"I became somebody and the whole nation accepted me for what I was. Fashion conscious. Stylish. Demanding. The whole nation coped!" - Bernard King
One of the saddest days of my life was 20 December 2002. Bernard King, chef extraordinaire and Australian personality died after falling off his balcony at his home on the Gold Coast.
Most people in the world would not have marked the day at all, and most Australians were too caught up in their preparations for Christmas to notice. Me, I thought, "Oh wow, there's a significant obituary for the year-that-was documentaries that are about to plague televisions."
I knew all he would receive was an insufficient moment or two, stating he was born in country Queensland in 1934 and mentioning that he was a flamboyant Australian identity of the 1970s who would be sorely missed by the entertainment industry before moving on to a George Roy Hill obituary.
I cannot recall a single recipe that Bernard cooked. He was to cookery as Liberace was to music, except a little more commercial. His cooking show King's Kitchen was possibly the first advertorial in the world. He once cooked a fish in saccharine-sweetened, pink grapefruit juice to promote a sponsor's product. Of course, this was all in the name of experimenting with food.
His celebrity chef status was the result of being discovered whilst entertaining privately as was his wont. Prior to that, he had a successful career as a cabaret performer in Sydney.
He was a university graduate and a trained English teacher. Throughout his entire career, on every appearance he made on television, he tried to uphold grammar and spelling standards. These would often feature in his critiques of the hopefuls which were in fact, hopeless.
He was often a panelist with Diana Fisher on the Australian talent shows: New Faces and Pot of Gold. He was always enthusiastic when they discovered new talent. More commonly, however, he was harsh and colourful in suggesting to the many untalented contestants not to quit their day jobs. And he was direct. Famously direct.
I remember vividly a segment he was doing, probably on Good Morning Australia, where he complained vehemently about the Dove soap commercial that claimed: It won't dry your skin like soap can. He felt that the fall of society could be blamed on a deterioration of the written language - and that in turn was the result of lowering education standards, advertising, etc.
(This was in the 1970s, so email and SMS text messaging were not prevalent at the time.)
He was a philanthropist. He supported many charities and causes. The Spastic Centre and the Wesley Mission, were but two of his beneficiaries.
He was politically incorrect and he liked gardening.
I recently discovered that he did a cameo in a video clip by The Cruel Sea. He was a man of surprises - a man of surprising talents.
I am not sure exactly why I look up to him, or why Bernard King impacted my life so thoroughly. I am now studying at TAFE to become a chef. I never finish a written sentence with the word 'can', and I rewrite any sentence that ends in a preposition - because Bernard King would not approve of it.
He was always happy and he cared enough to tell the truth. I will always admire him for that, and like Diana Fisher, his family, other friends and the rest of the Australian entertainment industry, I will truly miss him.
"...you think of his smiling face and his polished head, but to me he was a celebrity chef, he was a television personality, an entertainer, wicked of wit, generous of spirit, dapper, bow-tied, polished and precise." - Diana Fisher
Nemosyn says And lets not forget that we all learned (or hopefully we did) to throw in just anything we liked and cook it - just to see what would happen.