Bert Newton did his comedy routines in a very different era … and perhaps it’s time he left them there. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Bert Newton did his comedy routines in a very different era … and perhaps it’s time he left them there. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Awful truth behind Bert Newton gag


THERE is something very wrong with Bert Newton's misjudged 'gag' at the 2018 Logies about his old friend Graham Kennedy "mentoring" young talent behind locked dressing room doors.

Sure, we know the 79-year-old veteran entertainer lived in a very different era to present day 2018, one where the #MeToo movement would have been laughed out the door with a glint in the eye and a slap on the backside.

But the inference of Newton's one-liner was, of course, that his buddy - a famous and well established name on the Australian comedy circuit - was "mentoring" pretty young things in the hope of receiving sexual favours, safely concealed under the guise of "helping them with their career" while others turned a blind eye.

Funny, right?

"He enjoyed giving young people a chance on television. He was a great mentor, he mentored a lot of young people. You knew if you went to his dressing room [and] it was locked, he will be inside doing some mentoring," Newton said, an eyebrow raised as the Logies audience gasped.

Oh, wait. This storyline is starting to sound familiar. Ah, that's right: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby. Do you want a side of Quaaludes with that?

The ‘King of Australian Television’ was also crowned King of Moomba in 1979.
The ‘King of Australian Television’ was also crowned King of Moomba in 1979.


Graham Kennedy’s humour was laden with innuendo and double entendres.
Graham Kennedy’s humour was laden with innuendo and double entendres.


Just a day later, AFL legend Barry Hall outraged Triple M listeners for telling a highly offensive "joke" about a former teammate's pregnant wife.

For those who have been living under a rock, the conversation inside the radio studio turned to a common medical procedure known as a membrane sweep and Hall piped up with a vulgar comment where he insinuated the doctor acted in a sexually inappropriate manner.

The same day, Hall was appropriately sacked.

But these two examples beg the question - considering the global conversation about sexual misconduct this past year, how could either of these family men have possibly thought these joke were funny?

Newton's joke was particularly disturbing. I am not suggesting he knew about or was involved in sexual misconduct.

But the "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" delivery of his poorly timed quip suggested that young people were being "mentored" behind locked dressing room doors while others within the industry sniggered in the background.

Whether these young people were fans, wannabe entertainers, models, dancers, singers or comedians is irrelevant. The fact Newton thought to bring this up in 2018 at the Logies demonstrates just how out of touch he is and how this type of behaviour was normalised in years gone by.

How many stories have we heard lately about rampant abuse at the hands of sexual predators in the entertainment industry during the 1960s, '70s and '80s? It sounds like, back then, the BBC was riddled with perverts.

Ever since the scandal that engulfed British entertainer and revolting paedophile Jimmy Savile exploded in 2012 almost a year after his death aged 84, more names have been added to the list.

TV star Rolf Harris, 88, and his wobble board must have seemed so cheeky and innocent in the '70s, but as we now know, behind the goatee lay a sinister dark side that saw him convicted on 12 counts of indecent assault at Southwark Crown Court in London on June 30, 2014.

One charge was quashed in 2017, but Harris was sentenced to five years and nine months and served three years at HM Prison Stafford.

One-time star of the glam rock movement Gary Glitter, 74, was fawned over by many young women and, as we now know, he played this to his advantage.

Now a convicted sex offender, Glitter - real name Paul Gadd - was also convicted at Southwark Crown Court in 2015 for attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault, and one of having sex with a girl under the age of 13. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

America's dad, Bill Cosby, 80, reacted with fury when he was found guilty in April of three counts of sexual assault after two exhaustive trials.

Scores of other women came forward to make similar claims that he drugged and assaulted them in a hotel room while they were seeking career advice. He is yet to be sentenced.

Harvey Weinstein, 66, last month entered a not guilty plea over charges of first-degree rape, third-degree rape and a first-degree criminal sexual act, but has yet to have the case heard.

However, we've heard plenty of tales about his alleged sexual misconduct ranging from rape to sexual assault and claims that he destroyed the movie careers of young women who refused his advances.

The string that holds these characters together is these Baby Boomers were born in a less complicated time when sexual liberation was all about taking LSD, having few inhibitions and getting naked in a field.

In essence - the perfect climate for sexual predators to fulfil their fantasies under the guise of simple, innocent "fun".

Even Weinstein - while trying to defend three decades of alleged sexual misbehaviour - made these bizarre comments as if to brush it all away: "I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.

"I have since learned it's not an excuse, in the office - or out of it. To anyone."

Yes that's right, Harvey. None of that excuses sexual misconduct, rape or sexual assault.

Comments like Bert Newton's just reinforce how we have got to where we are today.

Many men have described #MeToo as a "witch hunt".

I have personally found this phrase to be extremely ironic being as the original witch hunts in Salem in the 1600s were targeted attacks on vulnerable women, who were hunted down under a cloud of mass hysteria on suspicion of performing witchcraft.

In truth, these women were often outspoken, poor or just a bit different.

Not so with #MeToo. These men are being outed because they were in positions of power and were protected by an industry that turned a blind eye while they relentlessly targeted vulnerable prey - both female and male.

Their victims often stayed silent thinking they would not be believed or were simply too scared to speak out.

It was only when the wind of change swept through society and they collectively stood up and said, "Time's Up" that their voices were eventually heard.