Osher Gunsberg has experienced a career most television presenters dream of. Some Australians will remember him as Andrew G, the Australian Idol presenter with the perfect hair and the hoodie under his suit jacket. Others will recognise him as the voice of Take 40 Australia. For those who know him personally, Osher is a bloke who has bucked the need to be driven by his celebrity image and has stayed true to who he is. Not always a move ‘inline with his recognisable brand’, he has transformed more than once, both publicly and privately; for instance, changing his name. Time and time again he has been given the responsibility of carrying some of Australia’s most successful shows. On Channel [V] he was part of the revolution of mixing technology, music and live interaction between a broadcaster and their audience. With Australian idol he was an innovator of elimination talent shows, and then the perfect balance of informative and unbiased delivery in Australia’s version of The Bachelor. Following a run in America, on CBS’s Live to Dance, Osher returned home. Back to the Brisbane radio station where it all began. Hosting the much-loved 105.3 Hit FM Breakfast show. Lunch with Liz caught up with him at celebrity chef Luke Nguyen’s Fat Noodle, at the Treasury Casino & Hotel, Brisbane.
WHERE WE WENT: Luke Nguyen’s Fat Noodle, at the Treasury Casino & Hotel, Brisbane.
WHAT WE ATE: Dim Sum Taco Bun with Angus Beef $14, Wok Tossed Vegetables Asparagus, Asian Mushroom, Lotus Root, Water Chestnut, Jasmine Rice $16, Chicken & Lemongrass Wonton Soup, Chicken & Lemongrass Wontons, Asian Greens, Garlic Chives, Shallots, Egg Noodles, Rich Chicken, Pork & Fish Broth $20
WHAT WE SIPPED: ‘Asian Hawker Market’ Jasmine Tea.
How is it to be back in Brisbane and at the radio station where arguably your career began?
“It’s great to be back. I started there when I was 20, I turn 42 in a month! There are two people that still work there, that worked there when I last did! It’s certainly different being back and on the breakfast shift, as opposed to when I was driving around Black Thunders, giving away cans of Coke in the streets!”
How has living in Brisbane changed since you last called it home?
“I left Brisbane in 1998, it was a very different town. It was very, very, very white. I went overseas for the first time in ’98, I spent 5 weeks in Europe and I came back and felt that Brisbane was a tiny place. Within 6 months I was on air at Channel [V]. Coming back to Brisbane now, I feel like it’s a city that really has the ability to do something on a world stage. In this time when people can work from anywhere, and employee retention is so difficult in a skilled job market, being able to offer people the lifestyle that exists here is amazing. To base your HQ anywhere in southeast Queensland is a smart move! It was different when I left. You still had to go to Sydney, or Melbourne – or had to go to London. That’s what people were doing. Less so now. I’m thrilled with the infrastructure. There are twice as many bridges as when I last lived here. It’s a place where people are committed to growth. Sydney hasn’t had a new harbor crossing in 25 years and they’re not about to put a new one in in a hurry, but god damn it needs one. Brisbane is very much like, well we’ll just build it. That’s very cool. Brisbane’s commitment to cycle in its CBD and is very forward thinking. It says a lot.”
Breakfast radio, Channel [V], Australian Idol, flying on private planes with Rock Stars, hosting live broadcasts, American TV, The Bachelor… what would you consider your career highlight?
“Without a doubt, and bear in mind I’m quite affected by the week that’s just happened (the end of Channel [V]) I’ll say that the interactions that we had between us and some of the music fans at Channel [V] were some of the greatest things I ever did. As far as the best work I have ever done, the show on CBS in the States; I’d worked so hard to make sure that was a great job and it felt like the perfect golf swing! I do love radio though. I’ve always done radio and then when it wasn’t there, I started a podcast.”
From your experience, how real is reality TV?
“It’s all real. The reality TV that I’ve been involved in, it’s all real. I’ve never seen anything fake. I mean it’s unreal that you would take a helicopter to a date, but the feeling that you feel on the way, they are still the same. So the situations may be exaggerated, but the emotions are absolutely real.”
