“I became somebody and the whole nation accepted me for what I was. Fashion conscious. Stylish. Demanding. The whole nation coped!”
– Bernard King
State Library of Queensland is pleased to announce the acquisition of celebrity TV chef Bernard King’s final recorded interviews for our oral history collection.
Bernard King was a star of Australian television from the 1970s to the 1990s, one of the nation’s most prominent gay celebrities, and a pioneer on TV cookery programs such as King’s Kitchen. He’s also famed for his acerbic wit as a judge on talent shows like Pot of Gold and New Faces.
Born on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in 1934, Bernard King graduated from work as a teacher to a career in the entertainment industry. His infamous recipes included a fish poached in soft drink, rice and peas embedded in pineapple jelly, and a leg of lamb cooked in instant coffee – but he’s best loved for his flamboyant style, his love of showbiz, and his sharp tongue. King died on the Gold Coast in 2002.
The interview tapes were acquired after State Library’s 2016 Creative-in-Residence, Matt Finch, contacted King’s biographer, food writer Stephanie Clifford-Smith. Shortly before Bernard King’s death, Stephanie had recorded several days worth of interviews which will now be digitized by the library’s Queensland Memory team.
“This is a major acquisition of materials from a real Queensland original whose work was under-represented in the state’s libraries and archives,” says Matt. “Bernard King is iconic in the history of Australian show business and also a key figure in understanding Australia’s relationship to its LGBTI community.”
The acquisition also forms part of State Library’s year-long signature theme Belonging, celebrating the diversity of Queensland identities and experiences across our state. Executive Manager, Queensland Memory, Gavin Bannerman says this oral history documents the experience of a significant Queensland identity.
“After being embraced by the Australian public for many years, Bernard died in penury,” says Matt. “This was a tragic end for a shining star of Australian television, but we should also remember him at his happiest – as a flamboyant and sharp-tongued showman who was equally comfortable making fun of himself or of others.”
The Bernard King oral history collection will be digitized by State Library and made available online.
Stephanie Clifford–Smith’s biography of Bernard King is A marvellous party : the life of Bernard King.