Deborah Gray (born 1958) is a former Australian high fashion model and actress who is now best known as an internationally best selling author of non-fiction spell books and jazz singer.
Gray was born in Canberra where as a teenager she won the Teen Model of the Year competition, after which she was picked up for a modelling contract with Viviens Management. She appeared on catwalks, leading fashion magazine covers and starred in TV commercials.
In 1977 at the age of 19, she branched out into acting and burst onto TV screens and into Australian TV history with her role on the television soap opera Number 96. In the show's story Gray's character of Miss Hemingway has a psychological aversion to wearing clothes so seeks help from Number 96's resident psychologist. The comedic storyline was specifically devised to boost the show's declining ratings in 1977; after more than five years on air the ratings for the once top-rated series were falling and the producers responded by going back to the show's original point of controversy: its nudity.
The first appearances by Gray screened in April 1977. Initially she would appear striding into a room and slipping off her expensive mink coat to reveal nothing at all underneath. Over several weeks her character would be seen to be gradually "cured" of her problem, depicted on screen by Miss Hemingway adding one item of clothing with each appearance in the show. However the immense publicity surrounding Gray's acting debut was not enough to boost the program's ratings sufficiently; Number 96 succumbed to its declining viewing figures and was abruptly cancelled in July 1977.
After Number 96
After Number 96 she continued her acting career as a popular television and film actress, and was considered a leading sex symbol at the time. She played a continuing dramatic role in soap opera The Young Doctors, acted in a guest role in the police drama series Bellamy (1981), and was a regular co-host in an Australian Candid Camera style television series titled Catch Us If You Can. Gray started an all-girl cabaret act named Deborah Gray and the Flames (one of the flames was future Perfect Match hostess Debbie Newsome). Gray went on to appear on the cover of Australian Playboy Magazine and was showcased in its best-selling actor profile and pictorial, and acted in two 1981 feature films, the comedy feature Pacific Banana, and The Best of Friends. Gray co-wrote and sang the title song from Pacific Banana with fellow co-star Luan Peters. Other musical forays at the time were the song Mellow Loving, a top ten dance hit, Love Song of O, and the European top 40 hit No Time to Lose which was released by the German Hansa Label/Coconut Records.
By 1986 Gray, tired of the 'sex-symbol' actress tag and, alarmed at the local film industry's growing penchant for violent films, left acting altogether to pursue writing and music full-time. She moved to New York in 1986 to study jazz vocalization and songwriting. She lived there for 9 years, performing in many of the known cabaret and jazz clubs (Maxims, Blue Note, Bradleys, The Supper Club, Tatous) and recording her first all original jazz CD featuring trumpeter Roy Hargrove. As of 2007 Gray is based in Australia where she continues her jazz performing and recording and is an author, songwriter and producer. Her 'magickal' themed non-fiction books have been translated into 10 languages.
She produced and hosted the 2005 documentary Wish on a Spell, the DVD released internationally by leading American independent distributor Monterey Media, in mainstream stores throughout USA, Canada and Australia and via the web. Gray also appeared in the documentary Number 96: The Later Years, a special feature included in the 2006 DVD release of the Number 96 feature film.
Gray is set to release her new Jazz CD 'Jazz Fresh' in late 2007 and is currently shooting scenes for her appearance in the FFC funded documentary hosted by American Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino titled 'Not Quite Hollywood', a film homage to the breakthrough days of Australian films of the 70's and early 80's (set to be released internationally late 2008)
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- Atterton, Margot. (Ed.) The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Australian Showbiz, Sunshine Books, 1984. ISBN 0-86777-057-0 p 92