As the host of Countdown, he befriended everyone from Elton John to Madonna. Nowadays, the pop-music maestro is happiest with his dog, Ziggy. Interview by Alison Boleyn.
What’s your greatest strength?
Having my best friend, my little dog Ziggy, with me all the time gives me strength.
And what’s your greatest weakness?
I can’t speak English properly. But somehow I’ve managed to make a career out of that.
What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?
I’m actually quite shy. I never planned to be on TV. I never aspired to be anything other than a journalist or a music producer, working behind the scenes. Countdown happened almost by accident but it happened. I’m more comfortable out of the spotlight.
What’s your idea of absolute happiness?
Witnessing St Kilda win the AFL Grand Final, although it’ll never happen in my lifetime.
If you could have dinner with two famous people, who would you choose?
I’ve been very lucky; I had dinner with the two people I always wanted to – Nelson Mandela and John Lennon. Not at the same time. Nelson Mandela was always a hero. John Lennon gave me the world scoop about The Beatles breaking up and Imagine is still my all-time favourite song.
When do you switch off?
Watching the AFL when St Kilda loses, I’ll switch off. Same if Melbourne Storm loses.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Vodka. And buying things from magazine catalogues. My friends see all these parcels arrive and think, “Not more!”
If you could turn back time, what would you change in your life?
I wish my grandmother hadn’t died. And I probably wouldn’t have climbed that ladder. [He suffered head and spinal injuries after falling in 2011.] We all know now that I’m a disaster on ladders.
Where would we find you at a party?
Probably under the bar.
Who is your personal hero?
Former St Kilda player Nicky Winmar, for the extraordinary moment in 1993 when he lifted up his jumper to show the colour of his skin when someone was racially abusing him.
What’s your most treasured possession?
My dog, Ziggy. He’s my best friend – I talk to him all day and he really does talk back. Especially when we sit down to watch Home and Away. I swear Ziggy says, “Oh, not this show again, please.”
What would you spend your last $20 on?
I’d spend it on food for Ziggy. I couldn’t bear to see him hungry.
How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to think I’ve always lived by what my grandma told me – to treat everyone the same, that no-one is above you and, more importantly, no-one is below you.
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