WALSH, MICHAEL (‘MIKE’) HAYDEN (1938– )
Born in Corowa, New South Wales, Michael (Mike) Walsh spent his secondary school years at Xavier College in Melbourne, then studied at the University of Melbourne, where he became involved in university revues, with Germaine Greer and other contemporaries. He began his career in radio as an announcer with 3SR in Shepparton, Victoria, moving to 3XY in Melbourne to become the station’s first disc jockey.
In 1962, he was invited by Sydney’s 2SM to help form the legendary ‘Good Guys’, gaining the highest evening ratings in Australian radio since Jack Davey. Walsh’s first foray into television, compering 10 on the Town for the 0/10 Network, was followed by a satirical variety show, 66 and All That. Walsh, a born communicator with a legendary gift of the gab, maintained his program on 2SM. In 1967, he helped introduce talkback radio to Australia, an innovation that tripled the station’s ratings.
After compering shows for Nine and Seven and working in the United Kingdom as a freelance broadcaster, Walsh was headhunted to return to Australia by Columbia Pictures Screen Gems to host The Mike Walsh Show for the 0/10 Network in 1977; the program soon moved to Nine.
Walsh transformed daytime television with an astutely conceived and produced formula that was part entertainment and part current affairs. He established himself as one of television’s most polished and skilful interviewers, with his great wit and a penetrating line of questioning. The show ran from 1973 to 1985 and was watched by more than five million viewers on 130 stations nationally on the Ten and Nine Networks. His accomplished team notched up a total of 24 Logie Awards.
During The Mike Walsh Show years, Walsh developed a diverse range of show-business interests through the newly formed Hayden Group of Companies. He restored and refurbished cinemas, becoming a major independent exhibitor, and his company, Hayden Attractions, became one of Australia’s most entrepreneurial theatrical producers. In the early 1990s, Walsh established a base in England and, in partnership with West End producer Helen Montagu, produced Prisoner: Cell Block H The Musical on London’s West End in 1995.
The Mike Walsh Fellowship was established in 1996, awarded each year to National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) graduates. In November 1999, Walsh bought Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne and restored the historic venue to make it Australia’s leading lyric theatre. In 2008, he formed Hayden Scott Productions with Daniel Sparrow. Its first project was a co-production of the play Three Days of Rain, staged in the West End in 2009. Walsh now divides his time between Sydney, Melbourne and London.