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BLOG : Douglas Ell…a radio legend and how his story could affect you

I can’t quite describe his laugh in writing. His loud “HAAA!” Almost like an engine of a lawnmower. Usually followed by a slam of his hand on to a desk or your shoulder. Loud. Forceful. Bold. Everything he does is at high speed. He’s bossy. He’s organised. In fact organised like you wouldn’t believe. He’s straight up, no B.S. He’s like the cool kid at school… he doesn’t bully you, but certainly doesn’t give you the time of day unless he accepts you. To be accepted into his circle of friends is like being a chef in Hell’s Kitchen and Gordon Ramsey saying “Tastes good”.

The man I’m talking about is Douglas Ell. For those who work at the Radio Network in Auckland we all know that he not only personifies “radio” but also the word “life”. Douglas knows the radio industry inside out – better than most who work in the industry. He isn’t full of himself. He isn’t a wanker. But he knows he’s good at what he does. His voice. His knowledge. He’s a perfectionist. In fact, if he had known I was writing about him today he would’ve been very proud – and DEMANDED to proof read it first.

A bit of back ground on Douglas Ell. In the 1980s Douglas was instrumental in setting up Classic Hits in Hamilton and making it the hugely successful brand that we all know today across the country. When he left programming radio stations he become an Account Manager and started selling radio ads in Auckland. Douglas became one of the big shots at Newstalk ZB in Auckland and was the one that made Wet N Forget a famous brand across New Zealand. He also voiced hundreds of radio ads over the past three decades. We called him “Hardsell Douglas Ell” because of his classic radio jock voice.

All of us who have worked with Douglas over the years are used to rolling our eyes when we play back phone messages from him. They ALWAYS start with “Douglas here, call me urgently…”. We never do call him urgently. If anything, we go make a cup of coffee first. He’s always full of drama.

Like I say – he personifies life.

Which is why his death in June this year was so unimaginatively hard to comprehend. The one person in my entire career who literally overflowed with life… ran out of it 30 years too early.

Now it’s only our memories that can think of him as “personifying life”.

With enthusiastic permission from his wife Lynette and daughter Greer I wanted to share this story about my good friend Douglas.

Douglas died in June of skin cancer after 20 months of stress, suffering, treatment, laughter, tears and goodbyes.

Douglas loved to enjoy life. This man who had beautiful grandchildren to live for. This man who had the most loving and supportive wife. This man with a daughter following in his radio footsteps and sons, a son-in-law and daughter in laws that he was so proud of. This man and the rest of his big, energetic, loving family. This man, with his own strong, natural, ability to aggressively fight anything that came his way, and all these loving, supportive people behind him, still couldn’t beat a tiny, cancerous mole on his back.

Skin Cancer is a deadly serious problem in New Zealand. I know of people who have come from the northern hemisphere with hardly a traceable freckle and within a few summers in New Zealand their face, neck and shoulders are covered in them. The amount of ultra violet light that enters the atmosphere over this particular country is astounding. It’s radiation. It’s deadly. In fact exposure too much sun can be as lethal as smoking cigarettes. For each few minutes you lie unprotected in the sun, think of it as smoking one cigarette after another.

Douglas was a fighter. The guy was still working in his last week of life. He did everything the doctors told him. He had the money to go to Australia for special full body tests that we can’t get here. But even all those tests, all those special treatments, all the health insurance money can buy and then some… it wasn’t enough to keep him alive. That’s how deadly skin cancer can be if caught too late. And, one beautiful, very sunny Sunday morning, he died.

There is one very important positive about skin cancer – if it’s caught early enough it can often be successfully treated. Right at this moment do you know all the moles you have on your body? If so, are they normal looking? Have they changed in shape recently? Has anyone checked your back?

This summer try to stay out of the sun when UV rays are at their most powerful – between 10am and 4pm. Cover up. Slip, slop, slap and wrap. While we need sunlight on our skin to stay healthy, we only need it in small amounts – and when UV rays are low.

Douglas, put simply, is a pure legend to me, and to many others who were lucky enough to work with him. I hope in so many ways that some of Douglas has rubbed off on me. Because I totally admired the man… and today, I can no longer learn from him. I miss his laugh. It rattled the room and to this day it remains an iconic symbol of where we work.

So, ask yourself when sunbathing this summer…do I really need a tan to die for?

For more information on the UV index and how to have a safe summer outdoors, go to the SunSmart website:


Greer Ell on 8/05/2011 7:50am

Yes – My Dad was an amazing man – A fighter, full of life and loved and cared for us all so dearly.
Thank you for this article Phil… You are a very special man who has an amazing career ahead… Dad will now love watching your career unfold from above.
Greer Ell x

Guest on 1/04/2018 1:20pm

Just wondering …. was Douglas adopted ?

( Trying to solve a family mystery )

Guest ian barry on 16/12/2009 9:42am

Douglas, was amazing, when i first started my business in NZ he backed me 100%, we became good friends and that friendship will last a lifetime, i feel honored to have been friends with him and Lynette, i was lucky enough to have been able to visit him just a couple of weeks before he passed away, but all Doug was worried about was me and my company going under, not about his illness, he never stopped working for ZB and his clients, and he never gave up, he was a mans man, and i will never forget him.

Ian Barry

Greer Ell on 8/05/2011 7:42am

Thanks Ian… Lovely words. My Dad is a true legend and we miss him so much. Love Greer Ell X

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