Gavan Disney’s wood

It’s long been an article of faith that the only Australian showbiz book better than a warts-n-all look behind the scenes of Hey Hey It’s Saturday’s 20-odd year run would be Tony Martin’s occasionally mentioned (and most likely a gag) examination of MMM management Wankers Away! But that was until the Gavan Disney sex trial.

For those not in the know, as the producer of Hey Hey Disney worked hand in glove with host Daryl Somers week in week out crushing the dreams of anyone who hoped prime-time entertainment in Australia could feature more than just a dead-eyed vicious host focusing his increasingly autocratic gaze on a pack of terrified underlings before cutting to a segment about vaguely smutty roadsigns. It seemed sort of reasonable to assume that Disney was the good cop in their double act – well, it’s not as if there could have been a worse cop than Somers, whose reputation for a uniquely vile brand of self-centered entitlement lives on to this day – until Disney was charged late in 2008 with sexually assaulting a teenage cameraman back in the early 1980s.

Those of you who’ve been following the news know that Disney was subsequently acquitted of all charges. So the court reports that follow are for entertainment purposes only. As is often the case, what makes these now officially false accusations so entertaining is their extremely specific nature. Think about it: someone had to sit down and actually make this stuff up. And not just about anyone – about the producer of “much-loved” variety show Hey Hey It’s Saturday, a show that in its 20 year run came to symbolise a certain kind of family entertainment that mostly involved low-level smut, thinly veiled abuse, a guy in a duck suit dry-humping members of the band, and absolutely no role for women past singing “folks are dumb where I come from” and giggling at Daryl’s jokes.

In recent years Hey Hey has undergone a minor revival amongst those barely in their teens when it was finally pulled off the air. Nostalgia no doubt plays a part. But watching selected clips on YouTube or on DVD doesn’t begin to convey the grim, arrogant attitude that radiated off the screen whenever Hey Hey was on the air. It became a show that was proud of its rubbish segments and tired gags, a show made by people who firmly believed they didn’t have to give a shit what people wanted to watch: you’ll watch a grim control freak giving his death stare to anyone who dares step on one of his gags and you’ll like it.

Too harsh? Doubtful: after it was announced that Hey Hey was ending after 28 years, Daryl proudly said that hearing Tom Jones and John Farnham ad-libbing My Yiddish Momma “was one of the most magical pieces of television ever”. Mostly because it happened on his show. A show that Disney produced week in, week out, a backstage Himmler to Daryl’s comedy Hitler. “Ve haff ways of making you laff” was never more threatening.

Anyway, despite Daryl’s seemingly ceaseless efforts to bring Hey Hey back (including an embarassing on-stage plea during the Logies, for Christ’s sake), that’s all in the past now. But always after a big trial, some questions remains unanswered. What was Dick Emery’s role in all this? Is shaving cream a traditional masturbation aid? And will there be a funnier line in Australian comedy in 2009 than this one: “The jury heard the complainant, now 47, gave conflicting descriptions of Disney’s car interior, the garden of his Melbourne home and his penis.”

For the answers to almost none of those questions, read on. And remember: Disney was, as mentioned earlier, found innocent in a court of law… but guilty in a court of hilarity*

(*not an actual court)

Hey, Hey creator Disney to stand trial on rape charges (The Age, December 19, 2008)

Television identity Gavan Disney has been committed to stand trial over allegations of sexual assault against a teenage boy more than 20 years ago.

Disney, the co-creator of the Nine Network’s long-running program Hey Hey It’s Saturday, faces 15 charges relating to the abuse of a teenager he worked with at Ballarat television station BTV6 in the early 1980s.

Disney’s former BTV6 colleague Frederick Fargher told Ballarat Magistrates Court today Disney had been “mildly infatuated” with the teenager. “I always had the impression Gavan favoured him a bit. He really liked him,” he said.

Mr Fargher said Disney asked him to attend drinks in a dressing room because he wanted to get the teenager’s pants off but didn’t want him to be suspicious. Mr Fargher said he was shocked to enter the dressing room and see the teenager naked with Disney fondling his genitals.

Mr Fargher had also been charged with indecently assaulting the teenager, but the single count was dropped in August when he agreed to give evidence against Disney, 59, of Toorak.

In a statement tendered to the court the alleged victim, now in his 40s, said he was intimidated by Disney. “After the dressing room incident I remember being terrified of being misunderstood and the threat of losing my job,” he said. The man said Disney went out of his way to make him believe he was somebody he was not and called him a “poofter”. “Some other jibes I can recall are, `gee, you’re a good kisser’, `you’ve got nice skin’ and `didn’t you know you were gay’,” he said. The man said Disney first assaulted him when he was drunk. “The acts occurred sporadically, but when they did they were forceful. They were not overly violent,” he said. “They were, however, invasive, unprovoked and defying vocal and physical protest from me.”

