Giants of the Australian entertainment industry have turned out to celebrate the life of television titan and star-maker Brian Walsh at a funeral in Sydney.
The showbusiness powerhouse, who died on March 16 aged 67, was farewelled at a Catholic requiem mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in the heart of the city.
During a decades-long career in radio, film and television, Walsh was responsible for many of Australia’s biggest biggest popular culture exports.
Some of the biggest stars whose professional success Walsh helped shape were overseas with prior work commitments on Monday but there were still plenty of famous faces.
News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch (centre) and his wife Sarah came to pay tribute to Foxtel executive Brian Walsh at a requiem mass in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney on Monday. Mr Murdoch is being comforted by Foxtel Group director Mark Kaner
Alan Jones (centre) was among the mourners at Brian Walsh’s funeral on Monday, along with former News Corp CEO John Hartigan (left) and entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins (right)
Among the hundreds to pay their respects were News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and wife Sarah, and Neighbours graduates Jason Donovan and Guy Pearce.
Media personality Eddie McGuire was joined by Nine newsreader Peter Overton and wife Jessica Rowe, 2GB host Ben Fordham, and onetime radio king Alan Jones.
Fashion designer Collette Dinnigan found a pew, as did celebrity hairdresser Joh Bailey, film critic Margaret Pomeranz and entertainment reporters Richard Wilkins and Angela Bishop.
Kidman’s sister Antonia, rocker Jon Stevens and media personalities Jamie Durie, Steve Liebmann, Paul Murray and Deborah Hutton were all spotted.
Businessmen Tony Shepherd and Bruce McWilliam were there, along with former NRL boss David Gallop, Labor heavyweight Graham Richardson and federal MP Tony Burke.
Actors present included Cameron Daddo, Susie Porter, Lincoln Younes, Marta Dusseldorp and Simon Burke.
Broadcaster and television producer Graham ‘Shadow’ McNeice, told mourners his best friend of 40 years left behind ‘an incredible legacy of work’.
The man known to all as ‘Walshie’ had championed talent, inspired loyalty in those he dealt with and lived his own life to the full.
Media personalities Jamie Durie, Steve Liebmann, Paul Murray (right) and Deborah Hutton came to farewell Brian Walsh, as did News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch (centre)
Triple Gold Logie award-winning comedian, television and radio presenter Rove McManus was also in attendance
Victoria Buchan, the Director of Communications and Public Relations at Channel Nine, (pictured left) also joined mourners at the star-studded event
Former Sony Music Australia boss Denis Handlin (right) appeared among the mourners
David Gallop, a lawyer and former chief executive of the Football Federation Australia, was pictured outside Fox Studios on Monday
Brian Walsh’s coffin was adorned with flowers for a requiem mass celebrating the television titan’s life at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral
Such was his influence on the industry he loved that thanking Walsh became the second sentence of every acceptance speech at award ceremonies.
‘Walshie was simply the best and we may not see the likes of him again,’ McNeice told the packed cathedral on Monday.
‘He was a North Star, a beacon on the hill and that prodigious energy will burn forever.’
McNeice said Walsh had a gift for understanding Australians’ tastes which he turned into producing and promoting what they wanted to watch. His own career reached ‘towering heights’.
‘In time, he became a titan of the Australia entertainment industry,’ McNeice said. ‘As they say, do what you like and you’ll never work a day in your life.’
Walsh, the executive director of drama for Foxtel, was described by the company as ‘an iconic figure’ and ‘one of the most admired creative leaders in Australian television.’
So close was Walsh to the Murdochs, whose News Corp controls Foxtel, that Lachlan and Sarah asked him to be godfather to their daughter Aerin.
Walsh’s older sister Jeanette said her brother was a born entertainer. As a toddler he pulled around a billycart, collecting fake money from passengers and handing out tickets for a ride.
At age 11 when the family bought its first black and white television set, young Brian stuck cellophane over the screen to give it some colour.
On country road trips, Jeanette said, her brother would introduce himself to the managers of local picture theatres and come way with movie posters.
Younger sister Bernadette recalled becoming distressed when Lassie went missing while watching the television show about the adventures of the eponymous Collie.
So close was Walsh to the Murdochs, whose News Corp controls Foxtel, that Lachlan and Sarah asked him to be godfather to their daughter Aerin. Lachlan and Sarah are pictured
Brian would reassure her the dog had to appear the next afternoon. Lassie – and Bernadette – would be all right.
By the mid 1970s, Walsh was taking surfing films to small cinemas where he enlisted Bernadette to sell tickets and run the candy bar.
‘His delegation skills were already in play and the career of the showman was underway,’ she said.
Walsh had always taken pride in his appearance and was famous for his belly laugh and ‘beautiful blue eyes’. His generosity to family and friends knew no bounds.
‘Brian’s special gift was to make all those he spoke to feel really important,’ Bernadette said. ‘He did not seek the limelight he just enjoyed seeing his ideas come alive.
‘Brian you have left us far too soon… what you have achieved in your life is astonishing.’
