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Profile image for Trevor Spitz

Trevor Spitz

Producer, Promoter

The following biography has been provided to NZ On Screen by Trevor Spitz's colleagues Jon Gadsby, David McPhail and Tom Parkinson.

In 1940s Tauranga, two little boys were next door neighbours. Both born in 1941, together they  were such little monsters that their parents separated them, sending them to different pre-schools. When that proved no deterrent to further wicked behaviour one was sent away to boarding school. Both would become major influences in Kiwi show business. One was to become the multi-talented actor, writer and director Ian Mune; the other was later to be musician, agent, promoter, producer and entrepreneur Trevor Spitz. 

Trevor's first entry into show business was as  founder and drummer of Bay of Plenty group The Four Fours, which played  Shadows-style music. Moving to Auckland around 1965, they landed full time spots at local nightspots. After tasting success with hit records and sell out gigs, the Four Fours set their eyes on London. Lacking enthusiasm for the idea, Trevor left the band in 1966.

He moved from playing to managing and promoting, and within two years had opened several music clubs in the South Island, with promoter Phil Warren. Beside club proprietorship, Trevor expanded into artist management and concert promotion.

Singer Laurie Herdsman opened the Christchurch Press one day and discovered that Trevor (his promoter) had changed his on-stage name to Laurie D, after being  forced to fill a gap in a newspaper ad. As a compromise the 'D' became Dee, and in the early 70s, Dee became lead singer of Beam Unity. Trevor convinced producer Kevan Moore to use Beam on numerous TV Entertainment shows, and thus started Trevor's career in TV, initially working as Moore's South Island talent scout for shows like C'mon. With the advent of South Pacific Television (TV2) Trevor became South Island Talent coordinator for all productions, from Opportunity Knocks to Telethon

Trevor quickly learnt the entrepreneurship side of TV production, bringing to the table image awareness, marketing, show business savvy and good soundtracks.

Around this time A Week of It started. Trevor became involved by arranging, warming up and hosting the audiences for the show. As the satirical McPhail and Gadsby comedy became must-watch TV, Trevor began assisting the pair with their live shows; he then formed a management company with the two to develop the live, non TV and international aspects of their careers.

"He got hold of us and pretty much completely reorganised us", says Gadsby. "Spitzy was a great organiser. We'd begun doing regular cabaret seasons at Auckland's Ace of Clubs and Shoreline, along with John Clarke, Billy T and others. With Trevor involved, the returns to us and other artists working those venues ... well let's just say they increased dramatically. Trevor was a good manager." 

At the same time as McPhail and Gadsby were expanding their horizons it was decided to modernise hay barn entertainment show A Touch of Country.

The new show That's Country would reflect the crossover sound and look of modern country music. To the chagrin of the mostly public service-orientated producers, Trevor was brought in to produce, alongside executive producer McPhail and director John Lye. Thanks to Trevor's contacts, the first 13 episodes starred not only great NZ musicians, but regularly included top American and Australian performers. 

After news of the show got back to Nashville, Trevor and TVNZ's Head of Entertainment Tom Parkinson flew to the US to strike a deal with cable network TNN for 44 more episodes — plus a guarantee of regular US stars and a license fee, which was more than the initial show's entire budget.

The breakthrough also meant the Christchurch production team had to lift its game. TVNZ did not have a permanent stills photographer in Christchurch, and the American cable station was grumbling about the standard of stills. To solve the situation Trevor went out and bought the most expensive stills camera he could find, took a crash course in photography and proceeded to take all the stills for That's Country.

Trouble lay ahead for the show. With the signing of the US contract, That's Country had to become professional in every way. After a couple of episodes, the production team was getting complaints from the US stars that certain musicians were not up to standard. It was decided to bring in more competent players. The dismissal of one musician sparked a scandal.  

Due to That's Country's success, everyone seemed to jump onto the bandwagon. The public service union, opposition political parties and actors equity, (the musicians' union rightly kept quiet) were all publicising their opinions. Trevor was their main target, due mainly to a perception he was conflicted by being involved in the commercial side of show business (one of Trevor's star clients, Suzanne Prentice, played regularly on the show). 

PM Robert Muldoon established a Commission of Enquiry into That's Country which sat for 12 months. Tom Parkinson recalls talking with Muldoon about the setting up of the commission, but Muldoon brushed it to one side, stating that its main function was to keep then-TVNZ chairman Ian Cross, in line.

The Commission of Enquiry applied some wet-bus-ticket slaps on the wrists of various TVNZ executives, for alleged violations of public service codes. Trevor re-balanced his life and got on with the next adventure. This was the winning of the TV3 warrant for the South Island and renovating his Marlborough Sounds home. 

Trevor later won the third channel warrant for the South Island as part of a consortium bid, but it was to be a "poisoned chalice", thanks to politics, the 1989 stock market crash and infighting between TV3's non-broadcasting shareholders.

In the re-assembled shambles, TV3 had to go on air as a national broadcaster and Trevor came to Auckland to work with TV3's initial programmer Kel Geddes. Trevor created the first programme imagery and marketing for TV3. The key to Three's early "survival" was the Disney contract which Trevor used to bring over Disney characters to promote shows. It is rumoured that Trevor, being slightly short of stature, squeezed himself into the Minnie Mouse costume for a day when the American actress proved too sick to perform. 

Trevor stuck with TV3 for five years before calling it a day. Once again his inventive mind came into play. Trevor had watched Thomas the Tank Engine's growing popularity. Using his sit-on motor mower, he built a tank engine with three passenger carriages, and with himself dressed up as the engine driver, started working the shopping malls. It was an instant hit; once again, Trevor showed how to get the extra juice from the lemon. 

He made his real money from photographing children with Thomas the Tank using the camera equipment bought for That's Country. After selling the Thomas franchise in 2007, Trevor returned to refurbishing his Marlborough Sounds home. 

He was diagnosed with melanoma in 2010 and following  a semi-successful operation, returned to Auckland. In 2011, after 65 years of never meeting one another, Ian Mune and Trevor Spitz had lunch together. The restaurant is rumoured to have threatened to throw them out for bad behaviour. Fortunately for us, some people never grow up.

Trevor died on 19 March  2012.