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Guest Character Profiles > Gino Esposito Claude Stevens, Shane McNamara

'Gino Esposito' [Ray Murphy] 2000, 2001-2007
Lived: 24 Ramsay Street
Occupation: A Good Hair Day Salon Hairdresser/Owner

Flamboyant, self-indulgent, temperamental and larger than life, Gino Esposito was actually born plain old Ray Murphy, adopting the more Italian sounding name of Gino Esposito when he embarked on a career as a hairdresser after winning Apprentice of the Year.

Due to his renowned reputation as a top hairdresser, it wasn't long before Gino opened his own hair salon. He bought A Good Hair Day salon at the Lassiter's Hotel Complex in 2001, and immediately caused concern for Lyn Scully, who had been managing the salon for the previous owner, Katrina Hart. Gino and Lyn were rivals, having competed against each other in the regional hairdressing competition for several years running. Lyn's initial reaction to the news that Gino would be her new boss was to start dressing younger, because she knew how he favoured having young, pretty hair stylists working at his salons. Gino, meanwhile, was more concerned with whether or not Lyn was cut out for managerial duties on account of the fact that she was juggling her career with a brood of Scully kids at home. Gino eventually decided to put Lyn on a month's trial to see if she could juggle the two demands on her time - much to the disgust of Lyn. The final straw came for Lyn when Gino started taking more and more of her regular clients away from her.

Lyn's response was to quit the salon and branch out on her own - with a plan to take a lot of Gino's clients from A Good Hair Day with her. When Gino heard of her plans, he was furious and threatened to blacken Lyn's name all over town if she went ahead with her plans. But Lyn retorted by telling Gino she knew his real name was Ray Murphy and he had made up his Italian roots, having found an old newspaper article about his Apprentice of the Year win. A shocked Gino dreaded the truth about his Australian background damaging his reputation in the hairdressing community, and accepted Lyn's resignation and plan to set up her own business.

As Lyn began to work from home, Gino started to suspect her of stealing some of his clients from the salon and began threatening to sue her. Lyn initially laughed off Gino's threats, but realised he meant business when an investigator from the Town Planning Office showed up at the Scully house having received a tip off that Lyn had been trading without a licence. Lyn tried to assure him that she wasn't trading in the house yet, but he knew from looking around that she had been cutting hair. However, he appreciated that Lyn meant no harm and let her off with a warning, on the condition that she didn't cut any more hair until her licence came through. By that point, however, Gino's business was suffering without Lyn, and he began trying to entice her back. Lyn played hard to get with Gino when he finally admitted he had made a mistake in mistreating her at the salon and she only agreed to return after he had started offering her all sorts of lucrative deals to return to work.

Gino's penchant for theatre led him to become centrally involved in the Erinsborough Amateur Players but he faced a crisis when the builder he had enlisted to make the sets for the society's production of Camelot turned out to be too expensive. Gino looked to Lyn's builder husband, Joe, to construct the sets, but Joe was adamant that he didn't want to start mixing with Gino and all his 'arty' friends. Gino, however, refused to take a hint from Joe, and immediately started showing him his rather elaborate set designs. After Joe gave in and agreed to build the sets, he and Gino went on to clash over every facet of the production, with Gino insisting Joe stick to his elaborate plans to have a moat surround the castle and a huge round table for King Arthur's knights. But after Joe reminded Gino that the show was starting in a week, Gino realised he had no choice but to trust Joe to get the sets built in time, and after he popped by the community hall to take a peek at what Joe had done so far, Gino was hugely impressed. Joe even began to surprise himself by enjoying his involvement in the project.

Gino set himself up as a wedding planner as a sideline to his hairdressing, and was delighted when Susan Kennedy called upon his services for her second wedding to husband Karl. However, Karl and Susan were put right off the idea when they attended one of the weddings that Gino had organised, and opted not to avail of his services. But when Gino called and invited himself over to discuss the plans further, Susan was too polite to turn him down and agreed to at least hear what Gino had to offer. However, Gino's grand plans involving butterflies and fireworks horrified the Kennedys, and they were faced with the task of rejecting Gino's ideas. Luckily, Gino saved them the awkwardness by announcing that due to his commitments to the Erinsborough Players' production of Oklahoma he would be too busy to organise their wedding.

