Getting to know John Deeks

John Deeks, the man with the velvety voice behind some of Australia’s favourite game shows, commercials and radio programs, now adds co-presenter of YourLifeChoices’ new podcast, Mind Your Own Retirement, to his impressive resume.

‘Deeksie’, as he is known throughout the industry, is, among many other claims to fame, the deliverer of one of the most famous catchphrases in Australian TV, “Come on down!”, which he called out daily to lucky contestants on The New Price is Right.

Having worked as the announcer for such shows as Wheel of Fortune, Deal Or No Deal and Australia’s Got Talent, John has also been in front of the camera as host of Family Feud and ‘worked the crowd’ between takes on most shows that he compered.

Apart from being the new co-presenter of YourLifeChoices’ Mind Your Own Retirement, what’s he up to nowadays? Leon asked John 20 questions about what he’s done, what he’s doing and what he loves.

Work days

1. What are you up to these days?
Working for the Seven network and other companies including 3AW. I’m doing gameshows and voiceovers, working on Game Day and doing random spots for the whole network. This is my 43rd year working for Seven!

2. Who was the funniest person you’ve ever worked with?
Ian Turpie. He was a lot of fun to work with, and I loved the back and forth we had. We made a really great team. I’ve always enjoyed playing second banana and being in the support role as opposed to being up front. (Author’s note: so did I!). My ego is completely satisfied working with an audience and having that instant feedback.

3. Who was the most fun?
Andrew O’Keeffe (former host of Deal Or No Deal and current host of The Chase).

4. Whose name do you most like announcing?
Mary Ostopotpopolus (real name, by the way). She was a contestant on Price is Right, a rather fulsome lady in her mid-50s who, on the day was wearing a seersucker top. I’ll never forget her jumping up when I called her name and as she bounced down the aisle, her top was going north and south and by the time she got to the stage, her top had become a belt. I’ll always remember the look on Ian’s face (he told me his life flashed before his eyes as she ran towards him to take her spot on the stage). Priceless. Thank you Price is Right!

5. How many times would you practise saying a show or host name before deciding on how to do it at recording?
I’d practise until I got it right.

Retirement

6. You’re 68, but how old do you feel?
48. My secret? I go to the gym every other day and eat well. Not really a secret, is it?

7. Have you experienced ageism? If so, in what form?
I’ve been lucky, I think, I haven’t really experienced ageism in its true sense. Maybe it has something to do with what I do. I remember I was in a Las Vegas restaurant once and the waitress took the menu out of my hand and gave me the seniors’ menu instead. Same food at half the price. If that’s ageism, I’m all for it. There should be more of it (just kidding).

8. You’re still working. Do you have any plans to retire?
Nope. None. I’ll work ’til I drop.

9. What are your biggest retirement fears?
Dying. It’s why I don’t plan to retire!

10. What are your plans for the next five years?
Living life. Having fun. Enjoy my time on my boat. My happiest times are on my boat. Continuing to do what I do. Keep talking. So long as I can keep doing what I do, I’ll be happy. But if I were to fall down tomorrow, I’d say, “Shit, what a good run I’ve had!”

11. Are baby boomers redefining retirement? If so, how?
I think they’re working longer, changing the definition of retirement. Sadly some have to work. I’m lucky I have never ‘worked’ a day in my life, but I know every day how lucky and fortunate I am. And I think my appreciation of how lucky I am, well, if I wasn’t so appreciative, I don’t think I would deserve it.

Travel

12. What’s your favourite holiday destination and why?
New York (do I need a reason?) and Paris. I love to spend more time doing fewer things. Experience the destination like a local. I’m lucky because my son lived in Brooklyn, so I’ve been able to spend a bit of time in New York and I love it there. Same goes for Paris. I don’t have a reason, I just love it there.

13. What constitutes your dream holiday?
A beach, a book, a fluffy duck and a sunset! For me, a trip is different to a holiday. On a trip, I like to immerse myself in where I am, spend a lot of time in one area, do what the locals do, get a feel for the place. On a holiday, I like to ‘drop out’, hence the colourful cocktail, a good book and beautiful surrounds.

14. How often do you travel?
Yearly, if I can.

15. Where do you plan to go next?
New York.

16. What’s at the top of your wishlist?
Maldives. I’d really love to spend time sailing around with a cruise line called Windstar who do amazing sailing holidays in exotic places like Tahiti, Bora Bora, the Greek Isles, the Caribbean and South Pacific. But if I’m not able to work for a couple of weeks, I’d have to pay someone to take my spot and that’s not me.

Fun

17. What’s the secret of your longevity?
I don’t yell at the footy. I don’t strain my voice. I’m pretty relaxed. My voice is my tool and I look after it. Apart from that, my secret to staying employed is to always be available. Don’t cause trouble. Keep the ego in check. I’m always available to work 24/7. I’ve done voiceovers in airports, my car, my boat, my unit. I’ve even done them in disabled toilets. My studio is wherever I am. But if Seven told me, “Thank you, we’ll get someone else”, I’d be out of the country like a shot, wandering the earth. Although I’d still always be there if they needed me.

18. What would people be most surprised to read about you?
I have dyslexia. When I started at 3AW in 1965, I had the voice part down pat, but they’d give me all these scripts to read and, of course, I had difficulty reading them. People just thought, “Oh, John’s slow.”

I have dyslexia and I chose a career that relied on me reading and annunciating words. Go figure. But really, this is what helped me overcome my disability, if you want to call it that.

Back when I was in school in the `50s, not much was known about dyslexia. So when I had trouble reading, no one really forced me to keep at it. No one encouraged me to keep reading. So choosing a career that did, actually helped me. It still gets to me every now and then, mostly when I’m tired. My brain ‘twists’ the words. But through perseverance, and a bit of luck, I’ve managed to work through it.

19. If you could go back in time, what would you tell a younger John Deeks?
Buckle up kid … you are in for a hell of a ride!

20. Five faves

Favourite movie
Being There

Favourite band/musician
Rolling Stones

Favourite food
Japanese.

Favourite possession/thing
My boat.

Favourite hobby/pastime (or way to waste time)
Spending time on my boat.

Listen to Deeksie and Kaye on Mind Your Own Retirement. First podcast available this Sunday and every Sunday after.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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