Rockin’ The Razza : Sunday 29th May 2016

Rockin' the Razza Point Chevalier Memorial RSA Variety Artists Club 2016

The Variety Artists Club of New Zealand presents Rockin’ the Razza, Sunday the 29th of May at Point Chevalier Memorial RSA, 1136 Great North Road.

The best value in town, 1PM-7PM and starring Tom Sharplin and the Cadillacs, Toucan, Indigo Blue, Barbie Davidson, Terrence Underwood and the Steve Tulloch Band.

Entry just $15 at the door.

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2015 VAC Awards Announced

2015 Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Benny Award Evening

The Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc is delighted to announce all recipients of awards at the 2015 Benny Award Evening.

Benny Award : Johnny Devlin MNZM
Agnew Award for Excellence : Wayne Rogers – Chicane
Fullers Entertainment Award : Sandra Roberts
Pacific Entertainment Award for Top Female Artist : Jody Direen
Pub Charity Award for Top Male Artist : Andy Stankovich
Nostalgia Award : Paul Walden
Pat McMinn Rising Star Award : Christopher Bates
Face TV Award for Top Group : Sol3 Mio
NZEA Award for Top Musician : Mark Dennison
Rielly Comedy Award : Michele A’Court
Lou Clauson Top Variety Award : Parris Goebel
Top Children’s Entertainer Award : Paul Bates – Zappo the Magician
Unsung Hero Award : Lloyd Davis

Scrolls of Honour :

Chris Bourke
Simon Grigg
Henk Landweer
Candy Lane QSM
Ken Ring
Frankie Stevens MNZM

A huge thank you to our incredible Master of Ceremonies Mr John McGough who held the event together with professionalism and charm.

Performers on the night :

The Kings of Rock ‘n’ Roll – Tom Sharplin, Che Orton, Shane Cortese and Johnny Devlin
John Rowles OBE
John Carr
Royce Creamer
The Claxtons
Midnite Special
Jody Direen
Andy Stankovich

Our valued VAC Patrons David Hartnell MNZM and Grey Bartlett MBE.

Our sponsors : Pub Charity, Gray and Trish Bartlett & NZ Entertainment Academy, Gerard Smith & Face TV, Robyn Alexander & Pacific Entertainment, Glenda Law & Fullers Entertainment and Royce Creamer.

Our photographer Jason Fell and tech crew Mike Richards, Brent McLeod and Robyn Alexander.

Karen Davy and Laurelle Betti for arranging the beautiful table settings, and to Linda Luxford organising the sumptuous meal.

Mick Peck for promotional materials and marketing.

Key Suppliers : Peter van Gent of Audio Visual People, Paul Randall of Captures Video Productions and Crowne Plaza.

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VAC Patron David Hartnell In The Press


David Hartnell MNZM has been writing celebrity gossip for 51 years and is the only gossip columnist to receive a Queen’s honour. He is ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

1. Why do we have a love-hate relationship with gossip?

My catch phrase is, “I’m not one to gossip, but … ” because that’s what people always say to me. Men try to pretend it’s their wives who want to be in the gossip columns. Baloney. They love it! Never feel sorry for a celeb who is in the gossip columns, because their agents and PR people get them in there. If you’re in the public eye, that’s part of the deal. You take it or you get out. But the children and families should be left totally alone. They didn’t ask to be involved.

2. What do you think of the Kardashians?

I take my hat off to them because they’ve made something out of nothing. Really it’s just crap TV but the gullible public buys it and they’ve got money oozing out of every pore. Perez Hilton will be working hand in glove with them on this week-long ban. Inside a couple of weeks he’ll have an exclusive. He doesn’t fool me at all. It’s like Caitlyn – he or she does look extraordinary but it’s just the timing of it. Cross-dressing is common in Hollywood. I’ll only believe he’s serious about being transgender when he actually has the surgery.

3. How did you get into the gossip game?

Through my work as a make-up artist. I was actually the first male make-up artist in Australia. When I applied for the job I had no qualifications but I’d taught myself how to do make-up during my years as a competitive roller-skater and I just went for it. Years later I asked the Revlon woman why she employed me and she said, “You had the ‘it’ factor. You understood show business”. I toured all over Australia for David Jones and Farmers and then on to London and Hollywood. That’s what led me into gossip. In the make-up room you always know the gossip because you have to send a car to pick the person up where they’d stayed the night before.

