Australia’s number one baby boomer joins Have a Go News

Much loved radio and television personality John Burgess is to become ambassador for Have a Go News.

Burgo as he is affectionately known to his audience, says he is delighted to take on the ambassadorial role.

While he may have clicked into his eighties, Burgo has no intention of retiring and is looking forward to working with the team at WA’s family-owned and operated independent newspaper.

“I’ve seen so many people, I’ve had friends who were running big companies, like two or three hundred people working for them. They retire, have a wonderful time, they play golf every day for about two months. And about six months later they’re dead. They just bore themselves to death. While I’m able, I’ll keep doing what I do,” Burgo says.

These days his priority is looking after wife Gianna who has been battling an infection that has had her in and out of hospital.

He’s also had his own share of health issues, admitted to Royal Perth with sepsis which almost killed him. This prompted Burgo to become an ambassador for Sepsis Australia as well as for the Cancer Council of WA.

As the ambassador for Have a Go News Burgo will write a monthly column about his experiences in the entertainment industry, offering his thoughts on life and getting involved in the paper’s various promotions.

He has plenty of classic tales to share with readers about his experiences over 59 years in the industry.

Best known for hosting television’s Wheel of Fortune and as a breakfast radio host, Burgo was born in Sydney where a chance encounter with radio host John Laws led him into the world of radio.

As a teenager Burgo had taken up professional ten-pin bowling and one night was talking to the girl behind the desk at St Leonard’s Bowling Centre.

“There’s a guy standing behind me and when I left, he said to her ‘who is that?’ She said he’s John Burgess, a professional bowler and he just said quietly well he’s got a very good voice he should be in radio. 

“She couldn’t wait to rush down and tell me that John Laws just said that I had a very good voice and should be on radio.

“I thought ‘who’s John Laws?’ I had no idea who he was because I wasn’t remotely interested in the business. 

“So I went up, introduced myself, taught him how to bowl a bit. He said he was on 2GB in Sydney at that stage, doing 4pm to 7pm. 

“He said why don’t you come in while I’m on the air and have a look. He said I’ll give you some scripts and he gave me a tape recorder so I could come home and read the scripts and listen back which was pretty horrifying.”

The pair became good friends and when a job came up at 2UW in Sydney as a relief announcer in 1965 Burgo went for an audition and got the job.

In 1978 Burgo came to Perth at the behest of Kerry Packer.

“He wanted me to come over here to take over from John K. Watts and Barry Martin who were on 6PM. They left and went to 6PR. And Kerry thought that I could stop the audience from going with them.

“I didn’t want to come here. I was working in Melbourne at the time and Perth was too far away from my mum who was still alive in those days, living in Sydney.”

Nonetheless Burgo was encouraged to get on a plane to come to Perth and take a look. He was shown the western suburbs where he says the streets were so clean they looked like the bitumen had been laid that morning.

“I was back on the air in Melbourne on Monday morning at 9 o’clock and when I finished the phone went and it was Packer’s secretary. She said, Kerry wants to talk to you.

“He asked me what I thought and I told him I was impressed with the boss there and the premises and the city. 

“But, I said, it’s too far away.

“Packer wanted to know what it would take to get me to come and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I agreed to come for two years.

“I came here in 1978 for two years and stayed 15, met my wife Gianna, got married in 1989 and did a lot of television while I was here firstly with Nine and then with Seven then got Wheel of Fortune in 1984.

“It was probably the greatest move of my entire life. I came here because it opened up all sorts of different doors for me. 

“Was it luck? Was I in the right place at the right time? Or did I actually have some talent?

“Who knows?”

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Journalist and public relations specialist Allen Newton has worked across major media organisations in Western Australia and PR locally and internationally. He and wife Helen Ganska operate Newton Ganska Communications. Allen started his journalism career at the long defunct Sunday Independent and went on to become the founding editor for news website PerthNow, Managing Editor of The Sunday Times and PerthNow and then Editor-In-Chief of news website WAtoday. As well as news, he has been an editor of food and wine, real estate, TV and travel sections. He’s done everything from co-hosting a local ABC television pop show, to editing a pop music section called Breakout with Big Al, and publishing his own media and marketing magazine.