In this short report for a 1990 edition of Holmes, Dylan Taite rocks back the clock to talk to New Zealand music pioneer Johnny Cooper. John Dix’s recently published history of NZ rock’n’roll Stranded in Paradise had resurrected interest in Cooper, the Wairoa-spawned singer who gained notice with a Bill Haley cover, then gave NZ its first homegrown rock’n’roll song with his tale of a Whanganui pie cart, 'Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll'. Aptly, Taite interviews Cooper at a Queen St cart where Cooper unslings his guitar once more: “Let’s rock and roll around the old pie cart!”
Cowboys of Culture is director Geoff Steven's personal perspective on the Kiwi cinema renaissance of the 1970s. It traces the development of the local film industry from the ‘she'll be right' days when filming permits were unknown, and all that was needed to get a picture up were a Bolex camera, enthusiasm and ingenuity. Raw they might have been, but the films (Wild Man, Sleeping Dogs, Goodbye Pork Pie, Smash Palace) represented a vital new cultural force. The film features interviews with the major players, and clips from their movies.
Jess Feast's debut feature documentary centres around the hip Berlin burlesque joint, White Trash Fast Food, and explores life in post-wall East Berlin: a place where libertines and die-hard communists co-exist but not always harmoniously. The Cowboy is Wally, an artist and chef, who escaped LA to live a life of freedom in Berlin. The Communist is Horst, an intelligent ex-journalist who lives upstairs from White Trash, and mourns for the old regime. Won Best Documentary by a young filmmaker at the Kassel Documentary Festival, 2007.
The stars in an Auckland harbour master’s eyes are of the cowboy variety in this documentary that goes behind the scenes of the Western Districts' Fast Draw Club. The westie club takes literal inspiration from its name, as its members — from truck drivers to accountants — meet in the basement of a dairy to recreate scenes from the American wild west. Director Greg Stitt aimed to explore, “the fantasies ordinary people need to survive”; and his partly-dramatised doco details the impressive preparation (and passion) that goes into the live shows and stunts.
Rodeo thrills and spills — Kiwi style — are on display in this documentary following two cowboys travelling the circuit in a 1950s Chrysler. They compete in events in Fairlie, Rerewhakaaitu and Warkworth, and encounter American and Australian stars along the way. Broncos, calves and bulls are ridden, wrestled or roped; but pride of place goes to spectacular shots of them using rodeo skills to capture deer by helicopter. A parade, the 'Cowboy's Prayer' and fearless rodeo clowns also feature. Legendary commercials maker Geoff Dixon (founder of company Silverscreen) directs.
The final meeting for the 2006 season features in this episode of the Māori TV series following the NZ rodeo circuit. Riders have come to Millers Flat in Central Otago to compete in bareback riding, calf roping and tying, bronco riding, bull riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing competitions. The grand prize of the title of All Round Champion Cowboy is still up for grabs — but there are no certainties in rodeo and champions can be dumped just as heavily as novices (with the possibility of serious injury ever-present in the thrills and spills).
This episode of current affairs show Close Up offers a fascinating portrait of the early days of New Zealand's foreign exchange market. Reporter Ted Sheehan heads into "the pit" (trading room), and chronicles the working life of a senior forex dealer, 25-year-old accountancy graduate John Key. The "smiling assassin" (and future Prime Minister) is a calm and earnest presence amongst the young cowboys playing for fortunes and Porsches, months before the 1987 sharemarket crash. As Sheehan says, "they're like addicts who eat, breathe and sleep foreign exchange dealing".
On 12 October 1997 legendary country singer John Denver was tragically killed in a plane crash. Friend and fan Glen Campbell was touring New Zealand at the time, and he stopped by TVNZ's Auckland Network Centre for an interview with Paul Holmes, and a tribute performance in the atrium, with TVNZ staff gathering to watch. Campbell discusses his friend’s love of flying, desire to go into space, and his happiness in his final years. He covers Denver classic 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' and concludes the interview with a rendition of his own hit, 'Rhinestone Cowboy'.
In this Māori TV series about the NZ rodeo circuit, the action has come to Outram in Otago for the final meeting of the year. Competition has been close throughout the season — and the race for the title of All Round Champion Cowboy (and “The Buckle” trophy) is wide open, with at least three of the four Church brothers still in contention. Competition is fierce inside the ring, but, outside it the riders are happy to swap tips; and when the last steer has been roped and bronco ridden, there’s nothing for it but to “dress up flash and have a party”.
For her first feature, writer/director Gillian Ashurst wanted a “big wide road movie; big skies; big long roads.” Cruising the Canterbury landscapes are small-town dreamers Alice (Heavenly Creature Melanie Lynskey) and Johnny (future Almighty Johnson Dean O’Gorman). But the duo’s adventures go awry after encountering a charming American cowboy. Reviews were generally upbeat: praising the talented cast, plus Ashurst’s ability to mix moods and genres. Snakeskin won five awards at the 2001 NZ Film and TV Awards, including best film and cinematography.