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Don Lane

Don Lane (born 13 November 1933 as Morton Donald Isaacson) is an American-born Australian entertainer, talk show host and singer.

Early life

He was born in New York City to a Catholic mother (Dolly) and a Jewish father (Jacob). His mother later converted to Judaism. He has two siblings.

Early work

Lane began his working life as a nightclub performer and singer, usually doing a mix of comedy and singing. He appeared at many clubs in Hawaii, Los Angeles and New York. He briefly appeared on one episode of the Ed Sullivan program in the late 1950s as one half of a double act. He was drafted into the US Army in the early 1950s, and toured for two years entertaining the troops.

He says that he took his stagename 'Lane' from Frankie Laine. He worked alongside Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr, Wayne Newton and others.

Australia

1960s

Irish comedian Dave Allen presented a talk show on Sydney television for TCN-9 in 1965. He left the show abruptly - some say he was fired for his trademark anti-Catholic humour. Nine producer John Collins looked for replacement hosts to fill in for the rest of the season, and found Lane working in iconic nightclub the Copacabana.

Lane was given the host's chair for six weeks. He planned to base his version of the show on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Lane's run was variously referred to as "the Tonight Show", "Tonight with Don Lane" and "Sydney Tonight". Within a month, Nine settled on Lane as permanent host, and his initial six-week contract was extended to forty weeks.

Work on a coaxial cable linking Melbourne with Sydney had begun in June 1959, and was completed on 5 February 1963. On July 7 1965 Lane appeared on a then-innovative live split-screen link with Graham Kennedy via the cable.

He then returned to nightclub work in the United States, including stints at Las Vegas.

1970s

Lane appeared in a pilot for a small sketch comedy series called Wow, which also starred Cheryl Ladd and Steve Martin. He came back to Australia in 1975 to appear at a benefit concert for the victims of Cyclone Tracy. The Nine Network then put him to air on The Don Lane Show, which ran until 1983 and made him (in absolute terms) the most highly paid performer on Australian television.

1980s

The Don Lane Show ended on 13 November 1983. His final episode ran for two and a half hours and featured such stars as Sammy Davis, Jr., Phyllis Diller, and David Bowie. He did not leave for the United States after the end of the show as he normally would. Lane tells the story that the crew bought him a dog and intended to present it to him at the wrap party. Lane saw the dog coming down the hallway with its handler and thought it to be a drug-sniffing exercise; he panicked and advised the party-goers to throw out any drugs they had.

By 1987 he was back in Australia as a personality for Network Ten, hosting programs like You've Got to Be Joking, Late Night Australia and the 1987 presentation of the TV Week Logie Awards.

1990s

In 1993 Lane made a guest appearance on the comedy program The Late Show on Australia's ABC network. He also hosted American NFL broadcasts and NCAA basketball for the ABC .

2000s

In 2003 Lane was inducted into the TV Week Logie Awards Hall of Fame.

Don Lane and Bert Newton

Lane forged an enduring partnership with Bert Newton, an Australian comedian and entertainment identity. Newton had hitherto been strongly identified with Australian TV icon Graham Kennedy. Both Lane and Newton maintain that the first time they met was on-air, during the first episode of the Don Lane Show. Each describes that there was instant 'chemistry', and that they never made any deliberate attempt to build the relationship; it just happened.

It is widely believed that Lane christened Newton Moonface. However, Newton later claims that Lane asked writer Mike McColl-Jones for Newton's childhood nickname, and McColl-Jones tipped Newton off about this; Newton and McColl-Jones then made up the nickname and McColl-Jones fed Lane the false information. In any case, the nickname stuck.

Newton took much pleasure in sending up Lane's singing, sometimes by playing his records at half-speed while miming Lane's performance. Lane sometimes responded in kind by "sending up" Newton's own record, the Bert and Patti Album.

Logie awards

Logie Awards were made in each state separately during the 1960s and early 70s, since it was technically difficult to broadcast live programming interstate. Don Lane performed in Sydney, while Graham Kennedy held the same timeslot in Melbourne.

New South Wales Logies: Milesago

  • 1966: Most Popular Male and Most Popular Live Show (Tonight with Don Lane)
  • 1967: Most Popular Male and Most Popular Live Show (Tonight with Don Lane)
  • 1968: Best Male Personality and Best Show (Tonight with Don Lane)
  • 1969: Best Male Personality and Best Show (Tonight with Don Lane)
  • 1970: Best Male Personality and Best Local Show (Tonight Show with Don Lane)
  • 1974: Most Popular Male and Most Popular Show (The Don Lane Show)

National Logie awards:

  • Gold Logie
  • Most Popular Male Personality
  • Victoria: Most Popular Male
  • Most Popular Show

Controversies

Marijuana importation charge

In March 1968, Lane was charged with importing marijuana into Australia. During this time, he was held in prison. He strenuously protested his innocence, claiming that the drugs were planted into his jacket pocket by a former business associate who wanted revenge. He was eventually found not guilty, after being defended by barrister Marcus Einfeld.

