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Larry Emdur… Never Too Far From Bondi

By Dan Hutton on September 30, 2012 in People

Photo: Andrew Goldie

During the month The Beast caught up with patriotic Bondi boy and host of Channel Seven’s The Price Is Right and The Morning Show, Larry Emdur…

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Melbourne and then moved up to Sydney when I was a few months old. We moved to Bondi when I was one year-old or less and since then I’ve always been around Bondi and North Bondi.

Where are you living these days?
Just up the hill in Dover Heights. When I got married and had kids we just wanted a bit of a yard and they’re hard to come by in Bondi so we’ve moved just up the hill. We’re still on the 380 bus route so we still get down to the beach easily. And I’ve got an electric skateboard now so I can actually get up the hill without walking anyway.

All the Bondi guys who have done well for themselves move up the hill; is that right?
Well you never want to move too far from Bondi because then you don’t get your beach pass. You’ve got to stay within the beach pass area. If you’re not getting rates notices from Waverley Council anymore you are no longer a local, I reckon.

What do you love about living in the Eastern Suburbs?
Oh, everything about it. I have always loved the beach. I grew up there as a baby, then a teenager and then an adult, so every phase of my life’s been around Bondi – the eating and the drinking and the surfing and the sunbaking and the fishing, everything. There’s not much I don’t like about it. It gets a bit crowded on Sundays for us now that I’m getting old and grumpy. But still I love it now. I love winters at Bondi and walking around at six o’clock in the morning when it’s freezing cold and there’s no one else around. I think that’s when the locals really embrace it. I used to surf every day of the year and the freezing cold days in the middle of winter were the best days.

Do you surf well?
I used to, a long time ago. Maybe thirty years ago I was okay when I was surfing three or four times a day. Probably not so much now.

How often do you get down there for a wave these days?
There’s not a lot of surfing going on at Bondi now, sadly, although I have the time. I come off The Morning Show at about 11:30am so technically I’m in this position now in my life where I could actually surf every day, which is what I always wanted to do. But maybe I need new boards because they’re not floating me as well anymore. I think there’s something wrong with the boards. It’s not me getting old and fat, I’m sure it’s the boards.

Is there anything you don’t like about living in the east?
I could do without the crowds some of the weekends but I think that’s just being a patriotic Bondi guy, someone who’s in love with Bondi and has seen it at its best. I remember it growing up when you could walk from one end of the beach to the other and it would take you two hours because you’d know everyone along the way. That’s changed now. It’s a real transient sort of crowd down there. There are a lot of tourists and backpackers. It’s all changed.

You’re a fairly high profile bloke; do you get people recognising a lot down at Bondi?
Without the hair and make up I’m right to slip around unnoticed.

Do you have any favourite local haunts?
Yeah, Jo & Willy’s Depot is one; we go there all the time. I’m a fan of Speedos too, and we’re often at Bondi Pizza and Papa Giovanni’s. I remember my mum and dad used to take us to Papa Giovanni’s. We used to go there as kids. Every second Wednesday we’d have a big Hawaiian pizza. I remember that from when I was five or six years old and we still do that now, except my kids have got fancier and they want the supreme! Why can’t they just have ham and pineapple like I did? We also go to Moo Burger a fair bit too.

Could you ever see yourself leaving the Eastern Suburbs?
No, we spoke about it a bit before the kids started school because when we were first married I was working a couple of days a week in Melbourne and my wife Sylvie is from Poland, via Brisbane, so we could have settled anywhere. We could have gone to the northern beaches or something like that but all my family’s here, all our friends are here and we truly love it here. So while we’ve spoken about it before, we’ve decided that we couldn’t do it.

It seems like you’ve been on television forever; how did you get your first break?
I was kicked out of Dover Heights Boys High School when I was 15.

What for?
For surfing, and because I never went to school. I’d just surf all the time and so I failed everything. They kicked me out and then I went and got a job at what was then The Sun newspaper, which is now gone, working as an overnight copy boy. I actually started writing for the Bondi Spectator first. I stole a story from the Sydney Morning Herald that was about Bondi crime. I rewrote it badly, slipped it under the door of the Bondi Spectator on the way down to the beach one morning and they printed it. I got the Spectator on the Thursday morning and it was on the front page. So I kept doing that. I never met the guy who ran it, and I never asked for money because I was worried that if he knew I was a 15 year old kid he wouldn’t let me write. I just kept slipping these articles under the door each week at four or five o’clock in the morning on the way to the beach and they’d print them because they obviously didn’t have any journalists. That got me a scrapbook full of articles that I ended up going to the newsroom at The Sun with and saying, “Look, I’m a journalist. I’ve written for the Bondi Spectator; I’m qualified.” That’s how it started.

