(First published in
the Bendigo Advertiser,
Australia, July 19, 2007)
DES LED AN AMAZING LIFE
Born: November 13, 1925
Died: June 16, 2007
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
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
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
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
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.
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'