The Variety Artists Club of New Zealand are pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s awards.
Benny Award : Suzanne Prentice OBE
Scrolls of Honour : Kylie Austin, Tim Bray, Murray Cammick, Mike Chunn, Billie Farnell, Kerre McIvor, Chris Priestley, Rufus Rehu, David Weatherley
Agnew Excellence Award : Roger Skinner
Lou Clauson Top Variety Artist Award : Mick Peck
Pat McMinn Rising Star Award : Molly G Paige
Top Children’s Entertainer Award : Paula Wray (Trixie the Fairy)
Rielly Comedy Award : Dai Henwood
Limelight Productions International Achievement Award : Sam Wills (Tape Boy)
NZ Entertainment Academy Top Musician Award : John McGough
Top Group Award : Dreams – The Fleetwood Mac Experience
Pacific Entertainment Top Female Artist Award : Jackie Clarke
Pub Charity Top Male Artist Award : Chet O’Connell
Fullers Entertainment Award : Paul Ellis
Nostalgia Award : Ngoi Pēwhairangi
Unsung Hero Award : Robert Kapita (snr)
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.
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 :
Candy Lane QSM
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
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.
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 grownups.co.nz 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 prostate.org.nz
NZ Herald August 27, 2015
Alan 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Recorded at a VAC Meet ‘N’ Greet night at the Gables Tavern, circa 2010. Gray is a Patron of the VAC and was presented the prestigious Benny Award in 2001.
Proudly hosted by the iconic Variety Artists Club of NZ Inc, the Amazing VAC Variety Show features performances by some of the top performers in the country.
Music, comedy, magic, a touch of burlesque and more!
Featuring acts from both NZ’s Got Talent and Stars in their Eyes.
Hosted by David Hartnell MNZM, New Zealand’s king of celebrity gossip and Patron of the Variety Artists Club.
The must-see Amazing VAC Variety Show is on for one performance only – Friday 25th of July, 7:30PM at the Rose Theatre, School Road Belmont, North Shore.
Featuring Benny recipients Marian Burns and Paul Bennett, Kiwi music icon Roger Skinner, hits of Broadway from Maryanne and Gemma Rushton, Agnew Excellence Award recipient Karen Davy as Dolly Parton, comedy and celebrity impersonations from Colin Parris, eye-popping visual magic with Mick Peck, a touch of burlesque and fun from Dizzy Summers and more!
The VAC would like to thank 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.
Our 1990 Benny Award recipient Billy T. James MBE performs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the Aotea Centre in April 1990, a year after his heart transplant. This was Billy’s comeback gig, with many celebrities and VAC members in attendance. Also on the bill was Sir Howard Morrison OBE.
The incomparable Eddie Low performs at the 2010 Benny Awards. Eddie would be taken by surprise later that evening when he was presented with the prestigious Benny Award for a lifetime of excellence as a performing artist. Video from VAC Archive Officer Michael Colonna.
Gossip columnist David Hartnell has written many times about Hollywood stars being lost for words at award ceremonies.
But it was his turn to be speechless and choke back emotion on stage when he was presented with the prestigious Fullers Entertainment Award.
In front of a crowd of Kiwi showbiz greats, the 69-year-old received the honour at the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand’s Benny Awards.
The veteran columnist, who has met screen icons such as the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly during his years working as a writer of celebrity news and also make-up artist to the stars, says being honoured by his Kiwi peers far outweighed the thrill of meeting any overseas star.
The annual award is presented to someone who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes in the New Zealand entertainment industry, but is not an entertainer.
It came out of the blue to the Weekly’s Hollywood trivia guru, whose first brush with fame was giving comedienne Phyllis Diller a makeover in 1967.
“Winning was a total surprise to me,” says David. “I know people always say that but, for once in my life, I was speechless – that doesn’t usually happen.”
This year David will celebrate 50 years in show business. In those five decades, he has seen a lot of change in the local entertainment scene, including the coverage of Tamati Coffey’s wedding to partner Tim Smith in the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly in 2011 – the first gay wedding on the cover of any Kiwi women’s magazine.
Although he’s not keen to tie the knot with his longtime partner Somboon Khansuk, David, who was one of the first openly gay men on Kiwi TV screens on his show The Express Report, was delighted when the Marriage Amendment bill was passed last year.
“I never thought it would happen,” says David.
“My niece is 15, and she got an invite to go to a wedding the other day and she had to have a look to see if it was a gay one or a straight one and I thought ‘How interesting.’
“My partner Somboon and I have been together 21 years and we don’t want to get married. We’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s with wills and legal documents, so why get married? But I think it’s great that people can.
“My career was probably stomped on at times because of [being gay], but it’s other people’s problem, not mine. I never came out of the closet because I was never in it. It’s part of me; I just get on with life.”
