How hack le Vack haplessly scripted Newbon career
Feb 11 2009 By John Bright
I have discovered the man whose gross incompetence inflicted Gary Newbon on to our screens! Step forward Dale le Vack, now of Redditch PR firm ASAP.
Will the March 6 lunch at the Copthorne Hotel in Birmingham to celebrate the career of the veteran sports broadcaster include many guests who, like le Vack, were in at the start of the lad’s television career in 1969 at Westward Television in Plymouth? I doubt it.
“He was a fresh-faced young lad like me from local journalism who had enormous enthusiasm for sport on television and arrived to work on a programme called Sportsdesk.”
Indeed Westward TV was something of a nursery for presenters who became national names – colleagues at that time were Angela Rippon and Jan Leeming – and at the BBC in Plymouth there was a young Hugh Scully and Sue Lawley. The late David Vine had also been at Westward before going on to BBC fame.
Le Vack goes on: “I remember Gary’s arrival with some poignancy because he’d been hired to replace me, following my abject failure as a sports presenter – due to my singular lack of knowledge about football and also what programme controller John Oxley described as ‘the worst piece of television reporting I’ve encountered in my 25 years in broadcasting’.
“I had been tasked with the job of doing a voice-over report of black and white footage of a match we’d filmed involving Exeter City. I had the script in my trembling hands. It was a live show and live television was terrifying – it was only my third or fourth broadcast.
“Unfortunately, the operator technicians rolled the wrong piece of film – up on viewers’ screens came an excerpt from the match played the previous Saturday by Plymouth Argyle, which we had also filmed.
“I just continued the voice over oblivious to the fact that I was reading the wrong match report until haplessly I had reached the end of it. My boss had given up waving at me frantically from across the studio floor and was beating his head slowly upon the desk. The floor manager who had been trying to relay the instructions of an apoplectic studio director called Roger Gage had his head in hands. It was clear I was not destined to be a television sports reporter and moves were started the next day to replace me. My misfortune became Gary’s good fortune.
“He went on to be a cornerstone of ITV sport for decades in senior management and presenting. Gary was a man who did his homework, knew a lot about a huge range of sports and believed in a zestful approach that remained almost youthful throughout his long career.
“Mind you, Gary did make a few howlers at Westward TV – probably not in the sports department. He was asked one day by Terry Fleet, editor of Westward Diary, the evening regional magazine programme, to front an important film review. He raised a few eyebrows with his live link from the studio. ‘We’ll now join the film midway through the second half…’
“Good on you Gary – you’ve been a real pro and I for one will be toasting your 40 years in television!”