement with Channel 7’s campaign. Describing him as ‘…the king peacock of television’, they went on to say: ‘In the Department S series, Wyngarde plays Jason King, a crime-busting novelist. He gets into some pretty tough scrapes but usually manages to escape with his long hair and silk shirt unruffled.’
Meanwhile, at PETER’s hideout in the City centre, more than fifty young women had taken up residence outside his hotel, bringing in camping equipment and having food shipped in to them so as not to miss a single opportunity to catch a glimpse of their idol. It was reported that three of their more daring number miraculously succeeded in scaling the outer wall of the hotel, and for one night at least, slept on the balcony of PETER’s 12th-floor balcony before police officers lead them away. Even hotel staff got themselves in on the act when two maids crept into PETER’s room whilst he was sleeping, and cut hair from his moustache and chest!!!
PETER arrived back home in England on April 15th to immediately begin work on the new series, Jason King, which made a spectacular debut on Australia’s Channel 7 the following year.
There was a frenzy of fan activity when a local newspaper, The Gold Coast Bulletin, let slip that PETER would be attending a reception at the Sands Hotel, and that a number of well-known dignitaries would be a attending.
On hearing the news, one of PETER’s biggest fans – Switchboard Operator, Pam Harris – decided to call all the local newspapers and radio stations on the Gold Coast to ask why no fans had been invited to meet him. Someone must’ve been listening, as the idea of having a fan or two there was taken up by the event organisers, who invited Ms Harris and her family along.
PETER with Pam
With a photographer in tow, Pam and her parents arrived at The Sands to find the ubiquitous gaggle of beauties milling around, along with local dignitaries and other big-wigs.
When PETER joined them, he shook hands with everyone and was presented with a book about The Gold Coast, to which he said: “I love presents!” Champagne and nibbles were consumed, and the PETER and the Harris Family were escorted to the beach for a brief photo’ shoot.
After a short time PETER, who was still feeling the effects of jetlag, turned to the professional photographers and told them that he’d had enough of having his picture taken. Mr Harris immediately put his camera away, but then PETER turned to him and said: “It’s OK. I didn’t mean you”. In this was he was able to maximize fan contact.
PETER and Ms Harris featured in several newspapers during the following week, and since she’d just become engaged, more than one hack wanted to know if the ring she was wearing was from PETER!
Almost exactly a year later, PETER returned to Australia to take the lead role in the World Premier of Simon Gray’s play,Butley at the Metro Theatre in Melbourne.
As before, thousands of teenage girls had succeeded in finding a way to bunk off school for the day, and had all made their way to the airport to try and catch a glimpse of him. Determined not to have a repeat of the hysteria they’d experienced a year earlier, airport security officers had arranged to keep PETER away from the Arrivals Lounge where most of the fans (mainly women!) had congregated, and had brought him in through a side entrance, and straight to Passport Control.
However, as PETER and two Security Officers were walking along one of the corridors two 9-year-old girls, who’d managed to evade both the police and airport staff, came charging around the corner – arms and hair flying – straight at PETER. After showering him in hugs and kisses, the two girls were lead away by one of the Security Officers.
During his brief stay in Sidney, a popular magazine held a poll which asked women who was ‘he man they’d most like to lose our virginity to. 49,000 Votes were returned, 40,000 of which stated quite emphatically, PETER WYNGARDE!
The following year, he was invited back to Oz, and on June 16th, 1972, PETER’s left handprint was immortalized in cement at the Bunnings (previously McEwans) hardware emporium in Melbourne Australia.
During the late Nineties, all the hand and footprints were relocated to the interior wall of the store, since many of them were being eroded by pedestrians walking over them. The store can be found right in the heart of the city, in Bourke Street.
The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/813997125389790/