Who is Billy Suter?

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WHO am I?  I am a cheerful, versatile and dedicated arts and entertainment journalist of long-standing.

I am an easy-going South African born in 1956. Based in Durban, South Africa. A father of three, now all flown the nest.

I have been promoting events and talent in print with news, reviews, views and interviews since the late 1970s. With this site, I continue to do so.

During my 39 years as a journalist at The Mercury newspaper, in my city of birth, Durban, South Africa – where I spent 24 years, from early 1993 to November 2016, as Arts Editor – I enjoyed countless wonderful experiences.

Over the years, I have interviewed a vast variety of talents from the worlds of theatre, music, movies, radio, dance, TV and leisure. I have been fortunate to do so locally, nationally and internationally.

I have enjoyed many memorable moments, and have interviewed everyone from action hero Chuck Norris (who exercised non-stop in a Durban hotel room while we chatted) and David Hasselhoff (in his big-hair, Knight Rider days) to the likes of Alan Paton, Bryan Adams, Jerry Springer, Josh Groban, Nadine Gordimer, Joan Brickhill, Johnny Clegg, Judith Sephuma, Chris de Burgh, Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s Joseph Shabalala, and Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest film director Milos Forman, among many others.

I recall my very first celebrity interview – with master satirist and all-round-good guy Pieter-Dirk Uys, at a Durban beachfront hotel. It was on a day when I was in my early 20s, had sprained an ankle and was very nervous to meet him. But he was quick to put me at ease … he ordered a whiskey for me, and very kindly insisted I lie down on a couch with my foot on a cushion while I interviewed him.

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I have been fortunate to have been invited twice to Mauritius to cover events (including a review of the magical Le Touessrok Hotel).

I have been four times to London (twice in 2015, first for the UK/SA Seasons arts exchange initiative, then the London  Jazz Festival), and spent an amazing week in Sydney and Adelaide, Australia, interviewing cast members and visiting the farm set of the TV drama series,  McCleod’s Daughters.

I have also been very  fortunate to visit the Middle East – Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muskat – as the guest of a local production company promoting their shows abroad; and spent a glorious few days being pampered on the elite tropical island paradise of Pankor Laut as part of a junket to publicise the TV series, Survivor South Africa: Malaysia.

After matriculating at Mansfield High School in Durban, and completing a year of compulsory military service in the South African Air Force, I started studying journalism at Durban’s Natal Technikon (now Durban University of Technology). I was fortunate to be employed by The Mercury halfway through the first of my three years of study, the newspaper going on to pay for the remainder of the course.

I initially covered various news beats at The Mercury, while enjoying producing a weekly live-music column, Bandstand, which I initiated and which ran for more than a decade from the late 1970s. These were the days of local icons such as Ballyhoo, Copperfield, Bad Habit, Finch and Henson, Johnny Clegg, Lesley Rae Dowling, Juluka, Glam, The Blarney Brothers, Urban Creep, Bite, The Dead Babies, Altitude, David Kramer and The Blues Train. It was  the heyday of The Rainbow in Pinetown, Slipper’s Boogie Palace, Father’s Moustache, The Barn, Club Med, El Castillian, Ruby Tuesday….

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I went on to spend two years or so writing for the newspaper’s Woman’s Weekly lifestyle supplement – everything from fads and fashion to food – before enjoying three years as the newspaper’s full-time film reviewer, then going on to handle news and feature sub-editing and layout.

I  then became The Mercury’s deputy features editor, specialising in fashion and feature layouts.

Finally,  I was appointed as Arts Editor, from late-1993 to November 2016, specialising in film and, more so more recently, theatre.

During my time as Arts Editor at The Mercury, I also edited and did layout for Independent on Saturday’s Arts & Pleasure pages, where I featured for four years, writing under the pseudonym Bill Ryan. I have also contributed, over the years, to arts sections of The Daily News, Sunday Tribune and the ArtSmart website.

I have had the honour of being one of five nominees for the inaugural Arts and Culture Trust’s Arts Journalist of the Year Award. I have also long been an FNB Vita Award judge for theatre and, in more recent years, a judge for the Durban Theatre Awards, for which I am still a judge.

I have tried my hand at scriptwriting, having been commissioned to write a monologue for the popular touring Clinton Marius play, The Penis Monologues, and hope to consider more writing for the stage.

I have long had a passion for the world of entertainment – my interests having started at a young age with early singing, then drama eisteddfods. I then formed, produced, designed for and choreographed The Harlequinns, an amateur but passionate 20-member Durban lip-sync troupe (member ages 9 to 35) that performed extensively to raise funds for charity from 1975 to 1985.

On a side note… I spent nearly eight years teaching aerobics and step-classes, up to three classes a day sometimes, from around 1987 to 1995, at Durban gyms including Corporate Body, Players, Jack Ford’s, Berea Gym and Muscle & Fitness. I also spent a year teaching twice-weekly aquarobic classes at my home pool.

I am divorced with two adult stepchildren, Ryan and Hayley, and my biological son, Ross, born in 1994. I have three young grandsons: Callum, Bradley and Luke.

I opted to take voluntary retrenchment from The Mercury to explore the cyber realm. I wanted a fresh challenge. A new beginning.

And here I am.  Come fly with me…