Those same studios have been back in the news after the sensational arrest last Monday of one of Seven’s presenters, Ryan Phelan. The co-host of The Daily Edition is now facing assault and domestic violence charges.
At Martin Place, and also at Nine’s studios in Willoughby and Ten’s in Pyrmont, I have lurked in the dimly lit corridors behind sets, sat in the green rooms waiting to go on air and been fussed over in the make-up chair as a cavalcade of famous faces came and went (one of them even had me evicted).
And I’ve pretty much heard – and seen – it all.
Stars have rolled their eyes at the mere mention of a co-host’s name, and shared their colleague’s not terribly flattering off-air demands with me in great detail. Others have expressed their genuine dislike for the people they must sit beside, day after day.
“A total bitch”, “creepy guy”, “diva”, “not very supportive”, “what a dickhead”, “attention seeker”, “a little handsy”, “constantly undermining me”, “gets paid twice what I’m on”, “a real media whore” …. the list of grievances I’ve heard is endless.
Some of the biggest names on breakfast television have mouthed expletives to me during ad breaks, accompanied by dramatic eye rolls, when their on-air co-hosts were off the set.
These extraordinary and often hilarious mime acts are delivered with great skill, conscious of any camera lenses or prying ears listening in from the control room, given they are almost ALWAYS rigged up with a microphone on their lapel and an earpiece deeply inserted, all powered by a battery pack dangling off their backside.
Some stars have scribbled down names in my notebook – amid disparaging terms not fit for a family newspaper – while others, fuelled by one too many glasses of bubbly at the Logies, have shared war stories that paint a decidedly different picture to the heavily sanitised one being broadcast to millions of Australians every day.
Ego, celebrity, huge pay packets and the endless fluctuations of daily television ratings figures have created the perfect breeding ground for contempt and discontent, but rarely does it ever bubble into the public domain with a name attached.
And no, I am not about to “fingerprint” anyone here, that would be a betrayal of the trust placed in me by each of those sources who shared their tales in the interests of getting the real story out there, of which I have written many.
Which brings me to the latest one: the case of Ryan Phelan.
While not diminishing the seriousness of the allegations he now faces, Phelan has only ever been polite and completely transparent in all my dealings with him.
Even about topics Phelan would have preferred to avoid, like the time I revealed he was dating one of Australia’s most notorious prostitutes, Samantha X.
We had an awkward exchange, but that’s the territory that comes with a gossip column, and Phelan graciously respected that.
Interestingly some of his colleagues, and even Phelan himself, have insinuated over the years that he was never really part of the Channel Seven clique, the “family” of stars consisting of Samantha Armytage, David Koch, Mark Baretta, Natalie Barr, Edwina Bartholemew, Larry Emdur, Kylie Gillies and even his co host, Sally Obermeder.
And while the likes of controversy-attracting Armytage constantly generate headlines, last week there was only one name that dominated news when it came to commercial television: Phelan’s.
The alleged victim is Phelan’s girlfriend, ballet teacher Chelsea Franklin, who went to the police on Saturday night to file a report, reportedly at the insistence of her teenage daughter. She later said it had all been a terrible mistake, but that was too late for Phelan – the news was already out.
Extraordinarily, Phelan turned up at Seven’s studios on Monday appearing happy and relaxed as he filmed The Daily Edition and filled in for the sports report on the 6pm news.
And yet an hour after Phelan left Martin Place that night he was at Manly Police Station, placed under arrest, charged and then released on bail.
By 8.30pm his television career was effectively over, with Seven news boss Craig McPherson “benching” Phelan immediately when he learned of the charges via a reporter from The Daily Telegraph.
Not one of Phelan’s colleagues at Seven had any clue about what was happening in his private life on Monday.
What a strange world a TV studio can be.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.