Has working on the Bachelor changed your own perspective on relationships and love?
“It’s certainly helped me understand a little more, how women work. “He held my hand”, “how did he hold your hand”, “like this”, “oh, that means he’s totally in to you”. Ummm no it doesn’t! They read so much into so little! I had no idea. I’ve always tried to be as compassionate as I can to understanding the other half of our species; I think I’m never really going to get it right! It is interesting to be around a group of such intelligent, powerful, beautiful women and have absolutely no personal stake and just observe it. It’s fascinating.”
When you already had such a successful public persona as Andrew G, why change your name and how much thought did you give to it?
“In the end it was pretty easy, I just had to constantly reinforce that I’ve changed it. It turned out to be a pretty good thing, as it helped me recreate who I was in the public eye as well as my personal life. The short version is I met a man in Israel who told me if you change your name you change your life. So I gave it a go and it worked.”
How hard was it to acknowledge your troubles with alcohol?
“I think it’s important people hear, I stopped drinking because I couldn’t stop drinking. That’s as simple as it gets. If I started to drink I couldn’t stop. It was leading towards outcomes that I was not happy with and again and again and again it was leading to pain, not just for myself, but the people around me. All I had to do was not pick up the first one and I was ok. I would encourage people to have a think about that. That if there is anything else in your life that would cause you pain constantly, would you keep it? We’ve taught ourselves as a society to create these rituals based around what is essentially a drug. Some people can have two beers and say ‘that’s it I’m done’. I am not one of those people.”
What knowledge do you hope to take into your second marriage – and congratulations on your recent engagement?
“It’s something you do very very slowly I promise you that. I learnt whatever I thought I knew, didn’t work. So I better find a new way to do it! I’m trying as hard as I can to learn new ways. Correct my mistakes of the past.”
How are you finding step-fatherhood?
“It’s a lovely experience. The fact of the matter is when you get over 40 and you’re single, you date a woman with kids and it’s a beautiful, wonderful, rewarding, fantastic thing. I consider it an absolute honor to be allowed into this little girl’s life. At times it is a little like dating two women, I do have to figure out two sets of emotional tumults, it’s not without its challenges, but it’s worth it.”
You have mentored so many up and coming presenters, what’s your number one piece of advice to someone starting out a career in television or radio?
“I’ll give you a few! The most important thing to remember is that television as we see it today will not exist in 5 years. The current business model of television networks, television distributions, won’t look anything like it does now. So if you really want to do it, you’ve got to go in as a one woman or man band. Go into it as a producer, director, editor, lighting, sound and marketing person and then as a presenter. Because self-generated content has now got the ability to beat network content and if YouTube has taught us anything, it’s that there is an entire generation of people with millions of followers that have already got the jump on you and I. They’re making a fine living, without any network. So if you really want a career in radio, or television, or broadcast media, you’ve got to ask yourself why you are doing it? If you are doing it to get in front of peoples faces and be validated by strangers recognising you, or something similar to that, than you’re better off getting an Instagram account, because you won’t make a living, and it is finite, it ends! As a 42 year old guy with a greying beard, there is 28 year old me that turned up and took Idol away from all those guys in their 40s. He’s out there! He’s on radio right now, I’ve met him, I’ve met a few of him and I know he’s coming! He’s coming for all of my jobs. So I have to be as good as I can be and what I will say is that in this current situation, find what it is that you absolutely love more than anything and that you are happy to do for free and become an expert in that and that’s the thing you leverage into something bigger, because then even if you don’t get paid, you’re loving life. The only reason I was able to get in to television, in 1999, on dearly departed Channel [V], was that I had done 5 years of 6 to 7 day weeks, earning terrible money, missing out on every birthday, every 21st, struggling before I made any money. That’s about the timeframe you’re looking at. So you have to be able to suck it up for a long time. If you’re not prepared to do it tough than go into another job.”