In my early 20’s I was working on the reception desk of the Travelodge Hotel, when I befriended a grey haired elderly gentleman who ran the hotel’s kiosk/newspaper stand. Un-beknown to myself at the time, that elderly gentleman who always hid a copy of the TV week under the counter for me, was in fact Doug MacKenzie, one half of the comic duo Zig and Zag.
In the first years of television in Melbourne, a pair of clowns became idolized by children everywhere. Comedy duo Zig and Zag would entertain children every Saturday night on Channel Sevens longest running television show “Peters Fun Fair”.
As Zig and Zag, Jack Perry and Doug McKenzie, drove a toy car at their first Moomba parade in 1956 and that same year broadcast the first episode of Peter’s Fun Fair on Channel 7. It was the first children’s show ever broadcast in Australia. Also on Peter’s Fun Fair was Roy Lyons as Cousin Roy.
Zig and Zag would get into all sorts of trouble, and Cousin Roy Lyons would be always on hand to help out. Perry provided song and banjo whilst McKenzie was the creative drive behind the show.
Zig and Zag dressed in costumes advertising Peters Ice Cream (“the health food of a nation”). Zig wore a hat shaped just like a card board ice-cream container, and Zag wore a hat that resembled an ice-cream cone.
For more than 40 years, Zig and Zag appeared every year as favourites on the Channel Seven “Good Friday Appeal” for the “Royal Children’s Hospital” where they would perform their trade mark them song “You and Me”.
As for their catchphrase ‘no-o-o trouble’, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Roy Lyons (Cousin Roy) would later be accused of being a child molester. Several women came forward with accusations of abuse during the shows 13 years run.
One of his alleged victims, ”Helen”, told 3AW radio that she and a friend were repeatedly sexually assaulted by Lyons after being invited to be in the studio audience between 1963 and 1964. She said she and her friend were a mere 11 years old when they were given a studio tour, then taken into separate rooms and made to undress. She then went on to say that Lyons touched them both and made them touch him inappropriately.
Whilst the show went to air, another woman called in and also claimed she was abused by Lyons when she was only seven.
This sent rage through Lyons niece Terri, who immediately rang the station herself to defend her uncle who had passed away from cancer and wasn’t here to defend himself. She said she and her two sisters had often been alone with him and were never abused.
But that wasn’t the only assault claim on children.
In 1999, Zig and Zag were named joint Moomba Monarchs. That honor was withdrawn when it was revealed that Jack Perry had been convicted in 1994 of sex offences against his grand-daughter. In 1994, it was later disclosed at Heidelberg Magistrate’s Court, Perry had “pleaded guilty to seven counts of unlawful indecent assault on Debra Clark, his granddaughter, which occurred “from the age of 12, between 1979 and 1981, whilst living with her grandparents. The case had received no publicity and the comic team kept working with children. Several other women also came forward claiming to have been abused by Perry. He passed away in April 2006, approximately around the age of 88 – 89.
As for McKenzie, a pioneer of Australian television and a survivor of the Changi prisoner-of-war camp, he said revelations his comedy partner Zig had been convicted in 1994 of indecently assaulting his granddaughter eventually broke up the partnership. They would never talk or appear together again. Good friend and fellow TV personality Dan Webb said McKenzie was a great performer and a lovely man and this is how I remember him also.
It upset McKenzie enormously when the revelations were made public in 1999, as the duo were forced to resign from the Moomba Festival where they were to be crowned Kings of Moomba. At the time McKenzie, a veteran of 44 Moomba’s, refused to attend alone.
McKenzie – “I don’t think it would work really because it’s always been two of us, Zig and Zag, not Zig, not Zag, just Zig and Zag,” he said.
No replacement was found for the year 1999, and it was actually put on the back burner all together until 2010 when a new King and Queen of Moomba was born with the recipients being Molly Meldrum and Kate Ceberano.
In 2002, McKenzie was the inaugural recipient of ‘Variety’s Heart of Show Business Award’.
Doug Christie, chairman of “Variety” the Children’s Charity, said Mr McKenzie was awarded for his long service to Melbourne’s Entertainment Industry and his commitment to children’s charities.
Mckenzie passed away in August 2004 of a suspected heart attack, he was 87 years old.
REST IN PEACE