4. Do your celebrity friends ever feel betrayed by what you write?

I can go and speak to everyone I’ve ever written about. I’ve always been tongue-in-cheek. An exclamation mark or a raised eyebrow is all that’s needed. Today’s gossip columnists are vindictive and nasty. They have no soul. A gossip column should be entertaining and give readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a fantasy world they can never enter. There has to be some mystery.

5. Do celebrities have to be on screen?

Yes, somebody who comes into your home. You should never meet a person on radio with a wonderful voice because they look like crap so the whole illusion is broken. I did like Jay-Jay Feeney on Dancing with the Stars … she’s got chutzpah. “Take me as I am.” That’s class. But I’m sorry, All Blacks are not celebs. There’s a total dividing line between a movie star and a sporting star. Musicians are not celebs. Lorde? Good on her, but no. I wrote about Taylor Swift last week, but that was because she appeared on the cover of Vogue. Rachel Hunter – we would never hear of her if she hadn’t married Rod Stewart. They always say “international model”. When was the last time she did any modelling jobs?

6. You’ve been with your partner Somboon for 22 years. How did you meet?

He was working at a Thai restaurant called Tusk. Now he’s the assistant manager at Harvest Whole Foods. If our lives had been reversed, I couldn’t have done what he’s done. I can’t cope with the Thai language. We have a house north of Chiang Mai where we go every year. We both do charity work in orphanages. I teach English, very badly. I feel like Anna out of The King and I sometimes with all the kids sitting around me.

7. What’s it like being gay in 2015 compared with the old days?

Looking back I understand the Hollywood cover-ups like Cary Grant and Rock Hudson because under the law you could be jailed for having sex with someone of the same sex. I have friends a little older than me who will still not admit to being gay because it’s ingrained in them and I respect that. People say to me, “When did you come out?” But I was never in. I got bullied at school terribly. If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t stand up for myself more.

8. Why did you become an ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation?

My dearest friend Robert Young passed away two years ago of prostate cancer. He was a theatre director here and on the Gold Coast. By the time it was diagnosed it was too late. Unless you catch it early it goes rampant. Men will do the blood test but they’re too scared to do the digital test. Our catchphrase is, “Give prostate cancer the finger”.

9. How has the gossip game changed with the advent of social media?

Everybody today is their own gossip columnist. Everybody has a cellphone and can put a photo out on social media instantly. You don’t have to wait until next week to see it in a magazine. In my column now I give my opinion on the week that was. I also write a Hollywood trivia column for the NZ Woman’s Weekly.

10. Any plans to retire?

I won’t retire because I’m doing a job that I like. The New York Times gossip columnist Liz Smith is 90-something. Extraordinary! There are new stars but they still go through the old agents. Rogers and Cowan have been in Hollywood since the 1940s.

11. Seen any good movies lately?

They don’t make movies like they used to. Why they’d want to remake a classic like the Wizard of Oz or 42nd Street I don’t understand. A classic is a classic – don’t touch it! I don’t see movies in a theatre with the public anymore. It’s not being snotty. The simple reason is people talk through the movie. They come in late, they switch their phone off but it goes on vibrate and out of the corner of your eye you can see a light. The last movie we went to was in a half empty theatre and these people came and sat right beside us! No thank you. I get it on DVD or by some other means.

12. At 71, how is age treating you?

Absolutely fabulous. You can get away with murder – do whatever you like. Everybody worries about growing old but there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, so go with the flow. I lived in Hollywood where age is key and everyone gets surgery. Joan Collins has a little surgery, often. That’s the key to it. I couldn’t be bothered having cosmetic surgery. I’ve moisturised all my life. Never put soap on your face. It’s for floors, walls and ceilings.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month. For more, go to

NZ Herald August 27, 2015

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Alan Watson Receives Queen’s Service Medal

Auckland Magician Alan Watson Queens Service Medal QSMAlan Watson has pulled a few tricks over the decades which have surprised and delighted his audiences, but the Auckland magician was the one left stunned to find himself on this year’s New Year’s Honour’s list.

“I have never seen this before; I am quite surprised,” he says of receiving the QSM “for services as a magician”.

He says he has no idea who nominated him for the award and wondered at the detail in the biographical note issued by Government House.

“I was astounded, where did they get all this information from?”

Once it settled in Watson decided it was a thrilling award for New Zealand magicians.

