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Mr King (Bernard King)
, c. 1979

by Jon Waddy

type C photograph (sheet: 37.8 cm x 30.4 cm, image: 36.5 cm x 29.4 cm)

Bernard King (1934–2002), chef and television personality, grew up on a farm at Maleny in Queensland and appeared in his first talent quest at the age of eight. In early life he worked as a primary school teacher while performing in amateur theatricals and on ABC radio. After hosting a lunch in his Brisbane flat for actress Vivien Leigh, he was invited by Maureen Kistle, the presenter of ABC TV's A Woman's World and a guest at the event, to demonstrate his cooking skills on her show. He went on to host a daily segment on the Ten Network’s Good Morning Australia before getting his own show, King's Kitchen. During the 70s and 80s, he was a regular on the game show Celebrity Squares, and a judge on the talent quests New Faces, Pot of Gold and Pot Luck, becoming notorious in this role for the poor scores and cruel comments he claimed to have issued to contestants in kindness. ‘No one has the courage to tell them that they’re awful’, he said, ‘I’m the only person who is sincere’. Just before his sudden death in 2002, he filmed a pilot for a comeback television show on which he would pass judgment – presumably harshly – on recipes cooked by viewers. This portrait was taken at Sydney's State Theatre during a shoot for the cover of A Man of Style, an album of show tunes recorded by King in 1979. Photographer Jon Waddy recalls ‘it was a good album, but did not top the charts'.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2005
Accession number: 2005.80