“First we have to get you some voice coaching”, the TV executive announced to me over lunch several years ago. And with those mortifying words, my stint on breakfast TV began.
Until that day, I’d thought my voice was perfectly normal.
Acceptable even. Pah! Stupid girl. To work on television, you need a
particular singsong cadence. This is how I came to find myself weeks
later marching around a boardroom table in bare feet loudly humming
jingle bells. It was my voice coach’s idea. My. Voice. Coach. How did
this happen? And more importantly, was I on crack?
I’d been recruited to do a weekly lifestyle segment for The Today
Show, back when Steve and Tracey hosted it. And like most people who
watch TV, I thought being on it would be easy peasy. Not so much.
Over the next 18 months, I would learn many things. How to talk was
merely one of them. I also learnt how to sit on an interview couch, how
to stop slouching and how to wear a bra to prevent VBD (visible boob
In my first appearance, I did all of the above incorrectly and was
given a stern talking to from the woman whose job it was to notice such
things. After making me watch the tape, I had to admit she was right.
From then on, I was on the back foot. Voice lessons were stepped up.
Bras were tightened. Couch sitting was practiced. In fact, I was so
busy trying not to slouch, droop or mumble, it’s a damn wonder I had
time to hold down my day job.
Still, I had some corkers. One week, I had to do a segment on how more
people were hiring private investigators to trail cheating spouses. As
part of my chat with Steve in the studio, I had a few props for us to
One was a kit that allowed you to detect semen on underwear. The
nauseating idea being: you retrieve your partner’s knickers, squirt
this stuff onto the crotch and wait for the fabric to change colour,
indicating whether said undies have seen some action.
Surprisingly, Steve wasn’t very keen to talk about the yucky kit and
tried to skip over it but I hauled him back from his journalistic
integrity with the following display of TV Tourette’s Syndrome: “Now
Steve, the kit says it can be used for both men and women and that’s
got me a bit baffled. Like, I understand how it would work on women’s
undies but men? I mean, what if some semen just fell out during the
Across the studio, I heard Tracey spit out her coffee. Possibly through
her nose. The crew similarly began convulsing in silent hysterics. Back
on the couch, Steve’s face turned to stone before he quickly wrapped up
the segment and threw to a commercial. Then he hit me over the head
with his script and walked off. More likely to have a ciggie than a
tantrum – he was still a smoker at the time and morning TV doesn’t
allow the luxury of brooding.
Happily, he didn’t have me summarily fired, or killed. In fact he never
mentioned it again and was always supportive and encouraging. Sadly, it
was also Steve who bore the brunt of my next debacle.
It was the morning of Melbourne Cup day and I was set to do my first
live cross. We were at the park-side setting of a posh lunch where
some ladies in hats had been wrangled to stand around and look
glamorous. Then there was me. And a horse. A big, big horse who had
some Cup claim to fame I was meant to mention and instantly forgot. He
may have run in the Cup or won it or drank from it as far as I could
Before I could check, a glass of champagne was shoved in my hand and we
went live. I did Ok for the first 30 seconds or so, babbling away to
Steve about something or other, until the big horse – have I mentioned
I’m quite scared of horses? – lunged towards me and tried to eat my
microphone. Or bite me. Or both. In my panic, I threw back to Steve in
the studio but since I’d been meant to babble on a fair bit longer,
Steve had taken the opportunity to duck out to drink his coffee. Sorry
No doubt, hundreds of thousands of people were at that moment, looking
at their TV and saying, “who is the idiot with the horse”. That would