Russell Coight speaks about Life, Long Distance Travel and his Celebrity Challenge...
As you are no doubt aware, Russell Coight is notoriously difficult to get in touch with, however we were able to track him down on safari in the Great Sandy Desert where he's conducting a survey on endangered species (by counting how many he runs over in a day). While there Russell managed to hook his diesel powered computer up to the satellite-phone and answer a few questions about his Celebrity Challenge ....
First up, it's been a while since we've seen you on TV - what has Russell Coight been doing for the past few years?
I've been flat out. Running tours, giving talks, my Darwin crocodile park is doing extremely well, especially now that we've managed to get water into some of the holding pens. As far as television goes, my series All Aussie Adventures had to be "rested" a few years back due to some legal technicality - apparently in certain parts of Australia it's still an offence to set fire to a bilby.
Have you had any other TV projects?
Heaps. My outback drama series McCoight's Daughters almost went to pilot stage.
And wasn't there a feature film planned?
Still in the pipeline. We're just trying to finalise casting on the role of "young Russell" but Heath Ledger's people are not returning calls. Disappointing really.
Tell us about the Celebrity Challenge - what is it?
It's an amazing feat. I decided to take 5 of this country's biggest names - actors, musos, sportsmen - and challenge them to cross Australia with me in just 7 days. It's like nothing anyone has ever seen before on TV.
Sounds a little similar to Survivor or I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here .
Maybe. A little. But apart from that, this is ground-breaking television.
Or that A Current Affair special on the Kokoda Trail?
Look, I think we're getting bogged down here, let's just move on.
Was it hard finding 5 celebrities to take part?
Luckily I've got quite a reputation within the entertainment industry and so when people get a call from R. Coight they tend to sit up and take notice. Obviously, not everyone we invited agreed to come along, but that's fine, no need to get into names, I mean Bert's obviously a busy man.
So who did agree to take part?
Well, we're keeping it a bit of a surprise, but we've got a rock muso, an actress, a cricket legend, a child star and a writer. All in all, six pretty huge names.
That's only five.
I'm also counting me. I'm a celebrity. Two-time Logie nominee.
And the trip itself - did it go smoothly?
Look, the outback's an unpredictable place. Not everything goes according to plan, as I said to the group when we had to winch the car out of that billabong on Day 2. But all in all, things went pretty much according to plan.
Apparently there were one or two "incidents"?
I don't know what you mean.
Reports about the "destruction of an outback health centre"?
Oh yeah, here we go again. It's the tall poppy syndrome. The fact is, they were planning to knock that building down anyway. Me ploughing into it with the rear end of a Toyota Landcruiser just saved them a few bucks.
Is it true you also spent 3 days lost and travelling in circles?
No! As anyone who has ever done any outback travel will tell you, often the best way to get from A to B is via C, D and E. On one occasion we even went through F but that was just a toilet stop.
How did you come up with the idea of a Celebrity Challenge?
I guess I've always been committed to helping out with charitable causes. Back in the 1970's I set up Shooting For the Disabled , the first ever scheme to put semi-automatic weapons within reach of wheelchair bound children. I've also fronted numerous public service campaigns up in the Northern Territory such as "Be Croc-Smart" and their road safety ad "Re-Think Your 17 th Drink". So the thought of putting together a charity fund-raising trip came quite naturally.
And why the Bush Nurses?
Look, they're an incredible bunch. I mean, the Royal Flying Doctors get a lot of the glory but these girls are just as dedicated. Okay, a lot of them don't have any medical qualifications per se , or, for that matter, pilot's licences, but that doesn't stop them flying in, anywhere in Australia and patching you up. If it weren't for these "angels of the air" I'd still be in some hospital sitting on an inflatable cushion.
A TV special based around celebrities attempting a challenge. Some have described it as "the obvious ploy of a fading celebrity desperate to get back on telly".
Well, look, that's... I mean, you're always going to have knockers. I bet you that was just some disgruntled TV critic.
It was actually you're publicist.
Right, there you go. Tall poppy syndrome all over again.
Precisely how much money did the tip raise?
Look, I don't think you can reduce a project like this to something as simple as "money". We were raising awareness, teaching people about the bush, how can you put a figure on that?
Simple. Income minus expenses.
Alright, we made $297
Would you do it again?
Love to. Obviously we'd have to take a different route - I've been banned from re-entering any National Park for the next ten years. And next time I'd take a little more to drink. A few of the celebrities weren't too happy about drinking their own urine, let alone each other's.
Russell Coight is available to answer any other questions you may have (provided they don't relate to matters currently before the courts) and can be contacted at this address.