Disney is charged with 13 counts of indecent assault and two counts of rape. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The matter was adjourned for a directions hearing in the County Court in Melbourne on February 10.

That’s showbiz’, rape trial told (The Age, June 30, 2009)

Co-creator of the hit television show Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Gavan Disney, repeatedly assaulted a teenage colleague almost 30 years ago, telling him “it’s all part of show business”, a jury has heard.

Disney, the former executive producer of the long-running Nine Network program, is fighting accusations he assaulted the teenager while he was employed at Ballarat television station BTV6.

On the first day of his County Court trial, the jury heard that Disney would squeeze the teen’s genitals, kiss him, force him to perform oral sex and, on one occasion, fondled his genitals with shaving foam.

The incidents allegedly took place between 1980 and 1983, soon after the youth joined the station as a 17-year-old, prosecutor Kieran Gilligan said.

Disney, 60, has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of indecent assault and two of rape. His lawyers said Disney denied the allegations and never touched the boy sexually.

Mr Gilligan outlined several incidents in which Disney allegedly assaulted the teen, now 47. He said Disney painted the incidents in a flippant light, saying: “It’s all part of show business.” Mr Gilligan said the teen felt ashamed and embarrassed and feared losing his job. The teen left the Ballarat station in 1981 after getting a job in Melbourne. He reluctantly agreed to meet Disney, who was then producing Hey Hey and managing its star, Daryl Somers, the court was told. Mr Gilligan said the abuse continued in Melbourne.

Mr Gilligan said Disney’s former BTV6 colleague, Frederick Fargher, would testify that Disney had a sexual interest in the teenager. Defence barrister Terry Forrest, QC, said the claims were fabricated. The trial, in Ballarat, continues today.

Former TV host witnessed abuse: court (NineMSN, July 2, 2009)

A former colleague of television identity Gavan Disney has testified that he watched him fondle and abuse a junior colleague.

Former Ballarat television presenter Frederick Fargher told the Victorian County Court Disney invited him for drinks in a television station dressing room and said he wanted to get into a co-worker’s “pants”. Mr Fargher said Disney told him: “I’m going to get into (his) pants tonight and I want you to be there so it’ll look less suspicious”. Mr Fargher said Disney would often play the fool and he wasn’t sure if he was serious. “I remember saying: ‘Oh Gavan’,” he told the court. “He just said: ‘Just do it’ and he walked away.”

Disney, the co-creator of the Nine Network’s long-running program Hey Hey It’s Saturday, is fighting accusations he assaulted a teenager with whom he worked at Ballarat television station BTV6 almost 30 years ago. The 60-year-old has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of indecent assault and two of rape over alleged incidents relating to the person.

The jury has heard the abuse began soon after the alleged victim joined the station in 1980, aged 17. Mr Fargher said he went with Disney to the dressing room and the alleged victim soon joined them. Both Disney and the complainant were drinking alcohol and were joking, he said. Mr Fargher alleged Disney “mildly encouraged” the teenager to keep drinking and repeatedly asked him to take off his pants. “I was a bit worried that he was serious about it,” Mr Fargher said.

He said Disney pulled the teenager onto his lap and again said: “C’mon, take your pants off”. The alleged victim agreed, saying: “Okay Gavan, if it means that much to you”. The teenager removed his clothes and Disney began fondling his genitals, Mr Fargher said. During the incident, Disney told the complainant: “Gee, you’ve got a great body,” he said. Disney then fondled the teenager’s genitals with shaving cream, before the boy vomited onto the carpet.

Mr Fargher said Disney then told the alleged victim: “If you’re going to throw up, go to the toilet”.

The alleged victim did not object and he himself remained quiet during the incident, Mr Fargher said. Mr Fargher, who is now retired, was questioned in 2004 and also charged with sexual offences after the alleged victim made similar abuse claims but the charges were later withdrawn.

Under cross examination, he denied abusing or having any sexual interest in the alleged victim. He also denied lying about what happened to become a police witness and avoid charges. “As God is my witness, I am not,” he said. Mr Fargher said he was unaware the teenager had not complained of a shaving cream incident. He also denied being motivated by a professional vendetta toward Disney whom he believed had wanted to sack him from BTV6.

Mr Fargher said Disney tended to favour the teenager over other employees. He added the boy also liked the attention. “He liked being Gavan’s number one boy,” he said. Mr Fargher said Disney remarked many times on how attractive the alleged victim was and how he fancied him. The trial, in Ballarat in central Victoria, continues on Friday.

Gavan Disney Sex Trial Hears Of Pants- Off Request (The Herald-Sun, July 03, 2009)

A WITNESS in the sex trial of Hey Hey It’s Saturday producer Gavan Disney told a court the alleged victim liked to be considered “Gavan’s number one boy”.

