Denis Smith was one of those broadcasters whose name, even today, is normally preceded by "the legendary" in South African radio circles. He was at one point the highest paid radio presenter and broadcaster in the country.

Like many people working in South African radio, Denis never restricted himself to one job. At the time of The Avengers, he was an actor, a presenter, an announcer, and, most famously, a newsreader. He fulfilled the latter role on Springbok Radio, reading the evening news in The World At 7.00pm. However, on one evening he got himself in hot water for ending his slot on air with the cheeky sign-off "and that is the end of this badly-written newscast". Despite this blemish on his record, he held the position right up until the closure of Springbok Radio in 1985.

After disappearing from radio as a consequence of Springbok Radio's demise, he was soon back on the airwaves with Talk Radio 702, for whom he worked for many years as part of the Eyewitness News team. He also hosted the Saturday Quiz Show and had a loyal following.

In drama, Denis featured in many productions including an adaptation of The Caine Mutiny (with Michael Mayer) in which he played an American character. The actor Ron Furnival was drafted in from Cape Town to play the lead in the production. Bizarrely, Furnival, the only genuine American on the cast, was the only player in the programme who received criticism for his "phoney" American accent!

Denis was also involved in live theatre, performing in The Shrew at the Grahamstown Festival and A Tribute to Lili Lamont for the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal. He also wrote - with Michael McCabe - the play Serious Considering Sydney , which was presented at the Nico Theatre, Cape Town, from 7th to 28th May 1994.

In his later years, Denis presented a weekly five-minute series, Living Like Animals, which explored through humour, modern day life in South Africa. In 2010, he was inducted into South Africa's MTN Radio Awards Hall of Fame, for being a broadcaster who "developed the fine art of not announcing the news, but telling the story". 

In Denis' retirement years, his health deteriorated following two strokes, and skin cancer lesions kept him bedridden in his last months. He died peacefully in bed in his Yeoville apartment on 13th May 2015, with his second wife Josephine at his side.

Shortly after his death, his friend and former producer at 702 Angela Mclellan paid him a fine tribute:

"It's not easy to write a single quote about Denis Smith, a man so multi-talented, fiercely independent, strong, brave, and... I have to throw in stubborn. I guess the best is for me to say that Denis was one of the few people I've known who truly and purely lived in the present. He remembered, but worried not about yesterday, paid scant attention to tomorrow, and sucked the marrow right out of the present."

by Alan Hayes

 

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