Cottesloe identity Susannah Carr had hoped to be an architect, but a dreadful chauvinist at UWA put paid to that plan. Instead, as we all know, she ended up becoming a TV presenter; so good at her craft that she’s graced our screens for 34 years, and who’s counting?
Susannah as a child, were you often told you had a good speaking voice?
Not especially, no. I went to Iona, which focused on speech and drama. Having English parents, I always had a fairly neutral voice, not a broad Australian accent. But no, I don’t remember anyone complimenting my voice!
When you left school, what did you do?
I wanted to be an architect. But at uni the dean of architecture discouraged me, and all girls. He was a total chauvinist. He’s dead now. I ended up studying law for a year, but later ended up in architecture again. I did drafting and worked my way up that way instead.
How did you end up at the ABC?
I went for an audition there, God knows why, 120 people went for it and nobody got it. But they told me they thought my voice had quality and that I should keep working on it. I went away and did nothing of the sort; then six months later they called me back, and said my voice had improved dramatically!
Why was that, do you think?
I’ve no idea. I was probably a lot more relaxed, the second time round. So I ended up working as a radio announcer. At first I was just behind the scenes, learning the ropes, then one day one of the older announcers told me he was going to get a drink – and he didn’t come back! He left me in the studio, so I had to do it!
Did you change your voice much for the job?
Yes I had to drop it somewhat. A lower voice sounds much less grating on the airwaves.
Later, of course, you ended up as a TV presenter on the ABC. And then 27 years ago, you moved to Channel Seven. What goes on in the studio that the public aren’t aware of?
There’s always a lot of talking going on. You’ve got people talking into the earpiece while you’re talking to camera; you’re talking to the floor people. While a news story is running, Basil Zempilas will be creating mayhem; Rick and I will be having a conversation relating to something else; some days it’s totally frenetic.
Have you ever had a tiff with co-presenter, Rick Arden?
Yes, but just one. It was a misunderstanding. I can’t even remember what it was about. Something ridiculous, like the holiday roster. That’s the only tiff in 27 years. We’re doing better than most married couples! Rick and I get on really well.
Do you get stopped most days by people who recognize you?
Most days, yes. But around the Cottesloe area, not so much, because people know you as just another local.
Do they ever expect Rick to be by your side?
My husband, Chris, reckons people sometimes look disappointed he doesn’t look like Rick!
Are strangers always polite?
Usually, but sometimes they’re incredibly intrusive. People sometimes come and sit down with you while you’re having dinner. But now that I’ve got such a cute dog, people often stop me to ask about her!
Away from Channel Seven, what do you get up to?
I swim laps at Claremont pool. And I walk everywhere with my dog, Poppy. We go to Allen Park, Bold Park, Minim Cove in Mosman Park. I cook, read a lot, and enjoy a good daily coffee. Chris and I go to loads of movies, and we love travelling. We enjoy going to different parts of Europe and looking at buildings.
Where’s your favourite coffee around here?
It’s a toss-up between Cimbalino and Il Lido.
And where do you like having a bite to eat?
I love Il Lido. Their food is delicious. I like their tapas-style dishes. They’re consistently good. And I really like Vans as well.
What do you enjoy about living in Cottesloe?
I love the casual atmosphere; living near the ocean and the fresh air. I just find it a non-snooty place, with a real mixture of locals. I’ve lived here since I was very young. I have great memories.
Such as when the Lido was a cabaret area with an open air cinema next door. We used to go and visit friends nearby, and peer over their balcony to watch the outdoor movies. One day, I fell through the window in the middle of the movie. Glass was smashing everywhere. Someone saved me by grabbing my ankles and pulling me back up!
Do you have siblings?
My brother Martin died six years ago, of a rare nerve condition, CIDP (Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy). It was an agonizing illness. The way he handled it, he was the bravest person I’d ever known. I still think about him often. We were very different people when we were younger, because he was six years younger. But later in life, we became really close.
Your parents moved here when you were little?
Yes they were Ten Pound Poms. They moved here when I was seven months old.
You’re known to be a brilliant cook. Have you always loved cooking?
Since I was a teenager I’ve loved it – in the last few years it’s become more intense. I’m always trying new dishes. I’ve been concocting middle eastern dishes lately.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We’re so spoiled around here. Boatshed and the Mt Claremont markets have such good produce, I don’t have to go far from home. I also buy ingredients online, such as gelatine leaves, vanilla beans and saffron.
You don’t look much older than when you started presenting. What’s your secret?
Really? Thank you! I think having a positive outlook is important. I’m quite a happy person. My late dad didn’t have wrinkles until he was very old indeed. Hopefully it’s in the genes. But other than that, I think it’s just exercising regularly, and staying happy.
Accomplished chef Susannah prepared the delicious dessert pictured below for the The Starfish. Click on our Yum button for her recipe.