Former BTV6 compere Frederick Fargher told a County Court sitting in Ballarat yesterday that Mr Disney often described the alleged victim as attractive, and fondled the young TV employee with shaving cream in a studio dressing room one night. Mr Fargher, 69, said Mr Disney hired the alleged victim — who can’t be named — because he believed young people from Melbourne were “more worldly”.

He told the court Mr Disney, at times an amusing and charming man who drank scotch whisky and ice, told him he wanted to get into the young man’s pants. Mr Fargher worked with Mr Disney — a former talent manager who became the BTV6 production manager — when he compered an open-ended Thursday night chat show, Six Tonight. He said the program showcased local and international talent, including British comedian Dick Emery.

He told the court that one night in the early 1980s while in his office, Mr Disney appeared with drink in hand and told him there were drinks on in his dressing room after recording. Mr Fargher said that while all three drank alcohol, Mr Disney asked the young man to take his pants off. “I was worried that he was serious about it,” Mr Fargher said. Eventually the young man undressed and Mr Disney tried to masturbate him with the shaving cream, the court was told.

Under cross-examination from Peter Morrissey, QC, Mr Fargher denied he made up the dressing room incident. Mr Fargher described the man as being a “confident and ambitious” young employee back in the 1980s at BTV6. “He liked being Gavan’s number one boy,” he said.

Mr Disney, 60, has pleaded not guilty to committing 13 acts of indecent assault and two acts of rape. On Monday the court was told Mr Disney sexually assaulted the young man several times, telling him it was “all part of showbusiness”. Prosecutor Kieran Gilligan alleged sex crimes — including fondling, kissing and oral sex — happened at the BTV6 studio and other places including Mr Disney’s home and his car between 1980 and 1983. Mr Gilligan alleged the last of the assaults occurred when both men were working at Channel 9 in Melbourne where Mr Disney went on to produce Hey Hey while managing the show’s host, Daryl Somers.

Defence counsel Terry Forrest, QC, told the jury Mr Disney strenuously denied ever touching the alleged victim sexually in any way. The trial, before Judge Paul Lacava continues.

Disney cleared of sex assault charges (The Age, July 9, 2009)

Gavan Disney, a producer of the long-running TV show Hey Hey It’s Saturday, has walked free from court after being cleared of raping and assaulting a junior employee 30 years ago.

Disney, 60, was accused of assaulting the worker while he held an executive role at Ballarat television station BTV6 in the early 1980s. It was alleged at his County Court trial Disney fondled the complainant’s genitals, kissed him and forced him to have oral sex soon after the junior joined the station as a 17-year-old, telling him it was “all part of show business”.

But today, a jury acquitted Disney of 10 counts of indecent assault and two of rape after a day of deliberations. After the verdict, Disney hugged his wife and family members, telling reporters outside court he was “very happy” with the outcome.

Prosecutor Kieran Gilligan had alleged Disney, then aged about 30, escalated his assaults against the teenager when he knew he would not complain. He alleged Disney assaulted the teenager at work, in his car and at other places and taunted him with comments such as, “You’re a poofter” and “Didn’t know you were gay”. He said the assaults were usually accompanied by alcohol and the complainant feared losing his job if he spoke up.

But on the witness stand, Disney denied being infatuated with the complainant and rejected all allegations. Disney described his accuser as a keen and eager worker, but said he never gave him preferential treatment. “He showed potential and he was given an opportunity,” he said. Disney denied using his power to take sexual advantage of the complainant and any fear he had of losing his job. “I’m telling the truth and (he) was not a quiet retiring type,” he said.

Disney agreed he met the complainant in 1994 after they both moved to Melbourne. But he denied his accuser confronted him over the allegations at this meeting, saying it was because he wanted a job. “He had been through a bad time. I thought he looked a little unwell,” Disney said. “I felt he wasn’t up to being employed by me.”

Former Ballarat television presenter Frederick Fargher testified he saw Disney fondle the teenager’s genitals with shaving cream in a television station dressing room. Before the incident, he alleged Disney told him: “I’m going to get into (his) pants tonight and I want you to be there so it’ll look less suspicious.” Mr Fargher said Disney had expressed a sexual interest in the complainant and tended to favour him over other workers. The complainant also “liked being Gavan’s number one boy”, he said.

Mr Fargher was originally charged over similar allegations involving the complainant but this was dropped when he agreed to testify against Disney. He denied being motivated by a professional vendetta against Disney and denied lying to avoid charges himself. The jury heard the complainant, now 47, gave conflicting descriptions of Disney’s car interior, the garden of his Melbourne home and his penis.

Disney’s wife Margaret Disney described the complainant as a confident and happy man. She said her husband’s employees looked up to him and respected him. Judge Paul Lacava last week instructed the jury to find Disney not guilty on three further indecent assault charges due to lack of evidence.

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