Preddon Lee Ltd

Copyright: Ian D. Richardson Email: contact@preddonlee.com

(First published in the Bendigo Advertiser, Australia, July 19, 2007)

OBITUARY: DES LED AN AMAZING LIFE

The Amazing Ronricco, hypnotist

DESMOND TOCCHINI
Born: November 13, 1925
Died: June 16, 2007

Former Bendigo resident IAN RICHARDSON pays tribute to a radio host and skilled hypnotist…

By day, he was Des Tocchini, the amiable 3BO radio announcer with the rich and comforting voice. By night, he confidently strode the stages of packed theatres across Victoria, Australia, as The Amazing Ronricco, Hypnotist & Mentalist.

Des, born in Maryborough, Queensland, has died aged 81 in Surfers' Paradise after a long illness.

He and I first met back in the early 1960s when 3BO operated from studios above the old Beehive store in Pall Mall, Bendigo.

He was presenting programs such as Cohn's Cobbers; I was a junior reporter in the station's newsroom.

Des and his Ballarat-born first wife, Gwen, had arrived in Bendigo from Tasmania where they had earned substantial sums of money - money that had been lost as a result of Des's naïve willingness to trust those who did not deserve his trust.

Like many entertainers, he was not notable for his business acumen. It was because of this that I was to become his part-time manager and sometime stage assistant, during the two years or so I was in Bendigo.

He was tremendous fun to be with as we travelled together for his shows across the state.

Des had shown a dual interest in broadcasting and hypnotism from his early teenage years.

He started his broadcasting career as a cadet with 4BH Brisbane, then worked as an announcer with several other eastern states radio stations before linking up with the hypnotist Van Lowe.

After Van Lowe retired, Des struck out on his own.

Because he feared that his new career might fail and damage the Tocchini family name, he made up the stage name Ronricco.

He chose Ronricco because it hinted at his Italian origins, his grandfather having been born in Pisa.

Off stage, Des was a shy man, though always one with a warm and ready wit.

But he could sometimes be accident prone as a broadcaster.

Once, when presenting a classical music program on 3BO, he distractedly introduced a work by the composer Rimsky-Korsakov as being by "Rips Your Corsets Off", the joke name given to the Russian composer by the station's record library.

On another occasion, he was so intently chatting to a colleague in the corridor that he forget he had a program on air.

He rushed back into the studio to discover to his horror that for the previous 10 minutes, he had been playing an LP vinyl record at the wrong speed -- 45rpm, instead of 33rpm.

Unfazed, Des expressed the hope that his listeners had enjoyed the songs of a new Australian country-and-western group, the Hummingbirds.

Such was the confident manner of his announcement that no-one realised that no such group existed.

Ronricco's stage show always began with "mentalism", a series of demonstrations of his alleged mind reading and mental telepathy skills.

This was, of course, nothing but entertaining and humorous trickery, but no-one minded and once he moved onto the hypnosis, it was the real thing.

In all the time I was associated with his shows, not once was he even tempted to use stooges.

It was Des's sensible view that stooges would discredit both his stage show and the more serious uses of hypnosis in therapy.

Nor did the Ronricco shows ever humiliate participants - something that could not be said of some of his less-scrupulous rivals.

His were always good-humoured and kindly family shows in the best sense of that description.

In the mid-1960s, Des moved to the Gold Coast with his wife and two children, Caroline and Desmond Jnr, and again became a full-time stage performer.

He did shows in America, Asia and New Zealand, but was best known in Australia for his open-air beach shows along the Gold Coast.

There can hardly have been a visitor to the Gold Coast who did not see, or participate in, these shows.

During this time his marriage broke down and he and Gwen were divorced.

Some years later he married Val Carnell, a classical pianist and the widow of his old friend, the band leader Claude Carnell.

Her music had became part of the Ronricco show and her natural management and organisation skills also contributed greatly to the popularity and financial success of the performances.

Des and Val were, quite simply, not just good friends but soul mates.

During the late 1970s, they began taking the Ronricco show to the United Kingdom.

They spent several northern summer seasons there, mostly performing on the Isle of Man, with side excursions to the British mainland and to the Irish Republic.

Des never tired of doing his shows, which continued into his mid-70s.

His deteriorating health finally forced him to retire, but he remained ever-cheerful with a large and wide number of friends - evidenced by the standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 mourners who turned up at his funeral in Surfers' Paradise.

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