Sydney, Dec.10, 2020
Former Variety bureau chief in Sydney, Blake Murdoch, passed away last Tuesday, December 8 in Sydney, aged 58, after a lengthy illness. Blake joined weekly Variety in 1984 and later became the Aussie and Australasian Bureau Chief of the paper. He ankled Variety in 1993.
After leaving the paper he joined The Hollywood Reporter where he was Co-International editor and Asian Bureau Chief until 2006. In addition, from 2002-2005, he was Former Policy Officer at Screen Australia (Previously FFC). Following a short stint (April – November 2005) with the former Media/Marketing at the Motion Picture Association of America
he became Senior Media Officer at Australian Communications & Media Authority from November 2006 – 2018.
His most recent job, starting December 2018 to the present, was as chief correspondent at DAY Communications, Australia’s most influential business newsletter on all things relating to telecommunications.
Blake leaves behind his son Tom Murdoch, fiancée Natalie Boyd and her daughters Katrina and Bree, ex-wife Katherine Sainty, and a multitude of friends and colleagues whose tributes on Facebook are a testament to the much loved and admired gentleman Blake was.
BLAKE AND THE OLD SYDNEY OFFICE REMEMBERED
By Debbie Kruger
Los Angeles, Dec. 10, 2020.
(The following appeared on Debbie Kruger’s Facebook page. She is happy to share it with other Variety muggs)
Blake… I just cannot believe this. Reading all the tributes and knowing how loved, admired and respected you were, I am so proud to have been your friend for 34 years, so happy you found the deep love and family life you’d been longing for with Natalie and her girls, aching for your beautiful son Tom, who you were so devoted to, and so sad for all of us that have lost you far too soon.
I joined the Variety Sydney bureau in December 1986 to replace Blake, who’d decided to go freelance, and they were big shoes to fill. He was territorial about his relationships in the music and theatre industry and it took some convincing to get some of them, especially Sydney Theatre Company, to add my name to their media lists in place of Blake. Just when that was sorted out, only two or so months later, Blake returned to take over the bureau and be my boss. We were both only 24 years old. Later in life we’d talk about what ridiculously amazing jobs we had, running around interviewing the biggest industry players, back to back junkets and lunches and launches, travelling and covering the biggest stories in the Australian and New Zealand entertainment trade, at the time the only fully-staffed Oz bureau for an international showbiz publication.
Back in those days Variety was a weekly paper, couriered around the world, and often we would get it last, up to a week after publication, with no online version to quickly check our copy hadn’t been too savaged by the editors in New York. Late nights meeting our deadlines for the big annual Aussie Issue, ordering paella from La Guillotine downstairs from our loft-style office in Albion Place wedged between the Hoyts and Village cinema multiplexes, churning out our stories, faxing them in reams and reams of almost transparent paper that we typed our hearts on to. Blake would then fly off to Cannes while I kept the bureau running, and I’d be at the theatre almost every night, reviewing plays and musicals, making or breaking a production’s chances of a potential international staging, fighting tooth and nail for my reviews of even the most obscure Australian plays to get space. I remember the day Richard Hummler, the legit editor, faxed me with the words “I stand corrected” after I’d defended the right for my review of the STC’s Harold In Italy (by the great Justin Fleming) to be published, and Blake handed me the fax with amazement in his eyes that the great Humm was conceding defeat to me.
And the lunches, oh my, the amazing lunches when we’d take the afternoon off – Blake (Doch) and me (Krug) and David Stratton (Strat), Mike Harris (Miha), Jim McPherson (Pher) if he was in town from Melbourne, plus our office admins Lily or Jane, and our accountant Pat, so at least she knew what the huge expense was for. The day we went to Berowra Waters Inn and Strat had to call 2UE, where he was due to be in the studio to deliver his eloquent film reviews live, and tell Brian White, as I think it was, that he was too inebriated to make it but somehow did the reviews off the cuff from the restaurant. My salary was a pittance but the perks were amazing – parties on Alan Bond’s yacht and Christopher Skase’s Mirage Resort, a day or night in Melbourne to launch this mini series or review that theatre opening, and as long as the stories were written, there was never a question about where I was, what I was doing or why I’d been out in the middle of the day for four hours. Like the day I was meeting Nicole Kidman for a quick lunch and she called me from Palm Beach at her parent’s holiday house, to where she’d escaped from someone stalking her Mosman flat, and said, “Deb, you can drive up here for lunch, can’t you?” And I looked at Blake for guidance, and then just told her, “Yeah, sure.” And some months later, Blake picking Nicole’s faxes off the machine as she was sending me updates from the set of Days of Thunder in Charlotte, North Carolina. And a few months after that my farewell day before I left for London… where I ended up at Variety covering the British film industry. Blake didn’t replace me in Sydney, just covered all the beats himself until he also moved on. I sometimes wished I’d never left him, and those amazing times, but the paper was changing into a magazine under management we didn’t feel aligned to… and the world was changing, too.
Blake did not enjoy living in LA when he worked at The Hollywood Reporter here, as he missed his son and Sydney life, but he totally understood why I wanted to live here. In 2014 before I moved to LA, we caught up for lunch a bunch of times, looking back, laughing at our younger selves and the times when it felt like we ruled the world, or at least ruled show biz reporting in Australia, missing our mothers – we had a very boozy Mother’s Day lunch in Manly in their honour – and wondering what the future might hold for the ageing idealists that we were. He was there at my farewell drinks the night before I flew off, and on each of my return visits to Sydney I hoped to catch up, but he was either off cruising with his new love, Natalie, or not in such great health, which worried me, but I never thought I wouldn’t see him again. The last time we messaged, a year ago, he asked if I would be in Sydney in January 2021 for his wedding.
My heart is broken, but that is nothing compared to what Natalie, Tom and their families are going through. We’ve lost a gentleman, a loyal, kind, wise and funny man who was my colleague, my teacher, my friend and many times my confidant. Bless you, Blake, you were one of a kind.
Here are the details of Blake’s funeral:
10.30 am on Wednesday 16 December (Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time) @ the Camelia Chapel, Macquarie Cemetery and Crematorium, Cnr Delhi Rd &, Plassey Rd, Macquarie Park, Sydney