TALKRADIO PIONEER DIES

FROM THE ADELAIDE ADVERTISER Nov 13  by Miles Kemp, Matt Gilbertson and Tim Williams…

BOB Francis, the most divisive and colourful South Australian to ever sit behind a radio microphone, had one simple final request.

The man who raged over the airwaves for almost six decades sought a calming cup of tea from his fifth wife Anna yesterday at his North Adelaide home, after complaining of feeling unwell.

A friend who contacted the Sunday Mail to advise of his death said his wife returned to find the radio legend had died suddenly at age 77.

In a statement, Francis’s wife of 12 years said her marriage to Bob had been “a fabulous ride”.

“Sometimes like being on a bucking bronco, at others like riding an old nag,” she said.

It was a quiet end for the politically conservative, professionally revolutionary and deliberately offensive “Big Bad Bob”, whose trademark was harassing, insulting and even abusing rivals and callers he disagreed with.

He revelled in his notoriety and the national media attention his antics drew, and his descriptions of listeners as “dickbrains” and “stupid old ladies”.

“Well, why don’t you turn the radio off if you don’t like it, you stupid bloody wanker?” he once said to caller “John” on air.

After suggesting a magistrate’s face should be punched in, he was fined $20,000.

Once, he said he hoped boat people would drown on their voyage to Australia, despite having himself been born in Egypt.

He was occasionally chided and frequently lauded by FIVEaa, which traded on his persona to boost ratings, describing him as: “Aggressive, loud, rude, arrogant … and those are his good points”.

Andrew Reimer, the producer for his final three years on FIVEaa, where he had hosted his own show since 1985, said Francis was the first pioneer of talkback radio in Adelaide, and the rough handling of callers was accepted and sought after in the early days.

He said Francis never understood that the pantomime of banter between host and caller had become too serious for many people.

“It was entertainment but there was a significant shift away from that in the later years and listeners demanded more respect,’’ Mr Reimer said.

While he was best known as a radio shock jock, Bob Francis was far more.

He was inducted into the Australian Radio Hall of Fame in 2005, and worked as an actor, event host, war correspondent, advertising frontman, promoter, and TV presenter.

His biggest claim to fame was, as a 25-year-old, bringing The Beatles to Adelaide in 1964 on the back of 80,000 signatures on a petition.

While Francis was the public face of the campaign, the legwork and negotiations were done by music promoter Ron Tremaine.

Mr Tremaine said Francis was the same “very, very genuine” personality on and off-air.“It will be a long while before someone else bobs up who can put those big shoes on,” he said.

NOVA Entertainment Adelaide general manager Neil O’Reilly said the company was “deeply saddened to hear of the news of Bob Francis’s passing”.

ABC radio host and Sunday Mail columnist Peter Goers, Francis’s on-air rival for more than a decade, said: “He was a complex, difficult, son of a bitch and we agreed on almost nothing, but he was indisputably one of this nation’s greatest radio talents and I admired his gift enormously.”

TV personality Anne Wills won a Logie with Francis in 1975 for their Saturday night variety  show

“Adelaide royalty is the only way to describe him,” she said.

“He was a pioneer in so many ways, on the radio and on the TV. And he could act as well.”

Consultant and former newsreader Kelly Nestor, a friend of Francis, shared a minute’s silence with him for Remembrance Day on Friday when they bumped into each other in a North Adelaide business.

“We were laughing about the fact he had to be wearing a (Donald) Trump hat.

“He was pumping the air and saying ‘go president Trump!’” she said

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