Continuing his series of columns, Melbourne radio legend Doug Aiton recalls his interview with Peter Ustinov.
“It was very simply one of the finest interviews that I have ever been in charge of. People at 3LO were coming down and standing in the producers’ studio just to get a look at him.”
At the time I met Peter Ustinov it was for a Sunday Age article rather than a radio interview. He became available to me on a short Melbourne visit.
“But don’t get him on to your radio program,” said the helpful public relations woman. “He’s just here briefly.”
I said alright, and agreed to meet him the next day for lunch at a Melbourne hotel.
Peter Ustinov, for those who are younger, is more or less everything. He is a film star, an opera star, a television star, an impressionist, a director, a comedian, and even a current affairs guru. He is now dead.
I had not met him before but I was suitably impressed. He came from a press conference at the hotel, visibly irritated, and sat down opposite me in the dining room looking disturbed. It was as though I knew him.
He was reflecting on the stupidity of the questions asked for a while before he turned to me wondering how my attack would compare. Anyway, I preceded with the few questions I had thought of, Ustinov liked them, and so we got on fine.
At the end, he said to me “am I to understand you do a radio program here?” I nodded.
He said, “would I be being presumptuous if I said I was available?”
“No”, I said. We arranged to meet the next day, a Monday, on my program.
There, he preceded to help himself to a full hour of the program. He did, absolutely everything.
At one stage, he was the superstar of an opera which was invented by him. He had the star of the opera open a door and creakily close it, all with the appropriate sound effects from him. It went on and on, and half the time, I was unable to participate because I was laughing so fully.
It was very simply one of the finest interviews that I have ever been in charge of. People at 3LO were coming down and standing in the producers’ studio just to get a look at him.
He was one of those people who commands extreme devotion when he performs, as he was often doing.
He also expressed, off air, delight at the now published interview I did with him yesterday.
In short, he was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, and one of the best contributors to an interview program because he takes over the interview and leaves you to adjudicate.
After the interview concluded, he politely pressed through the smiling crowds and out to the taxi cab which he had asked to wait for him.
Then he opened the passenger door and tumbled in to the cab head first so he ended up sitting on the floor. He then righted himself, looked out the window, and waved.
About the Author
Doug Aiton was the Drive time Presenter at Melbourne’s 3LO from 1987 – 1997.
He has a combined past of newspapers and radio including a weekly column for the Sunday Age for about ten years. He is married to Judy and has three children.
Now in his 70s, Doug still presents a regular program on The Pulse Geelong.
Edited by Jessie Aiton, (photo credit:Allan Warren)