Walsh completed a Bachelor of Communications degree at the Institute of Technolgy (now UTS) while working as an attendant at a Shell service station and on the White Wings flour factory production line.
Legendary TV executive Brian Walsh – the man behind the Neighbours TV series and the careers of Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman – died on March 16 aged 67
He gained a cadetship at the ABC and went on to be promotions manager for 2SM, then Sydney’s leading music radio station, before moving to television.
At Ten he was instrumental in the network’s decision to acquire Neighbours when it was dropped by rival Seven in 1985.
He was behind major TV programs including the acclaimed Kennedy Miller mini-series Vietnam, The Dirtwater Dynasty and Bangkok Hilton.
Walsh later founded The Promotions Department and helped create rugby league’s famous ‘Simply The Best’ advertising campaign featuring Tina Turner in the early 1990s.
He also acted as the publicist for the Australian concert tours of megastars Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, U2, Neil Diamond, Ricky Martin, k.d. lang, Gloria Estefan, Jerry Seinfield and Barbra Streisand.
Walsh, who had stints at the UK’s Sky Broadcasting and Sky TV in Asia, was there at the inception of Foxtel in 1995 and was an important fixture at the subscription TV network for the past 28 years.
A private cremation was to follow his funeral, while friends will gather at a sound stage at Fox Studios
He had creative control over series including Wentworth, Upright, Love My Way, Deadline Gallipoli, The Kettering Incident, The End and more recently Love Me, Colin from Accounts and The Twelve.
Walsh commissioned Australia’s Next Top Model, Selling Houses Australia, The Great Australian Bake Off, The Real Housewives of Melbourne and Sydney and Gogglebox.
News of Walsh’s death was met with an outpouring of grief and heartfelt tributes, including one from Guy Pearce.
Pearce tweeted that he was ‘utterly devastated at the news of losing my long time friend & mentor Brian Walsh.’
‘Your compassion & support will never be forgotten mate, nor will ur guidance as we journeyed down Ramsay st & beyond. Love you Walshie. May you travel peacefully sweet friend. RIP xx’
Kidman, who appeared in Vietnam and Bangkok Hilton, and her music star husband Keith Urban were shocked by the industry powerhouse’s death.
‘We are absolutely devastated, he was family to us and we are still in deep shock,’ Kidman said.
Marta Dusseldorp speaks as Sam Neill (centre) and Brian Walsh look on during the cast announcement of Foxtel’s new original crime drama series The Twelve in 2021
Jackman and wife Deborra-Lee Furness also issued a statement mourning the loss of their ‘dear, dear friend’.
‘For over 30 years, we have shared our lives professionally and personally,’ the couple wrote.
‘He championed both Deb and I at the very beginning of our careers. He believed in us, encouraged us, loved and supported us at every step of our lives.’
‘Brian was the most generous, thoughtful, creative and authentic of men.
‘He made a huge difference in the lives of so many – and we will never forget him. We are sending love to his family. May he rest in peace.’
Actor Russell Crowe said: ‘Brian Walsh has been a huge influence in Australian media and television.’
‘Truly a “go to” person who could get things done. He was a gentleman, a believer, an innovator and a powerhouse.’
Commentator Prue MacSween described Walsh as ‘larger than life, a king maker and a true showman… loyal, genuine and a huge loss’.
Brian Walsh was responsible for the global success of Neighbours and well as the international careers of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan (both pictured above)
Lisa Wilkinson said Walsh was responsible for her early television career as a panelist on Beauty and the Beast.
Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany, who helped organise Monday’s funeral, issued a statement after Walsh’s death on behalf of the company.
‘This is a very difficult day for the Foxtel Group family, for Australia’s creative community and the millions of Australians who watched and loved the stories that Brian bought to life through television,’ Delaney said.
‘Australia’s creative community has lost a much-loved figure in Brian. For us, the loss is heavily felt.
‘At the Foxtel Group, Brian was a long-time mentor, a confidant, a colleague and an unwavering friend to so many. Today, we are grieving Brian’s passing.
‘Our condolences go to his family and to those closest to him. We have lost an icon of Australian television that will never be replaced. Rest in peace, Brian.’
Walsh’s family released a statement on behalf of sisters Jeanette, Bernadette and Maureen, Bernadette’s husband Wayne Cooper and Walsh’s nieces and nephew.
‘We are deeply saddened and shocked at the loss of our beloved brother Brian,’ they said. ‘There are no words to say just how heartbroken we are.
‘He had an extraordinary life and accomplished so much. His contributions were celebrated and widely acknowledged.
‘We will always remember him by his love of family, his generosity and the value he put on a life not wasted but full and well lived.
‘His greatest gift was bringing joy to people including through the industry he was so passionate about and all those he collaborated with over so many years. We were so proud of him and we know Mum and Dad would have been too.
‘We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for Brian.’
A private cremation was to follow his funeral, while friends will gather at a sound stage at Fox Studios.
Two of Australia’s biggest stars Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman (above) can thank Brian Walsh in part for their international careers as actors