Being involved in so many Community events as the man with the mike
you had to come across a Prime Minister somewhere sometime.
first was Walter Nash at a Lower Hutt Lions Show in their Town Hall.
I had to interview him about his years in the place of his birth,
Kidderminster. What a delight. With his modulated voice and
he captivated his audience. I opened with the intro, “You’re no
longer a kid Minister - but we love ya.” He actually gave me a hug.
I was still blushing a few days later.
first met at a Jewish Club Annual smoko in Wellington. His royal tone
belied the fact he was one of the boys at a function of this kind. He
talked freely to everyone and even let the odd ear-basher go on with
it. I presented him with an Eskay tie when I found out his birthday
was the same as mine - 11th February.
Second time with Mr. Holyoake was at a Wellington Show, where I near
collided with him as I crossed the floor of the large supper room. We
engaged in a friendly chat for about five minutes re: rugby and
birthdays. After moving on, my mana had multiplied many times over
and as the Mayor Frank Kitts departed a few minutes later, the PM
detoured in my direction pushing through a load of people to shake my
hand and say, Goodnight Jack.
Final time with PM Keith was at the Easter Show in Auckland the next
year. I was in the toilet doing something very vital when there was
a knock on the door. I replied loudly “Sorry pal I’ve been waiting for
this for two days“. Well I concluded my business as fast as I could,
flushed the toilet and washed my hands. And then noticed the flushing
had not been totally successful. Too late! Exited to find Mr. Holyoake
standing there - he’s next. Right behind him our Show President Mr.
Paul looking very flushed himself, giving me signs to get the hell out
of the way. All the while I’m trying to make conversation with the
Prime Minister about the tie he’s wearing - is that an Eskay? How did
his last birthday go? He seemed relaxed but the President wasn’t.
Little did he know about the calling card I’d left behind!
Muldoon was always a good listener. He loved the story about noted
magician Edgar Benyon with whom my mother toured as pianist and key
subject in the Saw-the-lady-in-half Illusion. On a North Island tour
Edgar and his company, drew a very poor house in Te Awamutu, which
riled Edgar. So before moving on to Whangarei, he booked the same
theatre for two weeks later and prepared a newspaper advertisement
inviting the locals to come to a FREE show featuring his newest
illusion “Gone with the Wind”. Come the big night the place is
chocker, My mother plays the overture side stage, the curtain goes up
to show one simple sign - Gone with the Wind.
Now Edgar paid for the theatre, the newspaper ad, the sign writing,
and hotel costs just to have his utu and say up you Te Awamutu.
P.S - when Edgar ordered breakfast for his wife and himself next
morning it came to the room right on-time and when he lifted the lid
on his breakfast tray there was a sign saying “Gone with the Wind”.
My next rendezvous with Sir Robert was at a Variety Artist Club Award
night at Phil Warrens Shore Club atop Shore City. On this annual
night the Benny Award is presented (named after Edgar Benyon) along
with a number of Scrolls, all these acknowledgement are made by Club
members and in the case of the Benny itself by past winners. Noel
McKay had been coerced into attending and presumed he’d be receiving
the premiere award, not just a Scroll. As it was, I’d been fortunate
enough to be listed as a Scroll winner and was actually on stage as
Noel’s name was announced. It took a couple of strong bunny-type
hostesses a while to tow him on stage and when Mr. Muldoon went to
hand him his scroll,
Noel stubbornly refused it mouthing off profanities and saying “what’s
this? A bloody piece of paper for a lifetime in show business?” “I’d
been trying to pacify Christchurch born Noel, right at his shoulder
saying “take it for now Noel, dump it later if you like but come on
don’t let our old home-town down.” I eventually called out to Mr.
Muldoon in what was a futile attempt to save a dreadful situation
“don’t worry I’ll take TWO”.
All in all, a very sad situation given the fact that Noel McKay was
one of our very best song-and-dance men and a spectacular female
impersonator, probably in the Danny La Rue league.
Entertainers Par Excellence
The Great Benyon
Quite apart from our family connection, my mother having toured with
his show for a number of years, I respected him as an exceptional
performer. What a treat to actually work with him at the NZ
Industries Fair in Christchurch. This was the first time he had taken
on an assignment where he was paid to perform by the promoters and
didn’t have to worry about “collecting” the gate. He was the main act
on an indoor stage not a large theatre but it seated about 300 and was
chocka for every session.
Edgar went through all his great illusions, changing his costume every
ten minutes with the lead-in “same man different clothes”. He never
failed to captivate his audience but there was one hitch, he was
accustomed to doing a two-hour show and all our time-table allowed was
45 minutes. At a Trade Fair where exhibitors are paying a big rental
to show their wares you can’t hold a number of prospective customers
watching free entertainment for too long. I explained this to Edgar
right from day one but he’d still run at least 30 minutes over every
time. Not having the heart to intrude on HIS stage and say “Thanks Mr. Benyon that’s it for tonight” my only solution after several days of
increasing stress and strain was to turn the mains power off. One
flick did the trick on
finest trickster. He’d never been blacked out before but he finally
saw the light trimming his show to suit. Many years later, in 1984 it
was my turn to win the Benny Award from the Variety Artists Club
probably my proudest moment as a compere.
