Barrett was born in Bondi, Australia, the son of George and Marguerite Barrett. He left school at 14 to do a few odd jobs before taking on a trade as a butcher around the eastern suburbs of Sydney. He gave up his trade when a hind of beef fell on him and injured his shoulder. While he was on worker's compensation, he completed three writing courses at the WEA (Workers' Educational Association). When his sickness benefits ran out he worked in various jobs, DJ, barman, or went on the dole. His first writing job was gag writing for disc jockeys on Radio 2SM. He also signed on with a casting agent and started acting in commercials and television series and appeared in what he says are 'two classic A-grade clunkers'; the movies Bullamakanka and The Empty Beach.
Les figured by tossing $50,000 into the Gull's movie he'd become the next Sam Goldwyn. Only someone put a bomb on the film set. And who gets the blame? Now Norton's a fugitive from the law, desperate to prove his innocence. Satanists, drug dealers, nutty poets, blabbermouth disc jockeys - everybody between Sydney, the Blue Mountains and South Australia wants a piece of Les Norton. So what are Norton's chances of clearing his name and coming up smelling of roses? VFO. But rely on Les to come up smelling of something.