Ray’s still right at home at 75
TELEVISION host and journalist Ray Martin has always kept his personal life private but a new "home show" and COVID-19 lockdown conditions have meant a change of heart.
At Home Alone Together, to air on the ABC on Wednesday nights at 8.30, is a satirical look at life under lockdown through the scope of a lifestyle show, with the veteran journalist acting as host and straight man to a group of young comedians.
The whole program came together quickly, according to the 75-year-old, with the ABC agreeing and turning the show around in just a few weeks. And while it shocked him to gain the approval of the network quickly, the real boss and person with the power was his wife of 50 years, Diane.
A notoriously private person who shielded their two children from the limelight too, Diane wasn't thrilled to have their house turned into a television set - putting their lives and possessions on show.
"It's a huge breakthrough because I've been really private about my family. In the 50-odd years of my career there have never been photos of my kids. Often with Bert and Patti (Newton) and so on, the children were part of their television persona but my wife is very private," Ray said.
"We had to get her across the line - she doesn't like the idea of doing a 'Grand Designs' in our place, where everyone gets to see your carpets and your paintings and prints. She thinks that's intrusive.
"But we still had to film it here so we have filmed it in the kitchen, the family room and the lounge room and outside and up on the deck, and in my study. It's been kind of fun."
However, Diane Martin's approval didn't come without a little extra convincing on the part of her husband.
"My wife is a house and kitchen Nazi, so it means she and I go round on a Sunday night, before we film on a Monday and Tuesday, with a mop and a vacuum cleaner," he laughed.
"She is fussy about a tidy house, and the end result is we've never seen the house so spick and span."
With Diane's approval in place, Ray became the host and added another show to his long list of television achievements. In fact, even though he officially retired three yeas ago, Ray continues to be one of the hardest-working men in the Australian television industry.
In the past three years he has averaged 90 plane trips a year for work, and even now in lockdown Ray has had three television shows on three different networks in a six-week period, including Channel 7 travel show Hello World, which he filmed last year, and a one-hour documentary on VC winner Keith Payne produced for SBS with former ABC head of news Max Uechtritz.
Ray admits he is a little surprised to be popping up all over our screens at this age - particularly in a comedy show - and in fact many of his friends. spotting the promo during the Shaun Micallef show, thought it was just another of Micallef's spoofs.
"I'd done some stuff with a guy named Dan Illich, who's the producer of this, and then Chris Taylor from The Chaser, who is the writer."
Illich had put together live satire featuring Ray and several other journalists last year in Sydney, which the veteran journalist described as "a lot of fun".
"I'd done some Chasers with Chris some years back and I did a number of comedy spots for SBS with (satirist) Mark Humphries," Ray said, explaining he was no stranger to the genre.
"They rang up and said we've got this new show coming and we think that you'd be absurd enough to be a good host for it. I liked the idea and someone at the ABC must have been smoking something because they agreed.'' So what's next for Ray (other than writing a book on Fred Hollows and using his COVID-19 downside to sort his thousands of photos, fix up his deck and get through the list of jobs Diane has for him to do now he is finally at home)? One thing for sure is he obviously has no intention of really retiring.
"No, no there is no stopping," he said seriously.
"Oddly enough, before you rang, I was just watching a documentary with David Attenborough, who turns 94 today - he's become my role model. To keep doing what he does at 94 - I've got 20 years to go.
"Why would you want to retire when you are doing what I'm doing, a show like this or a documentary on Keith Payne etc, etc, as against going out and playing golf or bowls or going down to the leagues club? You're kidding me - I couldn't think of anything worse.
"For sheer satisfaction, fun, enjoyment and for keeping enthusiastic, I can't think of anything else. I wouldn't have swapped being a journalist for anything in the world."