Bill and Boyd
answer to the Everley Brothers. These two boys from Lower Hutt, Bill
Cate and Boyd Robertson starred at the 1960/61 Tauranga Holiday
Carnival. Crowds up to 3000 strong gave them a rave hearing and they
went on to nation-wide stardom. Like so many others in the business
Australia proved an irresistible drawcard and we had to bid Bill and
Boyd goodbye. But in my log book they were always afire.
Sir Howard Morrison
had the pleasure of working with Howard knightly on dozens of
occasions, every one of them memorable. They talk about the X factor
nowadays. He was the guy who created it. He was sheer class, stirring
any crowd with his voice, his verve and his vitality. A funny man?
Billy T. James
a tragedy to lose this man along with all the
that went with him. A ripper of a singer, a ripsnorter of a muso,
probably our funniest performer of all time! He never had to get
grubby. Star stuff eh?
Lou and Simon
Clauson and Simon Mihana had a beautifully balanced blend of harmony
that thrilled crowds wherever they performed. There’s nothing to match
seeing pro artists working an audience up to a frenzy. Easy for these
guys - like kissing your sister.
The Topp Twins
country music - top comedy - tops in my book for loving what they do.
Linda and Jools (both jewels for my money) are not only outstanding
entertainers but also help people in all sorts of ways. At an Easter
Show I saw them front up at a ‘Riding for Disabled’ presentation that
ran for two hours in constant rain. They were brilliant, no bother,
no fee, no forget.
has to be New Zealand’s great all-rounder. As Happy the Hobo he was a
riot with kids. As a Hypnotist he holds them spellbound. As a
compere, truly switched on. He had a beautiful wife and daughters.
John Maybury Jnr
if New Zealand radio hadn’t had an earful from Jack and then John
Maybury - along came John Jnr - born in Paraparaumu in 1968 and
promptly whisked to Auckland with the family exodus in 1972. As a
youngster he was part of the stage scenery at venues all over the
country when it didn’t effect his commitment to schooling. He’d lumber
prizes to and fro and generally get a feeling for this entertainment
culture. I can still see him laying out super size grocery bags on
the Rotorua Soundshell ready for filling as contestants won prizes,
about fifty bags in a tidy column in front of our huge prize table,
when a whopping-wind blew in from across the lake and scattered them
to every corner of the
From that day on he knew you had to apply ballast beforehand and the
Oak Baked Beans catered beautifully. As I no doubt got the urge from
my Dad, John Jnr got his impetus from me. He added a very big bonus
of his own, having a flair and talent for acting as well as a good
He ran the Village Green Superstage at the Easter Show for eight years
or more and was getting vast kicks out of Basil Fawlty and Frank
Spencer impersonations which exploited his acting talents. (A lot of
people kicked back!) Very capable on his feet and pliable of body he
loves laying it on loose in all kinds of dance routines. He moved to
Sydney in 1997. My boy was educated at Rosmini College on the
Auckland’s north shore, along-driving golfer, a big-hitting tennis
player and the tallest Maybury of all time at 6ft 2inches. (His height
and Colgate bright smile all inherited from Helen)
My own family. I owe them all heaps. Helen for being a perfect wife.
pint-sized, pint-loving nomad as her life-time partner. She was the
one who nurtured our three daughters and son while I was on the road
covering the country for a quid (and enjoying squash golf and male
company wherever I went.) I’d probably hoped each of my three
terrific daughters would bring home a young suitor who might be
wearing a sports club blazer, have a cool crew cut, and be flashing a
pair of shiny shoes. It never happened.
The men of their choice fronted up with hair to the shoulders, limp
loose clothes and bare feet. But these son-in-laws turned out to be
bloody perfect. (And all handy- men which I never was). Jan our eldest
is a secondary-school teacher at Kaipara College and a fanatical
athlete and adventurer who’s cycled around Australia, wheeled across
the United States and traveled solo on the Siberian Express. From the
day she took her first steps, we knew Russia would appeal. Jan’s
married to Ian Newton living on the orchard; their two offspring
(already off) are Nico and Tui.
Second daughter Sue now lives in Wisconsin working her wondrous ways
for the good Lord in a journey of love as a teacher of
A Course In Miracles for
the past five years.
She was married to Malcolm Orme, a top Lower Hutt lad but that’s run
its course and they’re both re-organised;
Sue now with Hamid, a delightful soul from Iran. Dianne, our third
daughter (And first NZ made) was a Kindergarten teacher but with that
urge to serve worked with VSA in Vanuatu for two years (establishing
a network of kindergartens through their myriad of islands) Then a
two-year term in East Timor, doing wonderful work of a similar ilk;
currently in Bougainville. Husband Eric has shared all these
geographical challenges with her and they both come up smiling every
time. Their two children Bryn and Rowan Thorne-George are very much
independent now, and shaping special careers of their own. Both in
good shape too.
But wait - there’s more. My sister Shirley’s daughter, Shaquelle
Maybury is now in
Auckland territory after years of stage and TV work in Christchurch,
now head of drama at Penrose College. And her only daughter, my great
niece, Ascia Maybury is a fine actress who’s appeared on TV and other
top stage plays. Ascia is now into her second year as compere of the
Logan Campbell Stage at Royal Easter Show. Do you think we like
in this priceless coterie of kids, now cruising along in adulthood,
I’ve had a golden run as husband and father. Thanks Helen, Jan, Sue,
Dianne, John Jnr, Nico and Tui, Bryn and Rowan for
making my life very special.
Sure would love to start all over again - sharing a lot more time with
each of you.