Debbie Reynolds touched my life and made a lasting impression on my career as an entertainer…
I was fortunate to literally grow up on Australian TV. I was part of a cast of children who presented Young Talent Time. It was an incredibly successful, family variety show, sort of like an all singing, all dancing, Brady Bunch!
We were supported by a full orchestra, drilled by dedicated choreographers, and presented by a team of talented producers and directors. The show ran for a period of twenty years and I performed as part of the cast from the age of 10-16 years. It was the most perfect apprenticeship for any young person who dreamed of making a career in the performing arts and I am eternally grateful that the universe threw me into its orbit.
Because Young Talent Time was a flagship program for the National Ten Network, in Australia, we often had well-known guest artists, and even visiting international artists. These artists made an indelible impression on us. Some were talented, others were rude, some had massive egos, and others were generous. Meeting and working with these guest artists formed some of the most vivid life lessons I was given as a budding performer, and a young adult. It illustrated to me how good, talented people behaved, and how the others behaved.
It was in this environment that I met Debbie Reynolds. She was visiting Melbourne to perform in one of the premier ‘dinner theatre’ venues and came on Young Talent Time to promote the show. Ms Reynolds could not have been more friendly. She was warm, funny, as well as being every part a true star!
The following week my parents took me, along with some of my brothers and sisters to see her concert performance. Remarkably, during the show, she enquired about whether I was in the house. To this day I do not know how she knew I was there, but she invited me to the stage, and made me feel like a million dollars… standing next to Hollywood royalty. She was warm, effusive, gagged with me and thanked me for having her on our show.
During interval I excused myself to go to the toilet. On my way through the foyer I was tapped on the shoulder by a mountain of a man, who asked, “Could you please take me to your parents.” He said that Ms Reynolds would like to invite us to her dressing room after the show.
Her bodyguard came back at the conclusion of the performance, and escorted us backstage. Debbie Reynolds sat with me and my family, chatted, and signed pictures for every one of us. She had that happy knack of making you feel special, when it was she who was the special one: she had just performed for two long hours, thrilling her audience, and still had the patience and generosity to show me, a budding young performer, how the professionals treated people; with care, respect, good humour and grace.
Needless to say, that many times in my life I have seen Debbie Reynolds on the big screen, or heard her interviewed on radio, and I have always smiled. She gave me such a simple and heartfelt gift. A life lesson that has never left me.
I have had the good fortune to work with many well-known artists through my career. The ‘real pros’, the good people of this industry are easily spotted. You can usually tell relatively quickly. Debbie Reynolds exemplified all the good things I have come to love about show-business and I am honoured to have met her.