Percy and Chimp on same flights .
By Peter Simon
Burton had an eye for the unusual commercial opportunity. When the Russians shot a dog, Laika , into orbit in a Sputnik satellite he proposed taking out a patent for a space dog toy. Because the dog did not survive the flight , manufacturers were reluctant to take up the idea , canine lovers saddened that it died in the historic voyage.
Never deterred, he had the same bright idea when the Americans fired a chimp , Enos, into the heavens in 1961. A cartoon at the time showed a monkey in a US Air Force officer’s uniform smoking a cigar and telling future astronauts they would experience an uncontrollable urge for a banana once their rocket got to a certain height . Again no toy maker was interested.
However his space toy ideas caused much jocularity in the News and Darwin pubs. Percy was clearly ahead of his time in the toy industry and could have been a consultant to the lucrative , mega-hit series ,Toy Story. Another money making scheme he outlined was taking photographs of Darwin houses and selling copies to the surprised occupants who , the theory went, would send them to relatives and friends down south and overseas.
Before he left the ABC , Burton had been involved in a scrap with a Cypriot born tailor who had a shop in the Hotel Darwin building . The tailor was making a pair of white sharkskin shorts for Percy who used to drop in frequently to see how they were coming along. During one of many fittings , Burton spotted a stain in what he described as a "disadvantageous position" - the fly - and refused to have anything further to do with the shorts.
An altercation took place and Burton was hit in the ear . The tailor was charged with assaulting Burton who appeared in court wearing a monogrammed shirt and a cravat. In answer to a question from defence lawyer , George Cridland , Burton denied being used to " grovelling oriental tailors". The tailor was not fined and in a magnanimous gesture, Burton paid the puzzled tailor for the shorts outside the court .
KANGAROO BASHED WITH RIFLE
The News ran a report about the hearing under the Keith Willey heading , THE CASE OF THE SHARKSKIN SHORTS.
Before driving down the track for a weekend, Burton borrowed a rifle from a gun enthusiast who was reluctant to hand over the weapon . However , Burton assured him he knew how to handle firearms. While driving along the highway he came upon an unfortunate kangaroo which had been hit by a car .
The injured animal was flopping about on the road, so Burton got out with the rifle intending to put it out of its misery. Instead of shooting the roo, he used the rifle as a club and began to hit it on the head. Naturally , the creature objected and frantically bounced around . Intending to finish the the kangaroo with one almighty blow, Percy missed and hit the bitumen , which caused the stock of the rifle to split . Not only that , he actually bent the barrel . The owner of the rifle was furious when Burton returned the now useless shooter.
KING'S CROSS SPECIAL
When Burton left Darwin he obtained a job as advance publicity man for a road show . In this role , he lobbed at the Sydney Morning Herald one day while this writer was on duty . He calmly walked up to the sub editors’ table and placed a lengthy , racy story about his experiences in Sydney's King’s Cross in the basket . It read like the radio serial Night Beat . Nobody but staff should place copy in the subs basket . A copy taster pulled the bulky story out and began to read it , then called out : " Who is this person Burton ?" By that stage Burton was making free calls to Brisbane from a phone in the interstate room and soon after hit the road again. NEXT : Darwin calling surprised US captains of commerce .