‘Ita was furious’: Music legend’s journalism days revealed
Legendary Aussie singer Doug Parkinson - billed as the nation's "greatest soul voice" - had planned to become a newspaper man when he was younger and got his first start at The Daily Telegraph as a copyboy, his lifelong mate and TV producer David Hill recalled this week.
Music world luminaries paid tribute to Parkinson's legacy, including singer Mark Vincent who has performed with him and described him as an "Australian Tom Jones", saying his death was a sad day for Australia's music industry.
Describing his best friend as a "terrific bloke", LA-based television producer Mr Hill said he received the "shock of his life" when he heard of Parkinson's sudden passing on Monday night at his home in Sydney's northern beaches, at the age of 74.
Mr Hill, an expat Aussie famous for helping Sir Kerry Packer revolutionise the game of cricket with broadcast innovations in 1977 and his work producing Academy Awards, said they both worked as copy boys and cadets on The Daily Telegraph in the early 1960s.
He also recalled a cheeky time when the pair tried to get the attention of an attractive young girl also working at the old Packer media empire by flicking paperclips at her cleavage and the girl turned out be Ita Buttrose.
"Doug was just a superb bloke - smart funny, and had the most amazing voice," Mr Hill said.
"He got his start in the copyboy's desk. They took on six copyboys - four of whom were sons of friends of Sir Frank Packer.
"So Doug and I somehow found ourselves in there, both 17, and he and I bonded."
Copyboy duties included cleaning ashtrays, listening to police radio scanners for news, running errands for editors and fetching sausage sandwiches for reporters such as the legendary Peter Harvey.
They became cadets together and passed 60 words a minute shorthand, but Mr Hill said Parkinson became more involved in music and had a band called Strings and Things that played at Brookvale pub.
"He loved writing, he loved words, wanted to be a reporter, wanted to be a journalist but music was taking more of his time at that stage," Mr Hill said.
Mr Hill said in those days The Daily Telegraph was owned by Sir Frank Packer and was located on the corner of Park and Castlereagh Streets.
"On the 10th floor was fashion and there was this very attractive girl called Ita Buttrose.
"Doug and I would try and flick paperclips at her cleavage as she walked by the copy boy desk. Ita was furious with us. Doug was very proud, he scored a direct hit, poor old Ita, having this hail of paperclips come past."
Parkinson ended up taking a job in public relations with Woolworths to work day shifts, so he had his nights free for band.
His career took off with his version of the Beatles' Hey Prudence in May 1969, followed by his own hit Without You and he became a superstar.
"He went his way with music and I went my way, with television," Mr Hill recalled.
"And we stayed in touch.
"The last time he called me was when I produced the Oscars. And he was absolutely stoked about that. He said we both managed to get to nearly the top of our professions - his great line was I'm still singing for my supper."
Parkinson went on to also make his mark as a musical theatre performer - involved in numerous stage productions over decades, including as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, Wizard of Oz, Grease, Ned Kelly and he also played the Big Bopper in a Buddy Holly musical.
In 2017, he toured the country performing tribute shows for Joe Cocker and was still touring this week, due to perform in South Australia on Thursday.
Speaking with Chris Smith on 2GB yesterday, singer Mark Vincent said Parkinson was "a Tom Jones of Australia".
"He was incredible, his voice, he was a true legend of the music industry, he will be deeply missed by many," he said.
Parkinson is survived by his wife Suzie, and their sons Daniel and John.
Originally published as 'Ita was furious': Music legend's cadet days revealed