James Randi

Uri Geller, Doris Stokes and broadcaster Kevin Arnett appeared on The Don Lane Show discussing psychic and paranormal themes.

Skeptic and debunker James Randi was invited onto the program to speak in rebuttal. His attempt to reproduce Geller's key-bending (by simply pressing the key against his chair) was caught by Lane, who said "I saw you bend it!", to which Randi replied "of course I did".

A heated exchange followed:

Lane: You've come here, you're offering five thousand dollars to people to say people are fakes, you said Doris Stokes was a fake, you say Uri Geller's a fake. You came here, and you've given everybody a lot of lip service and you haven't done anything, except show us a lot of tricks that you learned out of your two-bit act that you're not working [indistinct]

Randi: I never ...

(audience applause)

Randi: I never have said that Uri Geller was a fake, I have never [indistinct]

Lane: You did so, you said he was a fake, you called him a two-bit mag..., you called him a two-bit magician, you said he was a fake, and you said he didn't ... I'm not defending Uri Geller, what I am defending is you. You come over here with this big reputation, you give us a lot of lip service about all this stuff that you're gonna prove, you go against a lady like Doris Stokes who never harmed anybody in her whole life, and you call her a charlatan and a fake, you said -

Randi: You know a great deal about it.

Lane: Yes, I do, you said that she was a liar on the radio, you called her a liar -

Randi: No -

Lane: And that woman wouldn't lie to anybody, and I don't know whether she's right or wrong, but she wouldn't lie to anybody. We're going for a commercial break and you can piss off. We'll be back with Diana Trask.

(Lane walks off the set, sweeping the props from the small table, to audience applause)

(throughout the above, Randi is attempting to speak, but Lane talks over him)

In a podcast interview entitled "Adventures in Australia" recorded on September 18, 2006, Randi stated:

"[I] met with Don Lane in his office, with his producer, and I said, 'now, Mr Lane, I'm not here to be a clown. I'm not going to go in and do the spoon-bending thing, and the key-bending thing, and the reading-the-sealed envelope thing, as Uri Geller does. We're here to talk about Doris Stokes, I believe.' [...] I [...] went to the studio. And I got there a bit early, and I was wandering around about backstage and the prop man came over. 'Oh, Mr Randi, Mr Randi, will these spoons be sufficient?' And he showed me a collection of spoons and keys. And I said 'yes .. that appears ... they'll be just fine, thank you.' Course I knew now that Lane was trying to pull a fast one on me. And indeed that's exactly what he did.'"

The aftermath of the event led to a national and personal apology to Randi, which was televised through the Nine Network. It was evident on a 1996 episode of This is Your Life dedicated to Lane, that Lane and Randi had settled their differences. Randi made an appearance on the show wishing Lane all the best and many congratulations.

Randi's recollections of this event (recorded on September 18, 2006) are:

"I was called in to, well I think I did it via remote control here from Florida, but when they did some sort of a thing like, "Don Lane revisited" or something, they did some sort of a tribute to him.

And they called me and asked for my contribution. And my closing line, after saying that, you know, there was a misunderstanding, we had a good time after all, I said, 'oh by the way Don, and I then I gave him the two words that he'd given me' ... I had to get the dig in!"

Ernie Sigley

Lane has been involved in a long-term feud with Ernie Sigley. In 1976, Sigley and Lane were scheduled to perform in the same timeslot - Sigley performing two nights a week and Lane one night per week. During the first show, Sigley ranted about Kerry Packer and producer Peter Faiman, insulting the entire crew. He was subsequently taken off air. Lane moved to two nights per week and became Australia's biggest and highest-paid TV star.

At a Logies ceremony in the late 1990s, Lane claims to have been near the dance floor while Sigley was dancing. Lane made comments about Sigley's weight, before swinging a punch at his head. Lane claims that he intended to miss but accidentally connected, giving himself a cut hand and sending Sigley sprawling. Lane was ejected from the ceremony.

Notes

Further reading

  • Beaumont, Janise and Lane, Don (2007). The Don Lane story: Never argue with a mug. Frenchs Forest, NSW: New Holland Publishers. ISBN 9781741105179.
  • Newton, Bert (1977). Bert! Bert Newton's Own Story. Toorak, Victoria, Australia: Garry Sparkes & Associates. ISBN 0-9080-8124-3.
  • Blundell, Graeme (2003). King : the life and comedy of Graham Kennedy. Sydney: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 0-7329-1165-6.

External links

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