Lyttelton-based Gary McCormick is a man of many talents.
McCormick was working as a gardener at Porirua Hospital when he began his first poetry tour, after his 1976 collection Naked and Nameless won a Pen Poetry Award.
Alongside six more collections of poetry and the satiric book Honey, I Blew up the Atoll, McCormick has won increasing fame for his many appearances as a speaker and celebrity debater — including tours with Tim Shadbolt, Hello Sailor, Tom Scott and the late David Lange (who he talks about in this documentary).
Honed by his many live appearances, McCormick's unfazed improvisational style proved a natural fit for television. He first took on the medium in 1987 partly by accident. Initially asked to help with research on the one-off documentary Raglan by the Sea, he ended up as the programme's presenter. It went on to win a documentary of the year award. The one-hour documentary saw the former surfboard manufacturer talking to Raglan townspeople, looking at the town's history and discussing Māori land issues with local kaumatua.
Raglan by the Sea marked the first of many collaborations with filmmaker Bruce Morrison. Their work together includes the documentary Bay Boys (1998), the long-running Heartland, and talk show McCormick.
Heartland, which began in 1991 and ran four seasons in primetime, saw McCormick visiting far-flung communities across New Zealand. Twice winner of Best Factual Series at the New Zealand Film and Television Awards, the show included visits to the township of Oban on Stewart Island, Tuhoe heartland Ruatahuna, and a memorable encounter with Wainuiomata identity Chloe Reeves.
McCormick has also hosted two half-hour talk shows: two seasons of McCormick Country in the late 80s, and 1997's McCormick. The latter show, another award-winner (this time for Best Entertainment series), saw him mixing the roving style of Heartland with that of his earlier talk show.
McCormick was also the first host of travel series Holiday. In 1992 he began presenting occasional reports for late night TV3 show Nightline; the show's less by-the-books approach gave him the chance to indulge in his own brand of "biased, prejudiced, direct, slightly mischievous, having-people-on kind of journalism".
Roving variety show McCormick Rips (2000) was an attempt to recreate the freedom of iconic American series Saturday Night Live. The show was pulled after only two programmes had gone to air. McCormick complained that TV executives acted like they were on a mission to save him from stretching ‘Brand McCormick' too far.
The Bay Boys was a more personal piece; a one-off documentary that saw McCormick returning to his old stamping ground, the Porirua suburb of Titahi Bay.
McCormick was chosen to be one of three principal presenters during a live, 40-hour TV One broadcast celebrating the arrival of the millennium; earlier he had overcome his self-professed sartorial disabilities enough to co-present the 1995 Film and Television Awards.
Gary McCormick has also had small acting roles in TV's Heroes, and features Starlight Hotel (1987) and Ruby and Rata (1990). Since 2003, he has shared breakfast host duties with Simon Barnett on Christchurch radio station More FM. McCormick has also contributed a weekly slot to television's Good Morning, and presented the Hawke's Bay quake episode of series Descent from Disaster.
'McCormick, Gary' (Profile). Read NZ website. Accessed 18 April 2017
Beverly Martens, 'McCormick Coup for New-Look Nightline' (TV3 Press release) 3 February 1992