After falling out with his boyfriend Aaron, Gino desperately needed somewhere else to live and was thrilled to discover that Harold Bishop had a room for rent at his house on Ramsay Street. Harold wasn't overly keen on the idea, however, and when Gino insisted on calling round to No. 24 to check the place out, Harold tried in vain to put him off. However, Gino and Harold soon bonded over their mutual love of musicals, vegetarian food and instruments, and Harold was happy to invite Gino to move in. But cracks began to show in Harold and Gino's domestic bliss after Gino started to change Harold's furniture around and add some of his own belongings to the living room. So Harold breathed a huge sigh of relief when Gino announced he was going on a trip to an antiques fair with an old friend for a couple of days. But Harold was left extremely uncomfortable when Gino returned from the trip with a nude female bust to take pride of place in the living room, which he named Doris because it made his 'Day'. Harold tried to persuade Gino to take it into his bedroom with him, but Gino insisted she wasn't his type, and he had got it for them to share anyway. Totally flustered by the object, Harold took to hiding it with a tea towel when Susan called over for a cuppa. But Gino quickly removed it upon arriving home from work, and Harold was embarrassed in front of a highly amused Susan.

Harold could barely contain his excitement when Gino patched up his differences with Aaron and moved back in with him. Harold even took to deliberately making a mess around the house as soon as Gino was gone because he would no longer be around to complain. However, Harold was stunned when Gino arrived back at No. 24 within hours of leaving, announcing that he and Aaron had fallen out again already and he was moving back in. Harold then embarked on various campaigns to rid himself of Gino, beginning by taking in Valda Sheergold's prized poodles Blanche and Stella in the hope of them irritating Gino. That plan backfired when Gino welcomed the dogs with open arms and took to decorating them with bows and ribbons. Desperate to force Gino out, Harold sought Toadie Rebecchi's advice on the matter, who suggested he become more macho and larrikin like. That evening, Harold dressed in a vest, open robe and underwear and pigged out in front of the telly. But Gino wasn't as outraged as Harold had expected, and instead, opted to laze about in his nightgown too, thankful that 'the real' Harold was out at last! Finally, Harold succeeded in getting rid of Gino by cooking up lots of meat and outraging him by actually eating a sausage, although unbeknown to Gino, it was a vegetarian one. Gino fled No. 24 in horror and back to Aaron's, forgiving and forgetting all that had happened between them.

After making a mess of doing society queen Veronica Dean's hair, Gino was forced to call upon Toadie for help when Veronica announced her plans to sue. But Toadie was reluctant to take the case due to the fact that Veronica was the wife of top barrister Lester Dean. However, Gino was determined to have his day in court, and began envisioning him and Toadie engaging in a battle reminiscent of The Rainmaker. But just as Toadie had come round to representing Gino thanks to his boss Tim Collins pointing out that it could lead to more business for them if they won a case against someone of Lester Dean's stature, Gino opted to take his business elsewhere after seeing the mess of Toadie's house.

Gino showed a rare, more vulnerable side to himself when he asked Joe if he could be godfather to his and Lyn's baby. Although Joe was initially horrified by the idea of even considering Gino for the honour, Gino's heartfelt explanation as to why he wanted the role - the fact that he would never have kids of his own and his nieces and nephews all living so far away - made Joe see a different side to Gino and he agreed to give it some serious thought.

By the time Lyn gave birth to Baby Oscar, Joe and Lyn had already lined up Harold, Valda and Susan as godparents and it looked as if Gino had been forgotten about. But on the day of the christening, Joe was touched to discover Gino had arranged for the church to be decorated with a beautiful array of flowers for the event and asked him if he would be Oscar’s fourth godparent. Gino was ecstatic, and threw himself into the role - even competing with rival Harold to outdo each other on buying gifts for the tot.

Gino decided to expand his mini hair empire to Lorne by opening a salon there, but he was desperate to find a receptionist. Lyn suggested Gino ask Lori Lee, because she needed some security now that she had a baby daughter to support. But although Lori was delighted and jumped at the chance for the fresh start, Jack Scully wasn’t pleased because he had planned to set up home with Lori.

