Simon Townsend: 15 Wondrous Facts

BY MEL BONDFIELD

He is best known as the affable host of the 1970s and '80s top-rating kids television show, but Simon Townsend’s story goes far beyond Wonder World!

Simon Townsend and fiancée Mary Boscacci leave court after he successfully registered as a conscientious objector, 1968. Courtesy: Herald Weekly Times. Source: State Library of Victoria

Dating back to the 1960s, Simon Townsend was forging a successful career for himself across print, radio and television.

He also earned a reputation as a risk-taker and a rebel who stood up for what he believed in.

Here are 15 facts you might not know about the wonderful world of Simon Townsend:

  1. Simon grew up in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse, but his mother moved the family to Woy Woy after his father passed away when Simon was 10 years old.
  2. Simon’s journalism career began at 16, while he was still living in Woy Woy, when he landed a job as a local reporter for a Gosford newspaper.
  3. His other print journalism credentials include writing for various regional newspapers and being sub-editor for The Weekend Australian children’s pages. He also wrote a regular Wonder World! page for the kid's section of The Australian Women’s Weekly and later for New Idea.
  4. After learning that Australia was joining the Vietnam War and conscripting young men to fight, Simon became a conscientious objector. In 1968 he was tried in court and imprisoned in Long Bay Gaol for 32 days. He also served another month at Holsworthy Army Base. 
  5. In the early 1970s, Simon published his own children’s newspaper, titled Zoot.
  6. His first gig in television was in 1974 as a reporter for Mike Willesee’s A Current Affair. The show was part of Simon’s inspiration for Wonder World!
  7. Simon was also a reporter on ABC’s This Day Tonight in 1975
  8. Simon met his second wife Rosanna while working at A Current Affair where Rosanna was Willesee’s secretary. The couple had two children together, Michael and Nadia. Nadia is an actor, known for her roles in City Homicide and Home and Away.  
  9. While Simon was serving time in Long Bay Gaol in 1968 he learned his former girlfriend was pregnant. The baby girl was put up for adoption but Simon was happily reunited with her more than 20 years later, after a change in NSW adoption laws. Lisbeth Kennelly is an actor, and has appeared in television shows including Rake, Water Rats and E Street.
  10. Simon had a successful behind-the-scenes career in radio, writing for personalities including John Laws, Steve Raymond and Bob Rogers. 
  11. For a short time, Simon moved to the US in 1969 where he worked for publishing house McGraw Hill in New York.
  12. Simon has also been a news editor for CNN and a United Nations correspondent.
  13. Simon sneaked past the guards at Buckingham Palace during the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977, just to see how easy it was to get past them! 
  14. Simon’s one and only film appearance was as a sports commentator in At Last… Bullamakanka: The Motion Picture (1983), a comedy about a small-town mayor and a rigged election. He was on screen for about seven seconds. His pet bloodhound and Wonder World! mascot, Woodrow, was also in the film.
  15. Now in his mid-70s, Simon still firmly believes that 'the world really is wonderful'! 

Simon's career certainly did not end with Wonder World!. He went on to create the ABC show TVTV in the 1990s, worked as a news producer for CNN during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and in the early 2000s was a radio producer for 2GB. 

Simon also taught at the Australian College of Journalism in the early 2000s, but has since retired to enjoy life with his family and being a grandfather.