His home is covered in photographs of the stars he has met working as a celebrity columnist in New Zealand and the UK, but there is one famous person he stills wants to meet.
“I would love to meet the Queen. Nobody knows how to work celebrity better than her,” he says.
The only gossip columnist in the Commonwealth to have been honoured by Her Majesty, David, who became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2010, is showing no signs of retiring.
He’s working on his ninth book, and also stays busy working on his Weekly trivia column and walking his dogs, Australian terrier Miss Cele (11) and Pekingese Miss Liza (2) – who surprisingly, he laughs, isn’t named after actress Liza Minnelli.
David says he was particularly proud to be working in the New Zealand entertainment scene when 17-year-old Lorde was nominated for four Grammys.
“Anything is possible in the entertainment business. Lorde is amazing. It’s great that a young woman can get a number one hit, but also appear on Ellen, the number-one talk show in the US,” he says.
“That’s the magic of show business, those stories of overnight success, and that’s why I love what I do. I’m lucky that my job is still my hobby and my passion.”
– New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, reproduced with permission.
From Linn Lorkin’s award-winning one-woman show Hey, Piano Lady! Linn won the Best Cabaret Award at this year’s New York United Solo Festival. She sings in several languages and has recorded twelve albums for her own Rouge Records label, including five CDs of originals and two of French chansons. “Family at the Beach” was voted Best Kiwi Summer Song in a recent New Zealand radio listeners’ poll.
New Plymouth has a new “Angel of Music.”
New Plymouth Operatic has great pleasure in announcing that twenty-one-year-old Toni Gibson will play the iconic role of Christine in the 2014 New Plymouth season of The Phantom of The Opera.
While new to both New Plymouth Operatic and musical theatre, Ms Gibson brings a wealth of experience to what is her ‘dream role’ – “I’m bursting with excitement,” says Toni. “I can’t wait to get into rehearsals – I know the words of all the songs already.”
Toni began performing at the age of seven. Aged nine through eleven she was part of a group called The Starlight Kids, five pop performers that travelled the North Island performing numerous shows. Toni has studied singing and opera extensively, including under the tutelage of Ellen Barrett and two years of Classical Voice (or Opera) training under Linden Loader at the Young Musicians Academy at Victoria University Wellington.
In recent times, Toni has performed with the NZ POPS Orchestra at the Auckland Town Hall, Coca Cola Christmas in the Park, TVNZ’s Good Morning, as well as alongside New Zealand icon and VAC Patron Gray Bartlett at numerous concerts.
In 2013 Toni released her debut album Echo in My Soul and was awarded the Pacific Entertainment Award for Top Female Artist at the 2013 Benny Awards. Her album was distributed by Ambition-Fanfare Record Label, who also represent Michael Crawford, the original West End and Broadway Phantom.
“The audition process for this role in Phantom attracted an incredible number of very talented auditionees,” said New Plymouth Operatic President Kevin Landrigan. “It was a very competitive process.”
“Toni has real star quality,” said Mr Landrigan. “Her voice is angelic. Toni embodies much of what we at New Plymouth Operatic stand for. As a young woman with exceptional potential, we look forward to seeing her develop into a true star through this role.”
Tom Sharplin can still remember the exact moment he heard his first Beatles song.
The veteran rocker was pedalling down a Tauranga street in 1964 when he heard “this noise” coming out of a friend’s house.
“I said, gee what’s that sound? I just stayed there all day and listened to the same record over and over again,” he says.
It’s now almost 50 years since the Beatles released From Me to You, the single Mr Sharplin first heard on his bike and inspired him to take the first steps towards a long rock and roll career.
It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s 1964 world tour and their whistle-stop visit to New Zealand.
The Beatle-mad teenager was part of the screaming welcoming mob at the airport, who followed the entourage by bus to the Auckland Town Hall mayoral reception, and to top it off saw them in concert that night.
“The guys were screaming too, you couldn’t help it, it wasn’t just the girls,” he says.
He was so besotted with them, he watched the Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night four times in one day, wore the black Beatles-style winkle-picker boots with his school uniform and even adopted their trade-mark mop haircut, with unintended consequences.
“I lost my after-school job because I had a Beatle haircut,” Mr Sharplin says.
“They said find a new haircut or you’re out of a job.”
Mr Sharplin, who lives in Mt Wellington, made his mark on the local music scene in the 1970s and still performs today.
He has always wanted to visit the Beatles’ home town Liverpool and that dream is about to come true.
He is hosting a 20-day Beatles Tour in August this year for up to 40 people.
The tour will include Beatle tours around Hamburg, London and Liverpool with extra sight-seeing stops in Paris and San Francisco.
“It’s a trip of a lifetime,” he says.
– Fairfax News, reproduced with permission.
From the archives – Benny Award recipient Debbie Dorday’s iconic television commercial for Burgundys.