(Source Perthnow)

AN emotional Johnny Young has broken his silence to angrily deny gossip magazine allegations that he condoned an under-age affair by pop star Debra Byrne when she was appearing on his Young Talent Time television series.
New Idea alleged in a cover story on October 24 that the former host of the long-running television program allowed Byrne to participate in under-age sex with a 24-year-old crew member, and to get involved with alcohol and drugs.
Young, who returns to work tomorrow as host of Perth radio station 6IX’s breakfast program, says he has already spent $20,000 on legal advice and is likely to sue New Idea over the allegations if enrolment numbers in February are down at his Johnny Young Talent Schools around the country.
Speaking at his stylish Mt Pleasant apartment this week, surrounded by Logie awards and pictures of his family, Young spoke emotionally about the hurt the magazine article had caused him.

He said he had no warning that the article, which condemned him for doing nothing when an allegedly 12-year-old Byrne was supposedly having an affair with a Young Talent Time boom operator, was about to be published.

The television series, which fostered the careers of Kylie Minogue and Jane Scali, ran from 1971 to 1989.

Young has written to Kerry Stokes, whose company operates New Idea, to ask for a retraction.
In the letter Young says: “The articles have hurt and damaged me enormously.

“The first one effectively accuses me of sexually abusing Debra Byrne when she was a child.

“The second article backs away from this, but both articles suggest that I knew she was having a sexual relationship when she was 12 or 13 with a Young Talent Time staff member and I did nothing to stop it.

“The clear suggestion is that I turned a blind eye to pedophilia. This is terribly damaging to me and has the capacity to completely destroy my reputation and career.'’

Young goes on in the letter to categorically deny the allegations made in the magazine article and points out that the allegations don’t agree with the facts in Byrne’s tell-all autobiography Not Quite Ripe, which was released in October.

Young was alerted to the New Idea story, which ran under the banner heading “Sex, drugs and Young Talent Time'’, by his daughter.

“I went and got a copy of New Idea and nearly fell off my chair,'’ Young said this week.

“What really shocked me though, when I read the story, was that there were direct quotes from Debra.

“There were three main ones: one that she started on Young Talent Time when she was 12; secondly that she was with somebody who worked on the program and that I should have known about it, and thirdly, that she was introduced to drugs and alcohol on Young Talent Time.'’
Young said none of these points was true.

“She wasn’t 12 years old when she started the relationship with the guy. She says so in the book.

“She had another boyfriend when Young Talent Time started and she was 14 when Young Talent Time started.

“When she had this relationship, which she describes in the book, with this guy called Michael, she was nearly 16.

“I was in the process of having my own baby girl, Anna, but according to (choreographer) Maggie Burns, who had more to do with them than anybody else, she was a few months away from being 16 years old.'’

Young said the boom operator was replaced on Young Talent Time because a producer thought he was getting too friendly with Byrne and that Byrne had made it clear in her book that she had approval for the relationship from her parents.

Young insists he knew nothing about the relationship.

His first reaction to the magazine story was one of absolute anger and then fear about what the story would do to the careers of the people running his talent schools and what parents, who entrust their children into the care of the teachers at those schools, would think.

He was concerned about embarrassment to his family.

Young said that now, having read Byrne’s book, he had been able to put her comments into context.

“It’s a very sad book. Deb’s had some incredible tragedy in her younger life, being molested by her grandfather, the way her father treated her and her mother’s attitudes are horrific stuff for a youngster, but nothing to do with Young Talent Time,'’ he said.

Young said it was clear that Byrne didn’t like him.

“But she doesn’t make it clear in the book why she doesn’t like me,'’ he said.

“When asked by Kerri-Anne Kennerley on her television program `What’s your problem with Johnny Young?’, her answer was simply because `he’s a businessman’.

“She was also pretty heavy about the fact that I was critical of her smoking marijuana.

“Now, I smoked some marijuana in the ’60s, too, but if you’re 19, as Debra was when she started smoking marijuana and you’re going to England to make records with Cliff Richard, it’s not a very smart idea to have any kind of drugs in your life when you are dealing with people in life who have that kind of standard.

“We had a big argument about that.'’

Young says part of his falling out with Byrne was over songs he chose for her to record.

“I picked He’s A Rebel and in the book she says she hated it, but it was a No.1 hit record _ you can’t do better than that in this business.

“Secondly, with Ross Burton I produced her album, which was also a big hit, and there were two more hits off that album.

“As a consequence of that and the work she did on Young Talent Time, she got offered the opportunity to go to England and make records with Cliff Richard and to be managed by Olivia Newton-John’s management company, all organised by Kevin Lewis, who was our boss.

“It was an opportunity to die for.'’

Young said he was always conscious of a duty of care to the children working on Young Talent Time.

Other than Byrne, who was often dropped home by Maggie Burns because the young singer’s parents often chose not to pick her up, the children who performed on the program were picked up and dropped off by their parents.

“We had security people everywhere and we were very aware we were dealing with children,'’ Young said.

“Our duty of care was 100 per cent when those children were in our care, but those children were not in our care 24 hours a day.

“They were in our care for three to four hours a day after school and on Saturdays they were delivered by their parents to Channel 10 and they rehearsed and at 6.30pm we would do the show.'’

Since the New Idea article appeared, Young has received a number of letters of support from former Young Talent Time members.

Young said he believed the timing was now right for him to go public with his side of the story, though his daughters had told him to ignore the story and to rise above it.

He had also spent the last couple of months at end-of-year concerts and had been sounding out a number of people.

“I was very moved by the way people responded to me, particularly at a show we did on the Gold Coast, where we had 15,000 people offer their support,'’ he said.

“But I felt I wanted to do this story to point out the facts.

“I wanted to do one story where I could say `this is what’s happened to me without any care for 20 years of hard work - probably the most important thing I’ve done in my career - tarnished with lies’.

“Whether I sue them or not will be a business decision I’ll have to make depending on whether the kids re-enrol in the school and how my ratings go on the radio because people may not want to listen to me any more if they believe that crap.

“Somewhere along the line I had to do something.

“The feeling I have for Deb is just extreme sadness.

“The people like John Paul Young and others she crucifies in her book is not going to do her a lot of good for work in the future.'’