“Our art form is going to be recognised with a royal honour.”

His grand uncle was a magician in World War One and the magic wand has been passed through the generations. His 15-year-old Oamaru grand-daughter has won age group national honours already.

He has been a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians for more than 33 years.

He has organised more than 100 international lectures on the art of magic.

In the last 10 years, he has arranged $70,000 of sponsorship for young magicians to attend conventions and lectures in New Zealand and Australia.

Since the 1990s, Watson has served in a voluntary capacity as New Zealand representative on several international magic societies, including the Society of American Magicians and The Magic Circle, London.

Watson was the resident magician at Auckland’s Rainbow’s End and is now a resident at the Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre.

“I’ve always had plenty of work.”

Article courtesy the Dominion Post, reproduced with permission.

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The Lady Killers : Tumbling Dice

The Lady Killers perform the Rolling Stones classic “Tumbling Dice”.

The Lady Killers are a dream team of New Zealand’s finest female singers and entertainers, consisting of Jackie Clarke, Taisha, Tina Cross (2014 VAC Benny Award recipient) and Suzanne Lynch (2008 VAC Benny Award recipient).

From a whisper to a scream and everything in between, these divas make beautiful music dripping in harmony.

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Blue September—Prostate Cancer Awareness

Variety Artists Club of NZ - Ray Woolf, Peter Leitch and David Hartnell Blue September

Our VAC members are featuring in this year’s Blue September campaign for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand.

Pictured are Ray Woolf MNZM, Sir Peter Leitch (VAC Scroll of Honour recipient) and our Patron David Hartnell MNZM who is also an Ambassador to the Foundation.

Every year around 600 men die in New Zealand of prostate cancer, many of these deaths could be prevented by early detection and healthy lifestyle choices.

Visit the Blue September website for news, and information about events and men’s health.

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Edwina Thorne in France – “Song For My Father”

A clip of trumpet diva Edwina Thorne jamming at La Sale Baisir in Paris.  Edwina has performed all over the world; career highlights include playing second cornet in the Eric Ball Composite Band directed by Lloyd Thorne QSM, the Lincoln Centre Women’s Jazz Festival with her own group The Thorne Birds, playing the Blue Note in New York, forming a band with alto-sax great Vince Herring, performing in Cologne Germany, performing in Stockholm with the late great Mel Lewis, in Helsinki with Clarke Terry, also appearances at the Monterey Jazz Club, ‘Fog Bank’ and at the Rochester Latin Festival.

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2014 Benny Awards Tickets Available Now

Benny Awards 2014 Variety Artists Club of New Zealand IncTickets to our prestigious Benny Awards are now on sale.  This year’s awards is on Sunday the 12th of October from 6PM, doors are open from 5PM.

The venue is the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 128 Albert Street, Auckland City.

Tickets are $85 for financial VAC members and $95 for non-members.   This covers your meal, entertainment and the awards presentations.  There will be a cash bar available on the night.

If you only come to one club event each year, then this is the one!  Glamour, superb production and entertainment, a great venue and dinner, the chance to mix with your peers in very pleasant surroundings and of course, acknowledge our achievements.

We had a fantastic awards night last year and this year promises to be just as great.  You all know the format for the night and that we always surprise you with some great entertainment leading up to the highlight of the evening, the presentation of the prestigious Benny Award.

Tickets to the event are strictly limited and I already have a long list of prior reservations, so please don’t delay.  You can email me at or phone 027 211 0203 for bookings.  Payment will be required via cash, cheque or online prior to the event.  There will be no door sales.

Warmest regards,

– Robyn Alexander
VAC Secretary/Treasurer

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The Amazing VAC Variety Show – July 2014

The Amazing VAC Variety Show 2014 Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc

Pleased to announce that the Amazing VAC Variety Show at the Rose Theatre was a great success.  Ticket sales were so strong that an extra row of seats had to be placed at the front of the theatre.

Performers included Dizzy Summers (Paula Wray), Gemma and Maryanne Rushton, Colin Parris, Mick Peck, Paul Bennett, Roger Skinner, Ken Strong, Karen Davy and Marian Burns.  Holding the show together was our MC David Hartnell MNZM, Patron of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand.

My sincere thanks to all members of both cast and crew who worked so hard to put on a fantastic evening of entertainment.  Lots of emails and positive comments from the public about the professionalism of the show and in particular the wide variety of talent on display.

