Jacket, mens, polymicrofibre / polyester, used by Brian Henderson, made by Lorenzo Uomo, New Zealand, 2002
The significance of this jacket stems from its association with Channel 9's long-serving newsreader Brian Henderson, who symbolized the news for the people of Sydney. When he made his final appearance on National Nine News on Friday 29 November 2002, he wore this jacket. It typifies his dapper on-air attire.
Brian Weir Henderson was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, on 15 September 1931, the son of a bus driver who moved the family to Bannockburn, central Otago, where he ran the pub. At the age of 14 Henderson contracted tuberculosis. While recuperating at a sanatorium, he became interested in radio and broadcasting, and rigged up a pirate 'radio station' to entertain the other patients. He obtained employment with 4ZB in Dunedin, then was transferred to 2ZB in Wellington. He saved enough money to set sail for Sydney in 1953, working as a radio announcer at 2CH until Bruce Gyngell gave him a job at Channel 9 in January 1957, doing booth announcing, weekend newsreading and commercials.
Australian television was only a few months old. TV and rock 'n' roll had both coincidentally hit Australia in 1956. While radio was slow to recognise the commercial potential of rock 'n' roll, television embraced it. As a new medium television was more flexible and innovative than radio. TV shows with a direct appeal to young people began to appear around the country, with names like 'TV Disc Jockey', 'Your Hit Parade', 'Teenage Mailbag', 'Teen Time', 'The Youth Show', 'Teen Beat', 'Cool Cats' and the precursor of 'Bandstand', 'Accent on Youth'.
Seeking ideas for new programs, Sydney's Channel 9 had sent Bruce Gyngell to the USA, where he took notice of Dick Clark's 'American Bandstand'. The show consisted of young people dancing to records, plus occasional personal appearances by singers who mimed to their latest discs, all pre-recorded before a studio audience. In November 1958 Australia's version of 'Bandstand' went to air with a similar format. Henderson, who earlier that year had filled in as host of 'Accent on Youth' while John Godson was on holidays (greatly impressing the sponsors Nock and Kirby), was Gyngell's choice as its compere.
Coming at a time when local rock 'n' roll was flourishing, the show became an influential national musical institution. As executive producer, Henderson played a leading role in selecting the acts. As the bespectacled host, he was benign, calm, paternal but never patronising. He was a comforting figure to an older generation still reeling from the first wave of wild rock 'n' roll.
As its budget and production values increased, 'Bandstand' became stylish family entertainment rather than a show just for the teenagers. It had a wider audience than any other variety program on Australian television. When it finally wound up in 1972 it ended an era in which a generation of Australians grew up watching a troupe of entertainers whose presence in the lounge room each week made them so familiar they were almost part of the family. The attempted re-launch of 'Bandstand' in 1976, with Darryl Somers replacing 'Hendo', was a dismal failure.
Henderson became Channel 9's main weeknight newsreader in 1964. He remained the principal newsreader for the next 38 years, retiring at the age of 71. For much of this time National Nine News was the market leader, largely due to Hendo's appeal. He was unpretentious, professional, credible and respectable. His familiar face, smooth voice and trademark glasses were a constant and comforting presence in times of crisis, war, celebration and triumph. A principal newsreader on commercial television has an important role as the face of the network, the voice of authority and stability (rather than personality and emotion), who appears in our homes reliably at 6pm each evening. Henderson's longevity in this role was unmatched. He loyally served Channel 9 for 46 years.
On 29 November 2002, after a six minute pre-recorded tribute, he finished his final bulletin with his familiar sign-off 'The way it is', but added a few personal comments, asking viewers to stay in touch: 'If you see me around, give me a smile, a wave and maybe say hi. I'd like that'. He thanked viewers for the privilege of being in their homes every night and shared his plans for retirement. 'It's time for me to move to the sidelines and sit with fingers crossed, hoping for things like the end of the drought and a return to some kind of stability in the world'. Then he said goodbye for the last time: 'Not the way it was, as has been suggested, but for the last time, the way it is, this Friday the 29th of November, this is Brian Henderson, a sad Brian Henderson, saying not goodnight this time, but goodbye'.