The king of TV sculpted in wax

BY MARYANNE DOYLE

Head and shoulders portrait of Roger Dunn looking into camera.

Roger Dunn. Photo by Matthew Dunn

One of the more unusual Graham Kennedy items in the NFSA collection is a candle crafted in the shape of Graham’s head. It was made about 40 years ago by AWGIE award-winning freelance scriptwriter Roger Dunn.

Roger recalls that it was for an internal Channel Nine promotion about Graham and that the candles were not for sale to the public. Judy Leech donated this candle to the NFSA and it came from the collection of her father, Jack Leech, a studio technician with Radio 3AK in Melbourne (owned by TV station GTV 9), where Graham worked.

A writer with sidelines

Roger Dunn describes himself as a 'writer with sidelines'. After working as a publisher’s editor in London in the early 1960s, he returned to Melbourne and became a copywriter for Rickards Advertising Service. As a tribute to the retiring Rickards managing director LJ Samuels, Roger drew upon his skills in life drawing and created his first novelty candle. Roger had attended Melbourne Grammar and taken extracurricular classes with the school’s art master, the celebrated artist John Brack.

Following the success of the first candle Roger set up Dunwix, a backyard novelty-candle-making business, in his garage which lasted for about five years during the 1970s. The candle-making became a useful distraction from Roger's demanding career as a TV scriptwriter. His extensive credits include The Sullivans, Bellbird, The BoxA Country Practice, Neighbours and Return to Eden.

Burn out

Dunwix came to an abrupt end when Roger left a heating element on as he answered a phone call and the subsequent fire destroyed the business in his garage.

Graham Kennedy was the only film or TV personality that Roger sculpted, but he created candles of public figures like the then prime minister, Gough Whitlam. Another of Roger's candles lives on courtesy of an annual cricket match. A cast of his Envy candle (part of a 'seven deadly sins' candle series) topped with a cricket ball is the trophy for the annual cricket match held in Melbourne between members of the Australian Writers’ Guild and the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance.

You can see images of the Graham Kennedy candle in the gallery below (click image to open).

 

See more unusual artefacts in our Graham Kennedy highlights curated collection and explore all things Gra Gra in our extensive online exhibition, Graham Kennedy: The King.