“I married my husband Bill, a former carpenter turned TV director, in Sydney and we had two sons, Mark and Scott. Money was tight, so it was while raising our boys that I started entering competitions to win anything,” recalls Hazel.
“In 1956 I entered a ‘Search For Miss TV’ contest and became the first woman appear on television in Australia. Sure it was closed circuit, but it was still television.”
Hazel worked in comedy and theatre, singing, dancing and playing piano. Her big TV break came in 1964 when she joined the now legendary daytime panel show Beauty & The Beast.
“I got to work with the greats like Maggie Tabberer and Dita Cobb. It was a bittersweet time, because just as my TV career was taking off, my marriage collapsed after my husband had an affair with a dancer.”
In the 60’s Hazel was one of Australia’s most famous personalities, not only was she compering radio shows, writing newspaper columns, but she became the first woman to host her own daytime TV chat show, Girl Talk.
“It was a crazy decade. I went from a loving marriage to a divorcee, I was given my own TV show, I won a Gold Logie (the second female to do so, after Lorrae Desmond), as well as a bronze Logie, and had miraculously survived a horrible car crash that saw me wind up with 120 stitches to repair by face.”
Hazel explains that her husband had picked her up after a gig, he’d been drinking and was driving erratically.
“It was 1961, there were no seat belts. He slammed into another car and I went through the windscreen. I thought for sure I was dead. He never apologised.”
In 1968 Hazel caused a sensation and shocked the nation when she swam nude in a controversial movie called The Set.
“The movie has since become something of a cult. Yes, I swam nude, but it was dark and audiences got a peek of my bottom when I got out of the pool. Very cheeky for those days. I agreed to do The Set as I wanted to be a famous movie star,” she laughs.
Another career first would come following a surprising guest role on the infamous TV drama series, Number 96 in 1973.
“I played Marie Crowther, a woman who fell in lust with Elaine Lee’s Vera Collins. I’m told she may be the world’s first lesbian character depicted on prime time TV.”
Looking back over her TV heyday, Hazel remains flabbergasted at the glaring gender pay disparities.
“Women were second class citizens. When I was hosting Girl Talk in 1967, I was paid $350 a week, and was deemed the highest paid woman on TV. By comparison, Graham Kennedy was earning $5000 and Don Lane $4,500 per week. It was a disgrace,” blasts the fabulously feisty star.
Hazel loved her 4 years hosting a daily TV chat show.
“I got to travel the world and interview some of the biggest stars of the day, from Bing Crosby to Paul Newman, Omar Sharif to Fess Parker.”
Hazel gently blushes when admitting she even had a fling with Hollywood superstar Howard Keel.
“He was such a charmer. But I did get to discover where my marriage had been lacking,” she laughs.
In 1973, completely exhausted from her hectic showbiz life, Hazel left Sydney and bought a 55 hectare farm in Bangalow, Northern NSW.
“I became Paul Hogan’s neighbour and looked after a herd of 90 Angora goats. My son Mark and I ran a dinner theatre in Byron Bay. I made costumes, performed and had a great time. Then in 1995 I moved to the Gold Coast, where I’ve enjoyed a lovely life ever since.”
“I feel blessed to have had a fabulous life..and it continues. I’ve written plays, a memoir, and was awarded an Order of Australia for services to TV.”
Hazel recently appeared in the hit Netflix comedy horror movie Love and Monsters with Teen Wolf heartthrob Dylan O’Brien.
“That was a hoot being chased by a giant flesh eating crab. I’ve filmed a Harry Potter style movie with Sam Neill, and will be seen in the upcoming series Irreverent, with PJ Byrne. Plus, I’ve got a lovely role in an upcoming TV series starring one of our finest showbiz greats, but on that I can say no more,” she smiles.
For more, pick up a copy of New Idea. On sale now!