How did you transition into television?
I ended up going to Channel Seven to the newsroom with my scrapbook of clippings saying, “I’m a journalist, have you got any journalist jobs going?” and the boss sent me out on a work experience arrangement for the day. It was the day before Christmas and they were doing a story and I threw my head in there and they used it on the news and that was it, they invited me back the next day. For my second story, the chief of staff said, “Look, I know you’re a Bondi surfer so we want to do a story on Christmas Day at Bondi Beach.” At Bondi, Christmas Day is a fantastic mix of every culture in the world and I love that; I’ve always loved seeing how they all celebrate. So I just went and did this mash-up story of not only Christmas at Bondi, but how the different cultures come together on the sand on the day, and they liked that story. That went to air and they invited me back on the strength of that story. Had it been a story about politics or something I would have been screwed. But it was about Bondi Beach so I could do that with my eyes closed.

So how did you go from news journalism to being a game show host?
A game show host bimbo.

One of Australia’s most famous game show host bimbos…
Don’t tell that to Andrew O’Keefe, he’s still a bit weird about that. I was at Channel 10 working on Good Morning Australia and an American guy came in to run the network and his solution for a struggling Channel 10 was to turn everything into a game show – morning, noon and night – and they just ran out of hosts. Everyone got a game show: the newsreader, the weatherman, everyone. They had one really bad game show left and I was this smiling bimbo reporter on Good Morning Australia and they gave it to me. It was axed after the first episode.

How many game shows have you hosted?
I can’t even answer that. It would have to be ten, or maybe twelve. Sad, hey? The Price is Right has been by far the longest running. Main Event went for a couple of years up against 60 Minutes, and that was successful, but then there’s been little tiny ones like Cash Bonanza and Family Double Dare and a whole bunch of different things.

Did you ever think to yourself, “You know what, I reckon I’d make a good game show host”?
No, never. I just wanted to be a surfer. I had no ambition. This is what makes it all a bit ridiculous when I look back. I had no ambition to do anything like this at all. When I started out in news reporting it didn’t work particularly well because when I get nervous I smile. They’d cross to me for a live cross from a triple fatal car accident and I’d be smiling. I remember the news chief of staff called me in and said, “Emdur, dickhead, you’re hopeless as a news reporter. You’re either going to grow up and sell Amway or be a game show host bimbo.” So he was right. I never thought that I wanted to be a game show host but having done that first show I actually did enjoy the experience.

Do you ever get sick of The Price is Right format?
No. Everything’s different. I’m playing games for the 500th time and it’s different because the contestants are different.

There’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the latest incarnation of The Price is Right because the prizes aren’t great. Is it hard to get excited when you’re thinking, “Oh, we used to be giving away Alpha Romeos and now we’re giving away Hyundais”?
No, look, it’s interesting because the philosophy of The Price is Right remains. People are just coming in and having fun and our prizes are still good. A woman last week won a $40,000 showcase and she was getting married that weekend so there are still life changing moments. Times are different and our time slot’s different. There was lot of money being thrown around back then. The concept remains that people are going to come down and still get excited and win stuff. We’re giving away $2,000 and $3,000 shopping vouchers that some people may not get excited about but there are people out there, believe me, who will find that that amount will fix a whole bunch of problems.

Are there still good-looking girls on the show?
There are still good-looking girls and there are still weirdo guys with their shirts off and lots of abs and stuff.

Do you have a game show host role model? Did you get any tips from Baby John Burgess?
I’m mates with Baby John. He was the number one guy when I started out. I always had a lot of respect for Daryl Somers too, and I think that just had a lot to do with him appearing to be a normal guy on TV. I think that was a great quality because you do get a lot of people in this industry who are quite synthetic with their roles and bung it on a bit. I always looked at those guys and thought it would be nice to be like that one day. I didn’t want to grow up particularly to be Baby John Burgess but I suppose you look at the leaders in the market and go, “What have they got?” I didn’t have posters of him on my wall though. Baby John is not my screen saver.

These days you’re the host of The Morning Show too? How are you enjoying that?
The Morning Show is pretty good, and it’s light and fun and breezy. I don’t have to be particularly smart. I can just be myself.

How’s Kylie Gillies to work with?
She’s a great girl, she’s good fun, she’s smart, she’s funny. She thinks she controls things but I let her think that.

Do you get heckled in the street much?
Yeah. Every day.

What about from your mates? When you became a game show host did they give you some grief?
When I first started working on Main Event my mates became really, really interested because there were a lot of pretty girls who were cheerleaders on that show, so I became quite popular with my mates and they’d come along and watch my show. It was lovely that they were so enthusiastic about my program. And then in the early days of The Price is Right, because it was in Melbourne, I’d have a continuous stream of mates coming down and wanting to hang out with me in Melbourne – me and the supermodels afterwards. So they’re okay with it. They think it’s fun and then they’ve grown with it as well. My mates from when I was 13 or 14, they’re still my best mates today, so they know all the “Come on down” heckling and they’ve got it all worked out.

A bit of heckling is good; it means people are interested…
That’s right.

