Meet Garry Pankhurst, better known as Sonny from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo which screened from 1966-68.
Once the sidekick to television’s most popular animal hero, a now-grown up Pankhurst talks about his memories of the show in a new ABC documentary, Skippy: Australia’s First Superstar.
During the show’s reign, Pankhurst would make public appearances with kangaroos, attracting crowds bigger than that for the PM.
“I probably found the public adulation a little bit overwhelming I suppose,” he now says. “I didn’t really think my character warranted this ‘start treatment’ type thing.”
Participating in the doco, he has also been reluctant to acknowledge his role in the show’s success.
“Funnily enough, it’s probably taken me 35 years to really come to terms with what Skippy meant, and what my part in Skippy was all about.
“I used to try and avoid the Skippy subject while trying to lead a normal life, but it’s only in more recent years I’ve realised what impact it really made.”
The documentary, narrated by Magda Szubanski, also includes interviews with co-stars Ken James, Tony Bonner (who recently took legal action over residuals), actress Liza ‘Clancy’ Goddard, production crew and creative executives.
But there are also darker tales from behind the scenes, including rather shocking stories from women crew members who were made to dress in short skirts.
The women were filmed surreptitiously by the male crew during fiming breaks and receiving constant ‘put downs.’
“Women weren’t allowed to wear jeans and definitely not trousers,” says one female editor. “You had to wear a dress, you had to wear a skirt, and it could be a miniskirt.
“You were actually quite indecently dressed quite often.”
On Saturdays women were “allowed to wear slacks.”
Actress Liza Goddard agrees: “They were always filming us. Awful. Riotous laughter.”
Skippy: Australia’s First Superstar airs on ABC1 8:30pm Thursday September 17.