Jacki MacDonald, co-founder, Eat Street Markets
Life is short so we might as well laugh and have fun!
You may remember the soprano voice and infectious laugh, or perhaps it was the outrageous costumes on Hey Hey It’s Saturday that made you fall in love with Jacki MacDonald. The Queensland girl, born and bred in Blackhall, charmed viewers around the nation the moment she stepped in front of the television cameras in the 1970s. Year after year, she nabbed the Logie for the Most Popular Queensland Woman on TV and Brisbane dwellers would swell with pride. The wonderfully wacky television host may have since stepped out of the spotlight and returned to her sun-drenched homestate, but it doesn’t mean she has slowed down even a bit. Just last year, Jacki teamed up with fellow local livewires to launch the Eat Street Markets at Hamilton Wharf. The Weekend Edition swung by the shipping containers this week to chat markets and motherhood.
You helped launch the Eat Street Markets late last year, how did the idea originally come about?
Peter Hackworth wanted to use shipping containers on the wharf at Hamilton for a farmers and arts market and asked John Stainton, John Harrison and I to help her to bring it all to life. We had an amazing time designing and building a little city that we filled with food, trees, fairy lights and music.
Talk us through your typical visit to the markets …
I usually zoom in and buy fresh flowers first, then tomatoes, olives, salted ginger caramels for my dad or OMG macadamia nuts. If I buy takeaway for my starving family, it’s usually Vietnamese from Dakbla House, spicy duck laksa and pork buns from Dumpling Envy, lamb tagine and salad from Redgate Farm, green chicken curry from Muang Thai, or almond croissants and apple turnovers from The French House. When Peter, John and I are together, we have fun eating absolutely everything … Calamari, fish and beer-battered chips, Mexican, Greek, Malaysian curries, wood-fired oven pizzas and many other delicious things. I now walk every day – and to burn extra calories I carry the dog!
Can you let us in on any future plans for the event?
We’re always working on tweaking Eat Street and have some special ideas for summer, but they’re still a secret so I can’t say a word yet.
Many of us know you from TV back in the 1970s and 1980s, can you share any fond memories from that time?
I was the luckiest person ever to have been on the Hey Hey It’s Saturday team with the funniest people around! We’re all still friends and have a fabulous time together telling all the old jokes and enjoying each other’s silly stories. We often had very famous visiting celebrities on the show and I remember when Tom Jones and John Farnham sang ‘My Yiddishe Momme’ together at Daryl’s desk in 1990 … They were fabulous. Daggie – as I called him because he was a tiny bit daggie too – loved the dress-up shows and he made me laugh when he arrived as Tattoo from Fantasy Island. I was Dorothy with Toto the dog and when I walked in he was kneeling with a pair of shoes in front so he looked about three-foot tall.
You managed to successfully juggle reading the news in Brisbane and co-hosting Hey Hey It’s Saturday in Melbourne. What prompted the decision to focus on comedy?
I was happily reading the news and flying to Melbourne every week for Hey Hey It’s Saturday until the day the news department decided to spend a lot of money on large promotional billboards that would feature their serious news presenters and then realised that one of the magazines had published a photo of me dressed as a steak sandwich complete with cheese, tomato and lettuce … This created a slight credibility problem, so I was asked to make a decision and choose one job or the other. So I left the news business and continued with the silly business of Hey Hey. I’ve always thought that life is short so we might as well laugh and have fun!
Viewers adored your sense of humour, what was one of your all-time favourite practical jokes?
My favourite of all time was when John Stainton got his car serviced and it cost him a fortune, and I arranged a meeting where I popped a special whistle in his muffler. When he drove off, the car sounded as if it was on its last legs as he roared and howled up the road, and I was helpless with laughter on the footpath waving him goodbye. He drove a car that sounded like a wreck straight back to the garage where the boys got a laugh as well when they discovered the problem. We also had a fantastic amount of fun with a box of stink bombs in the offices at Channel 9 and 10 …
How has the television industry changed since you were in the thick of it?
I think audiences’ tastes have changed and they can’t get enough reality TV and celebrity news.
What triggered your departure from television?
I didn’t want to have a family in public so I decided to retire and allow my children to grow up without having to explain their mother’s weird wardrobe, odd hairstyles and silly jokes.
What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learnt from being a mum?
Enjoy every single day, because these gorgeous funny little people grow up so quickly and then they don’t have time to hang out with you anymore. Thank goodness I still have a dog who thinks I’m fabulous every time he sees me!
You grew up in Blackall, what can you tell us about the Brisbane of your childhood?
I grew up in the bush and stayed with my grandmother in Norman Park on the way to boarding school in Armidale. She was glamorous and always dressed in beautiful suits and wore gloves to the city. Brisbane was really a large country town with houses on legs and large gardens full of hydrangeas. The outside loo was covered with a grape vine and the lawns mowed like a carpet. TV had just started and I was crazy about The Lone Ranger and Mickey Mouse. I’m still crazy about Mickey … The shops wrapped your parcels in brown paper and string, and they came flying down from the floor above on a flying fox or in a parcel lift. The Ekka was the highlight of the year and we never missed the opportunity to go.
What were you like as a little girl?
I loved dressing up and wanted to be Annie Oakley.
How did you get your big break in television?
I went to watch some auditions for the new children’s host job at Channel 9 and the crew thought it would be fun to ask me to audition too.
What’s your personal definition of success?
Living a happy life with friends and family.
What makes you happy?
My family, my friends, my garden, my horses, my dog, summer, the beach and a glass of champagne with fish and chips in paper.
What do you love about Brisbane?
I love the colonial houses, palm trees, jacaranda trees, frangipani flowers, the Ekka, Brisbane Botanic Gardens, the restaurants along the river at South Bank, Queensland Art Gallery and Queensland Museum.
What are your words of wisdom?
“Keep dancing Maria …” ~ Paul Hogan.
Only a local would know … Brisbane is the best place in the world to live. But don’t tell anyone, whatever you do!
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … Eat Street Markets, Hamilton.
Relax … Sunshine Beach Surf Lifesaving Club, Sunshine Coast.
Indulge … Montrachet, Paddington.
Shop … James Street, Fortitude Valley.
Be Inspired … Queensland Art Gallery, South Bank.