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EXCLUSIVE: Bert Newton remembers his friend Don Lane on the 10th anniversary of his death

''I still can't believe he's gone.''

By Craig Bennett
Bert Newton's famously upbeat voice is heavy with emotion when talking about the "lanky Yank" who became a household name – and his great mate.
"I still can't believe he's gone," Bert tells Woman's Day on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the TV star's death.
"Don Lane was an absolute legend, a total charmer and the ultimate showman. He was also a genuinely nice guy who was immeasurably generous in so many ways."
Don, who died at age 75 on October 22, 2009, after succumbing to the ravages of Alzheimer's disease, first came to Australia in the late 1960s as a temporary tonight show fill-in host after British comedian Dave Allen was sensationally ousted.
But the personable New York nightclub singer returned the following decade and never left, becoming a much-loved showbiz star in his adopted home.
"Don Lane was an absolute legend, a total charmer and the ultimate showman." (Image: Getty Images)
"Don saved my career, and I'll never forget him for that. He came into my life at a pretty low moment professionally," recalls Bert, who was left without a gig shortly after marrying Patti, when Graham Kennedy quit his nightly TV show after a series of outbursts.
"We were about to start a family, and all of a sudden I'm walking the corridors of Channel Nine trying to look busy."
"The moment those cameras came on, we clicked. It was magic." (Image: Supplied)
Bert says that, out of the blue, Don called with an offer to be his sidekick on a new TV variety program called The Don Lane Show, which ran twice weekly from 1975 to 1983.
"We'd never worked together before, but the moment those cameras came on, we clicked. Working with Don was magic. Actually, Channel Nine didn't want me to do Don's show. I'd been so associated with Graham Kennedy, they were looking for someone else, but Don insisted.
"Don was such a generous performer, he didn't care who got the laughs so long as they were there. Don was an all-rounder – he could sing, had a great sense of comedy and he was a terrific interviewer," says four-time Gold Logie winner Bert.
"Working with Don was magic." (Image: Supplied)
It was also the affable American who gave Bert his "Moonface" moniker.
"Moonface was my nickname at school," Bert explains. "One of The Don Lane Show writers cottoned on and mentioned it to Don. Next thing he blurts out 'Moonface' on television, and I was momentarily dumbstruck. How did he know?" the 81-year-old laughs.
Bert says what many don't realise was the depth of Don's generosity.
"He was the kindest man with a huge heart. He loved his family, and helped many up-and-coming performers. He allowed everyone to shine on his show. He also privately assisted those in need. If someone was struggling, Don was there. He always kept it quiet."
Don and Bert sharing a laugh in 2006. (Image: Getty Images)
Bert recalls their last phone conversation in 2008 with great sadness.
"It was a Sunday night, and we spoke for about two-and-a-half hours. Don's memory seemed to be slipping, he was having trouble remembering names. We laughed and reflected on old times.
"I miss him terribly. Looking back at the fun we had, literally falling off couches in floods of laughter, mixing it up with showbiz greats like Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jnr and Debbie Reynolds… there will never be another Don Lane. He was my TV bestie."

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