You’re the object of many a middle-aged, working class woman’s affections; have any contestants taken it too far on the show?
No, I don’t think it’s possible to take it too far on the show. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. If someone’s having a good solid crack on the show I know that that’s going to make good TV at the end of the day. But people don’t come up and throw themselves at me in the street. I call it ‘whitegood inspired lust’. People really, really love me when I’m giving away a dishwasher and they really want a dishwasher, but apart from that I don’t get much attention.

You’re a married family man anyway, aren’t you?
Yep, I’ve got two kids, and my wife Sylvie and I have been married for 18 years now. My eldest, Jye, is 18 and he’s on his gap year in Europe at the moment, and Tia is 13. I’m very lucky in the stupid business that I work in to have a great loving family.

I noticed you’ve got a tattoo on your arm; have you got many tatts or is that the only one?
I’ve got a couple going on; we can’t talk about the one on my bum though – you’re a bloke and I’m a bit uncomfortable with that. The one on my arm is a Chinese symbol for strength, but it’s also a ‘T’ and a ‘J’ because my kids are Tia and Jye and they give me strength. The last one I got down at Bondi Ink a little while ago and it’s a big ‘S’ for Sylvie.

Can you please tell me more about the one on your bum?
I can’t talk to you about my bum.

I don’t want to hear about your bum, just the tattoo that’s on it….
I got it when I was first axed from TV. I was 25 and it was my first big axing; it was public, like front page of The Daily Telegraph public. There was a big picture of me and the headline said “Axed”. I went on a bender in Kings Cross for three days and three nights and I ended up getting a half eaten apple tattooed on my bum cheek. My thinking at the time was that half my life was over, I only had half my life left, career-wise. So for some bizarre reason there is a half eaten apple on my arse, which looks exactly like the apple on your laptop. My arse could sue Apple. Steve Jobs stole my arse design.

I read that you’ve competed in a couple of Sydney to Hobart yacht races; how was that experience?

After your first one you said you’d never do it again but then…
Yep, I did it again. That was probably the biggest challenge of my life, I think, apart from Celebrity Dog School, which was the biggest TV challenge. A mate of mine from Bondi, Anthony Bell, put together this Investec Loyal racing team and proposed it to me that he was going to put a whole bunch of professional sailors on a very fast boat and put a bunch of celebrity non sailors on there who would attract attention to a charity. The charity thing appealed to me immensely so I was in. So then we trained and we did it and it was horrible. We came fourth and then I said I’d never do it again. Then we got back together about halfway through the next year and we thought we could do better than fourth. We went back, did it again and we came second, and that was hell. That was the worst few days of my life. It was amazing and exhilarating and exciting but I’ve never felt so unwell. It was just horrible. So I retired gracefully after that and then Karl Stefanovic stepped in to fill the void I’d left and the bastards won. I don’t speak to anyone on the crew or Karl Stefanovic anymore as a result. They’re all a pack of bastards as far as I’m concerned.

Have you done any other sort of challenges like that?
No, I’m pretty much challenge free.

You jokingly mentioned your disdain for Karl there; that aside, is there any real malice to your so called feud with Rove McManus or is it just a bit of short man’s syndrome on his behalf?
It’s very short man’s syndrome very much on his behalf. No, we’re great mates. I think it’s one of the great TV friendships actually. We can sit down and laugh at all the TV stuff and I think that’s important to be able to not take it too seriously because there are a lot of people in this business who take it really seriously. I really like Rove and I’m a huge fan, but yeah, I think he’s particularly jealous of me and I might be particularly jealous of him too.

Do you have any advice for youngsters looking to make a career out of television so they can buy a big house in Dover Heights?
Yeah, do other stuff. I’ve always had a back-up plan. I did a lot of corporate stuff and I invested in Bondi early, when Bondi was cheap. I was lucky enough to go through a series of axings back in the days of redundancies. I just went from being axed to axed to axed and I got a few grand each time. It was great. We’d sit in the meetings where they’d call you in to axe the show and I was the guy up the back going “Yes!” So I put a holding deposit on a couple of units down at Bondi, $500 each for these units that are still there on Curlewis Street, and I rented them out and they went up in value in the next six months, so I borrowed again and bought some more. There was nothing much to the strategy. Bondi was moving along pretty quickly and I was in early. I’ve always focused pretty heavily on that given the volatility of television. You need to have a back-up plan because TV is a bitch.

Would you say you work hard?
I do. Last week I would have done 22 hours of TV, which is a lot. I think that’s more than most other people would do. And this week I will do 19 hours of TV. That’s hard work. 20 hours of TV means 40 hours in hair and make up for me. Having said that, it’s all great fun. I’m not standing there going, “I hate my job.” I’m actually for the most part standing there or sitting there going, “This is unreal!” The Morning Show is the most fun I could have sitting down and The Price Is Right is the most fun I could have standing up.

In an ideal world, what does the future hold for Larry Emdur?
I’d like to do more of the same. I’m in a pretty happy place now. I’m doing two shows that I love, I’ve got a great family and great friends around me, and I can’t imagine it getting any better than it is now.