Celebrity

It’s been decades since Tony Barber & Victoria Nicolls were on ‘Sale’ together but it feels like just yesterday

"We hit the jackpot!"
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Meeting up for the first time in more than 30 years, Sale Of The Century stars Tony Barber and Victoria Nicolls danced, sang and swapped silly stories, remembering the good old days of game show history.

Tony Barber and Victoria Nicolls dance and smile at their catch-up
Tony hosted the show from 1980 to 1991, while Victoria was hostess from 1980 to ’82. (Image: Supplied)

“It was absolutely fabulous. We had to keep smiling, so we couldn’t count each other’s wrinkles,” laughs Victoria, who won fans over as Tony’s zany co-host between 1980 and 1982. “We had the best time seeing each other again.

“It was like nothing had changed, only it was better because we didn’t have the restrictions of a studio. This lovely trust between us, that’s what I noticed. It really was like family.”

Happily reunited at long last, the dynamic – and slightly silly – duo are now planning more catch-ups. In fact, Tony has even asked Victoria to be his plus-one guest at the Logies this year, an invitation she’s gladly accepted.

“It’s terrific to be able to spend time together,” says Tony, 84, who still gets recognised wherever he goes. “We talked about the old days, of course, and told each other how well we’d aged! Victoria plays a special part in my memories of TV life.”

FUNNY LADY VICTORIA

Tony smiles with the Gold Logie in hand back in 1973
Tony won the Gold Logie in 1973. (Image: Supplied)

This odd couple got on famously from their first meeting. Already a TV favourite, Gold Logie-winner Tony was dapper and charming. Victoria became his wild-card sidekick, whose kooky style and silly antics made her a household name.

Asked to audition in a swimsuit, the former Restless Years talent thought, “No way, you’ve got to be joking.” But then, in madcap Victoria fashion, she found an old-fashioned neck-to-knee cossie, with a matching frilly swimming cap.

“I decided to have fun with it because I didn’t think I’d be a serious contender for the job,” says the mum-of-two, an actor who never dreamed of being a TV personality. “I just sent the whole thing up gutless.”

But for Tony, that was one of the main attractions. “Right from the kickoff, Victoria was the one for me because she’s funny without trying,” says the one-time advertising executive.

“They paraded all sorts of beauty queens and models in front of me, but Victoria just had that terrific personality.”

Like his iconic former Great Temptation co-host Barbie Rogers, Victoria didn’t take herself – or the show – too seriously. She would ad-lib furiously, sometimes wearing odd shoes, putting pants on backwards, towering over Tony in platform boots. Anything for a giggle.

BEHIND THE SCENES

A current image of Tony and Victoria, smiling in casual clothes against a natural outdoor background
The pair are as silly now as they were back then. (Image: Supplied)

Eventually, however, the laughter stopped. Behind the scenes, Victoria was grief-stricken when her adored dad, a decorated RAAF veteran, fell sick and died of cancer, aged only 58. It was time to leave Sale Of The Century and return to her first love, acting, with a memorable role in Prisoner as jail officer Heather Rodgers.

Yet she and Tony never lost touch, despite going their separate ways. She raised two daughters solo in Sydney after her divorce. He lived in country Victoria. Their bond always remained strong, through both heartbreak and happy days.

When Tony lost his first wife Helen to pancreatic cancer, Victoria shared his pain. And when he remarried – widowed family friend Kristine – she celebrated their contentment.

“I finally got a chance to meet gorgeous Kristine when we met up the other day. And it was lovely. We had some afternoon tea and talked about all sorts of stuff… The friendship and trust and kindness and respect were all still there.”

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