Roger Gascoigne's wink — which began during his days as a continuity announcer — is part of Kiwi television history.
Gascoigne nursed dreams of working in broadcasting "for as long as I can remember". His lawyer father was a keen radio buff whose Blenheim house was riddled with sound equipment. Roger did his first piece to camera while still a child.
Gascoigne "lost a year" studying law at Canterbury University then tried various odd jobs, including driving "pea harvesters in ever diminishing circles". After failing to find work with the NZ Broadcasting Corporation, he sailed for Australia in 1968. Thanks partly to night courses in broadcasting, he managed to get a gofers job at a radio station 400 kilometres south of Perth. "I was really bad," says Gascoigne. "That was a tough apprenticeship." More opportunities resulted after he joined a station in Perth. 12 hours into his working day, he sometimes got to try out his television skills doing continuity, and reading the late news.
"Sick of being exploited", he returned to New Zealand in 1973, joining Brian Edwards for the launch of private radio station Radio Windy in Wellington.
Gascoigne became "the new voice of Television One" thanks to Warren Mayne writing a newspaper column, in which he demanded to see the face behind the voice. After shaving off his beard Gascoigne won good reactions while filling in for Tom Bradley (soon to move to news on the second channel). The launch of rival channels heralded the return of on-screen announcers, talking viewers through each evening's programmes. The hope was that having these so-called continuity announcers on screen would help personalise and 'brand' Television One.
Gascoigne's personable, relaxed, sometimes flirtatious air quickly won him many fans. His wink, which started out "as a lucky gimmick" definitely helped. Inspired by a weather girl in Perth called Trina whose wink had made bad weather more bearable, the "friendly, harmless gesture" won over many fans, and was frequently mentioned in newspaper headlines. Some viewers even stayed up till closedown to see it.
For the next few years Gascoigne was everywhere: on continuity, hosting new music show Ready to Roll and one of many "quite insane" Telethons, and joining frequent partner in crime Stu Dennison on varied shows from Top Town to Stu's afternoon show. Sunday News readers voted him their favourite television personality three years running in the Kensington Awards. Gascoigne later told writer Philip Wakefield that the Feltex Awards rules were altered so that he couldn't win three in a row.
Weary of overexposure, Gascoigne took three months off, and visited television stations in 13 countries. The following year he began the first of two seasons hosting quiz show Stumpers.
Keen to try something new, and tiring of his "wink wink, snore snore" image, in 1979 he was in at the launch of Wellington's five night a week show Today Tonight. Gascoigne spent two and a half years co-hosting, and later returned to the show shortly before the country's four regional shows were replaced by Holmes.
In 1982 he returned to his first love, at Radio Windy. For a number of years that decade, his most high profile television role was hosting an extended video request show on New Year's eve. Quiz show Credit Card was cancelled after two seasons (Philip Wakefield wrote in 1988 that TVNZ had "deemed it too cerebral for one network and not cerebral enough for the other").
In the 90s Gascoigne found himself surplus to television requirements. He spent fourteen years in public relations and marketing, working as spokesman for the Kapiti Coast-based cable TV company Kiwi Cable, which would later grow into TelstraClear, and doing promotional and training work for the Lotteries Commission.
These days Gascoigne works as a tour guide at national museum Te Papa, a job he described in 2011 as "the best fun of my life". He can also be heard from time to time on Radio New Zealand National.
Radio New Zealand
Vicki Hamilton, 'Roger works hard at making viewers smile' (Interview) - New Zealand Women's Weekly, 15 May 1978, Page 7
Leigh Parker, 'But Don't Expect That Famous Wink!' (Interview) - New Zealand Women's Weekly, 16 September 1991, Page 6
Philip Wakefield, 'Roger points to another tv year' (Interview) - Evening Post, 5 January 1988
Les Wilson, 'Whatever Happened to Roger Gascoigne' (Interview) - Sunday News, 22 August 1993
'Roger adds life to impersonal machine' (Interview) - Evening Post, 4 July 1975
'New Year's Honours: Roger Gascoigne' New Zealand Herald website. Loaded 31 December 2011. Accessed 3 October 2012