You are here:

Before They Were Famous

By NZ On Screen Team
27th September 2012

 Before They Were Famous

Before they were ice-cream. 

It's hard to believe that famous people haven't always been famous. 

Paul Henry may be laughing it up in the 'A' league now, but back then, back in 1987, he was a humble shiny-suited host of the husband and wife game-show Every Second Counts, in which, sadly, he behaves himself and offends no one. Although you may, like me, be shocked by the notion that a cordless vacuum cleaner was once considered a desirable prize worthy of debasing yourself on national television for. But you can certainly see a glimmer of the star that was eventually born. Most importantly you can see what Paul looks like with a perm. 

Jumping to 2001, it's a little harder to spot the rising star in a young Kimbra, who comes across as the average outgoing young girl next door. In this What Now? nugget she's an 11-year-old getting some help from Rikki (Nobody Else) Morris to make a pop song. The item begins with the words, "Hi I'm Kimbra, and one day I'd love to be a pop star." Well she can certainly tick that one off.  

John Key makes no such pronouncements about his future wish to become PM in one of my favourite pieces of archive, which is also part of the collection. Close Up - Big Dealers is a 1987 vintage clip that documents the highflying currency traders of the late 1980s, and as luck would have it John Key and his wife Bronagh are key players.

If you've dreamed of seeing John drive a 1980s BMW, play squash in stubbies and neck dry white wine as if it were nectar, then you've come to right place. 

One of my favourite pieces of sporting commentary — aside from Keith Quinn's orgasmic "Lomu, oh, oh, ..." or Martin Crowe's "What the blue blazes" when Nathan Astle scored 222 - was Hamish McKay's "Read'm and Weepu" as Piri Weepu shot over the line for a try. Piri is here too, but he's not playing rugby, he's an eight year old lollipop-man. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but it's notable because it's part of one of the most famous episodes of unscripted NZ TV ever. That's right, it's the Wainuiomata episode of Heartland, the one that has forever attached the name Chloe to that sleepy valley just outside of Wellington. 

If you haven't heard of Chloe of Wainuiomata then you're probably too young to remember Tupperware Parties too. But I promise you'll be well versed in these cultural happenings after watching this tremendous episode, and you can play 'spot the Piri' along the way. 

Today Phil Keoghan hosts American Emmy-winning reality behemoth The Amazing Race, but back in 1990 he was co-hosting the after school favourite 3.45 Live! with Hine Elder — who's since left the limelight and become an MD. Both look fresh as daisies, and Phil has yet to develop that mid-pacific twang that now makes the word "shark" sound like "shack." 

Others who have gone on to 'crack the States' are also shown in this collection serving their apprenticeships, all in glorious low-definition. Today Martin Henderson, Karl Urban, Rhys Darby, Martin Csokas, Anna Paquin, and Temuera Morrison are movie stars, but back then, before they were truly famous, they were lowly, kiwi 'TV personalities'. Although it is true that Anna Paquin bucked the trend somewhat, starting out on the Oscar-winning movie The Piano and ending up on HBO's hit TV show, True Blood

And then there's the most famous of them all: Russ le Roq. Well, that's what he used to be called, he's better known as the Gladiator, or the Master and Commander, or the guy who owns the Rabbitohs, or Russell Crowe. 

Back in the 1980s when he was a fledgling rock star, he changed his name to Russ le Roq, because he was sick of people banging on about his famous cricketing cousins, Martin and Jeff. Today, Martin Crowe is probably pulling out what's left of his hair because people keep banging on about his famous cousin. 

Isn't life funny. Anyway, Russ Le Roq, as he was known then, is seen in this collection strutting his stuff in the rock-a-billy style, with his band Roman Antix. The video contains two staples of the NZBC art department at the time: a Mark III Zephyr and venetian blinds. 

But while some things change, others stay the same. "He's a model and a style-guru and he certainly looks like one." That's Kerre Woodham describing a young Colin Mathura-Jeffree as he paraded, topless, atop a giant flower, atop a cherry-picker, that made its way down Ponsonby Road, as part of the 1997 Hero Parade

Colin is still a model and a style guru, but, more importantly, he now has a flavour of Gelato named after him. That tangibly creamy measure of fame can be sampled at Giapo's, next to Auckland's cathedral of cinema, The Civic Theatre. So dig in and enjoy yourself, pig out on these pre-fame Kiwis, gaze upon their fresh faces and remember the good times, before they were famous, before they became household names, movie stars, action figures and ... flavours of ice-cream.

 Paul Casserly

By Paul Casserly