My thanks to our major concert sponsor – Paddy Fahy from Nature’s Sunshine Products New Zealand.  Support also graciously received from Kenderline Electrical – suppliers of MARTIN professional lighting, Edwards Sound – suppliers of D.A.S. Audio, Musicways Limited – suppliers of ZOOM sound effects and Trumpeter DJ John McGough.

The Amazing VAC Show will return …

– Mick Peck

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David’s Triple Celebration

David Hartnell and Somboon Variety Artists Club 2014
Legendary gossip columnist David Hartnell has spent years being a guest at exclusive parties attended by Hollywood royalty. He met Princess Grace Kelly at one function and was even invited to Elizabeth Taylor’s star-studded 60th bash, held at Disneyland.

But when it comes to his own 70th birthday celebrations later this month, he won’t be making any fuss. In fact, David hates birthdays.

“When I turn 70, I’m not leaving the house,” he exclaims. “Nobody’s coming here, there will be no cake and no singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ – none of that rubbish.”

Although one might assume the Auckland-born-and-raised personality is pessimistic about all milestones, his face lights up when he talks about the two treasures in his life that he believes are worth celebrating.

“This year marks 50 years of my being in the entertainment industry and it’s been 21 years since my partner and I got together,” he says proudly. David’s long-term love is Somboon Khansuk (47), whom David met soon after Somboon moved to New Zealand from Thailand.

“We hit it off straight away. It was just right,” David says with a smile, as he glances at Somboon. “He had no idea who I was and I liked that. The only celebrity he had ever heard of was Michael Jackson.”

The couple moved in together after three months, and as Somboon spoke limited English at the time, he brushed up on the language by watching Fawlty Towers and Coronation Street with David. They now live with their pooch Liza in a quaint Auckland villa, filled with hundreds of photos of David with stars, and a vast collection of memorabilia and books about Hollywood.

“We’ve lasted this long because we are best friends,” Somboon tells.

Somboon is Buddhist and David holds no religious views, but despite their differences, the couple have enjoyed a lasting friendship. Both their families have embraced their relationship. They’ve even bought a home in Thailand and visit it each year. But despite celebrating 21 years together, and David being one of the first openly gay men on New Zealand television, he says marriage is not for him and Somboon.

“We’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s with wills and legal documents, so why get married? I think it’s great that people can, but I’ve never been one to wave any flags,” David tells.

Landing a job as a make-up artist at Revlon in Australia in the 1960s led David into the world of celebrity, and eventually into writing.

“I’d always wanted to be in show business,” says David, who had a passion for magic tricks and roller skating as a teenager. “I can’t sing, I can’t dance, so writing about celebrities was the nearest I could get to being a part of this world.”

The Weekly was the first magazine to offer David a permanent gossip column in New Zealand in 1976. “Jean Wishart was the editor then. She is what Hollywood would describe as a classy dame.”

These days, David continues to write a weekly Hollywood quiz column and compiles the annual Best Dressed List.

Celebrating 50 years as a gossip columnist, David says the pinnacle of his career was receiving a New Zealand Order of Merit from the Queen in 2011 for services to entertainment. He’s the only gossip columnist in the world to be bestowed such an honour.

The writer says his gossip is tongue in cheek, and he always sticks to his self-enforced rules. He never talks about stars who are pregnant until the baby is born, in case something goes wrong. “As soon as the baby is born, trumpets are blaring,” he says. And he always takes pictures of himself standing with every Hollywood celebrity he comes across.

He learned a valuable lesson when he attended the premiere of Total Recall, starring then-unknown actress Sharon Stone. He didn’t bother getting a photo with the now world famous star.

“When you attend these functions, you have to take a photo with anything that moves, because you don’t know how famous they might become!”

On David’s frequent trips to Los Angeles, he visits the cemetery where many of his celebrity friends now lie, often spending extra time at the grave of actress Eva Gabor.

“She was a huge star,” he says mournfully. “Now her final resting place is weathered, the gold lettering is fading, and all that is left is a piece of marble.”

During each celebrity interview that David conducts, he asks how they would like to be remembered. When asked the same question, David thinks of Eva’s grave and responds, “The only people I truly want to remember me are Somboon, my family and close friends. They are what is important.

Courtesy New Zealand’s Woman’s Weekly June 2014, reproduced with permission.

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