Meanwhile, Gino and Aaron were on hand to help out Toadie’s recently arrived cousin Scott ‘Stingray’ Timmins when he wanted to take Serena Bishop out to a fancy restaurant for dinner. Gino and Aaron managed to make Scott presentable for the date, and even agreed to take a table nearby at the restaurant to guide him in proper etiquette. It was all going well until Scott ate too much and ended up throwing up all over Serena.

Gino found himself coming between Harold and his best friend Lou Carpenter when he and Lou started to spend a lot of time together which consequently caused Harold to look on with jealousy. It started out when Harold turned down Lou's invite to an evening at the theatre, believing that the friends shouldn't spend too much time together given the fact that they were about to become partners on the revamped Coffee Shop. Lou offered the tickets to Gino instead, but when Harold realised they were for The Producers, one of his favourite stage shows, he had second thoughts. However, Lou insisted that Harold had had his chance and the tickets were Gino's. Harold's jealousy intensified when Gino and Lou and two of the girls from the salon went away together for the weekend, and started to party with each other on a regular basis. The final straw came for Harold when Lou started to act on recommendations Gino had suggested for the décor of the new store. However, both Lou and Harold put aside their differences and rallied around Gino when young Boyd Hoyland wrongly accused Gino of trying to come onto him and threatened him. The experience left Gino badly shaken and he began to reassess the way people viewed him. But he didn't remain despondent for long, and he was helped put the incident behind him when Boyd apologised for his out of character behaviour.

When the time came for casting a dashing male lead in his production of The Pirates of Penzance for the Erinsborough Players, Gino couldn't believe his luck when strapping hunk Corey Helpmann expressed an interest not just in the role, but also in Gino. Despite several other expressions of interest in the lead role, most notably from Ned Parker, Gino made Corey his start and re-wrote his script to give Corey even more lines. But Gino ditched Corey altogether when he discovered that Corey actually had a girlfriend and had been pretending to be gay in order to get the part. Gino was forced to go back to the drawing board and wrote a new musical about the explosion of Krakatoa in the late 1800s and picked Ned and Sky Mangel as his leads, with Ned's girlfriend, Elle Robinson, receiving a small part too. But the subject matter was deemed too tasteless and Gino instead wrote a much simpler story – the tale of a young country lad arriving in the big city dreaming of stardom, which was tailor-made for Ned. Although the rehearsals for the play were beset by all manner of hiccups – most notably a blossoming romance between Ned and Elle and Elle's jealousy over Ned having to kiss Sky in one scene – Gino was confident that he was onto a winner as opening night arrived. But that morning, Gino did his back in while running through some dance steps with Ned, and it fell to Karl Kennedy to step in as director when Gino over did it on painkillers and was completely incoherent. Alas, Karl's involvement proved to be the undoing of the play, as his insistence on including some of his own original music in the production proved hugely unpopular with the actors and audience. And when Ned injured his leg during a game of footie, Karl was only too happy to fill his shoes as the star of the show. Unfortunately, once opening night was out of the way, no more tickets were sold – and Gino's dreams of his original production becoming a worldwide hit were over.

As host of the Annual Beautiful Baby competition at Lassiter's, Gino was less than impressed with the behaviour of Harold after his great-granddaughter Kerry failed to win. Having criticised Kerry’s grandmother Janelle for weeks and desperately trying to persuade her not to enter the tot in such a contest, it was a total about face for Harold to start crying 'fix' and angrily lashing out at Gino and the judges. And after calling for security to remove Harold from the vicinity of the contest, an exasperated Gino lamented that the same thing happened every year. A few weeks later, Gino announced plans to take his baby paegents touring around Australia, selling the salon to vet Steve Parker to fund the venture, before bidding a fond farewell to Erinsborough.

Trivia Notes
• Gino originally appeared as a background character in one episode in 2000, when he competed against Lyn at a hairdressing show and was played by Claude Stevens. When he returned the following year, he had aged several years, was played by Shane McNamara and his dark black hair had gone grey
• To read our inteview with Gino's portrayer Shane McNamara, click here

Biography by Moe