It was 1997 and I was working at 2GB in Sydney, a news talk station with wall-to-wall politicians and talkback callers. In my job as afternoon newsreader I got to break many amazing stories and loved it, but to be honest I was looking for a change. Then out of the blue I received a call from Mandi Wicks who was news director of 2Day fM and MMM. She asked me if I was interested in a job!
On that day I decided I would move to the FM band and I have been there ever since. I will never forget the first week I was at 2Day FM. The music director came racing into the newsroom, grabbed me and told me she was taking me to meet some girls I’d like. Next thing I was in the production studio with Posh, Ginger Spice, Mel B, Mel C and Sporty Spice sitting on a couch. This was more exciting than politicians!
Back then there was no Facebook, no Twitter and no camera phones so that moment exists only in my memory now, but what a cool way to start your new job.
There were no iPods or downloads then either so 2Day FM was THE place to go for the latest hits and new songs from the big artists. So quite literally half of Sydney’s teenagers would listen to our nightly countdown of the biggest hits. I remember meeting Ugly Phil, the host of the countdown show on my first day there, and I immediately clicked with him and stay in touch to this day.
At that time we journos were churning out news for both 2Day FM and MMM. I was writing most of the stories that went to air on the Andrew Denton Breakfast show on MMM, and then I’d head over to the 2Day FM studio and read the news for radio legend Ron E. Sparks.
It wasn’t long before I was also reading news for Jason Sole (otherwise known as ‘the Soulman’) and when the mighty David White took holidays I’d do news for Wendy Harmer in the breakfast show too.
It almost sounds like name-dropped, but I also did news for Martin and Molloy, and Jamie Angel too before I was asked to move to the new nationally syndicated drive show with Kyle & Jackie O. Soon we were number 1 and the show seemed to work with it’s unique mix of music, celeb interviews… and to my surprise, on-air chats with me!
The year was 2003 and in December Jackie approached me to ask if I’d move to breakfast with them. I agreed, with one condition, I could be myself – when they talked about their partners on air, I could do the same about Jason. I didn’t realise at the time, but that made me the first openly on-air gay newsreader!
It wasn’t long before there were stories in the papers labelling me as the ‘gay’ newsreader. I must admit I was a bit shocked, because to me it was no big deal as I was only being honest to myself.
In late 2005 my life-partner, Jason, proposed to me live on-air. This was one of the most amazing moments of my life. I remember Jason appeared in the studio that morning and before I had a chance to ask him what it was all about we were standing in front of a microphone and he’s popping the question!
Of course I said ‘yes’. I was well aware our marriage would not be legal, but I thought it was important to make a statement. And even if it meant nothing to the politicians, it meant everything to our families. To us and them, what were were about to do was as real as any straight marriage.
With this in mind I insisted it be labelled as an “illegal wedding” on-air. I wanted to get the point across that there was no marriage equality in Australia.
For the next four weeks we received thousands of emails and cards, and as we got closer to the big day it was covered by Sunrise, New Idea, the papers and the nightly TV news bulletins.
Finally our day arrived. We had a guest list packed our closest family and friends, listeners and celebrity supporters. I remember seeing the Australian Idol contestants, Daryl Somers, Carlotta and so many more wonderful people supporting us. We even had Human Nature, Rickie Lee and 70’s legend Leo Sayer perform.
The ceremony was held on a rainy morning at Circular Quay. I will never forget walking down the isle and seeing Jason waiting for me. As I passed Jason’s then 84 year-old grandmother she reached out her hand and squeezed me. This was real!
Needless to say the media went into overdrive. Sunrise broadcast the wedding live, and then repeated it the following weekend. It was also put to air across the entire 2Day FM network from coast to coast. Not to mention the press coverage as well. All this resulted in a fierce debate over gay marriage. Thankfully an amazing colleague at 2Day FM, Chrissie Maus, guided us through it all.
As the years went on I was elevated from newsreader on the breakfast show to the third member of the team with segments like “Scare Geoff” and I even featured in TV advertising.
All this attention was very unexpected – I was just a boy from the south coast who wanted to read the news! All of a sudden I was being asked to attend events, become ambassador for charities and of course lead the way for gay rights in this country.
Meanwhile, the Breakfast show went from strength to strength. At one stage we took the show to Los Angeles where I interviewed the stars on the red carpet, went to Kelly Clackson’s house for coffee and did, perhaps, the worst stand-up ever in LA’s most famous comedy club (I was introduced as Australia’s funniest comedian)!
When we were in LA I did a stunt under hypnosis. I boarded one of those Hollywood tour buses believing I knew more than the tour guide, so as we were going past Michael Jackson’s house, I would yell out to the guide that he was wrong and say something like ‘Michael moved out last week, Oprah now lives there’!
For the next few years my life was a whirlwind. I got to interview celebrities like Kylie Minogue and met the likes of Rihanna, Darren Hayes, Pink, Guy Sebastian, KeSha, Dannni Minogue and many more. One morning a woman poked her head into my studio asking where she could get a coffee, I told her the kitchen was at the other end of the building. Minutes later this woman was introduced on-air as a new singer called Lady Gaga promoting her debut single.
I had five mainly good years on the Breakfast show, but in March 2010 things had changed. It wasn’t fun anymore. I decided never to work with either host again. The management moved me to the Hamish and Andy show which I loved, and before you ask: No, I never did do pants-off-Friday with the boys!
Fifi and Jules then followed and now it’s The Dan and Maz show. This pair are hugely talented and great people off-air too, I hope they have long successful careers.
So that’s about it. 17 years there makes me the longest serving newsreader at any FM station and I’m very proud of that.
Before I finish this I’ve got to mention the names of some of the people whose support and friendship have been important over these amazing years. Some of the names will be familiar to you, others are people behind the scenes from the past and present: Thanks to Sonja Collins, Chrissie Maus, Labrat, Glen Styles, Michael Anderson, Ellie Mobbs, Barbra Wilton, Helen Davies, Zoe Sheridan, Lizzie Lovett, Jason Sole, Jamie Angel, Alison Drower, Deborah Clay, Laura Tchillinguirian, Matt McDonald, Sarah Forster, Sasha Tannock, Chris Urquhart, Gil Taylor and the original receptionists Celia and Nicky. I know I have missed some names, forgive me.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me, including the millions of listeners who have been so loyal.