Framed around a visit to New Zealand by Irish-born entertainer Danny La Rue, this all-singing all-dancing spectacular was recorded over three days in March 1980. The “fella in a frock” was famed for his drag acts and double entendres. Comedians Jon Gadsby and David McPhail provide local support as Marlene Dietrich visits a farm, Mae West visits the All Blacks changing room, and Margaret Thatcher meets Robert Muldoon (McPhail). Filmed at Avalon Studios, the revue was a co-production with London Weekend Television, made during the golden era of NZ TV variety shows.
Ask Country Calendar viewers which shows they remember and inevitably the answer is "the spoofs" — satirical episodes that screened unannounced. Sometimes there was outrage but mostly the public enjoyed having the wool pulled over their eyes. Created by producer Tony Trotter and Bogor cartoonist Burton Silver, the first (in late 1977) was the fencing wire-playing farmer and his "rural music". This special episode collects the best of the spoofs, from the infamous radio-controlled dog, to the gay couple who ran a "stress-free" flock, and more malarkey besides.
Kiwi telly showed it could do sly as well as it could show the shearing of a sheep when, in a 1968 Wellington edition of regional news show Town and Around, reporter Erin Sinclair investigated an innovative farmer whose turkeys were shod in gumboots. The legendary hoax apparently fooled two executives from Skellerup who flew to Whanganui to secure a contract to manufacture the boots' lining. The wool-pulling is often wrongly remembered as a Country Calendar spoof — but that show’s first hoodwinker (a fence-plucking musical farmer) was nearly a decade away.
Misfits of Science was the result of a chance meeting in 2000 in a Queen Street clothing store between Stephen McQuinn (MC Optimus) from Waiuku and South African born Yudhi Moodley (Colossus). Bonding over a shared love of hip hop, they took their name from an obscure 80s sitcom and released their first single ‘Fool’s Love’ in 2003. It reflected their twisted sense of humour and lack of interest in gangster hip hop - and spent four weeks at number one on the singles chart. An album followed but subsequent singles failed to match that initial success.
Shona Laing's long musical career began with '1905', a song dedicated to Henry Fonda. At 17 years old, Shona took the song to second place on talent show New Faces in 1972. Early the following year it rose to number four on the NZ top 10. This short live clip, thought to be filmed at Christchurch Town Hall, captures Shona in extreme close-up, serving to magnify the emotional intensity of the song. Don't be fooled into thinking this is a mimed performance; her voice is absolutely spot-on, and the crowd reacts with rapturous applause.
In 1866 the General Grant sank off the remote subantarctic Auckland Islands, with 2576 ounces of gold on board. In 2000 two kina divers and a one-legged tractor driver headed south on a quixotic quest for the buried treasure. The unlikely lads reckon they know where the booty is (despite it eluding 15+ previous search efforts). Their mission turns out to be rugged, illegal, and possibly clueless (as their homespun theories are tested), but that doesn't deter the spirit of the adventurers. First time filmmaker Samuel Richards came along for the fool's gold ride.
Reg Dunbar’s war was mostly fought in the skies above Europe and North Africa. His first bombing raids over Germany were as an RAF tail gunner in a Vickers Wellington plane - a cold and lonely job he says. For the rest of that tour he was in the wireless operator’s seat, the job he’d trained for. In North Africa the squadron supported the Eighth Army, the famous Desert Rats. Reg also took part in the first thousand bomber raid over Cologne. Later he worked on the secret 'Moonshine' radar, which fooled the Germans into thinking a bomber formation was on the way.
Award-winning actor Luanne Gordon has fought Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess, run a strip club in The Strip, and played a tough detective in Interrogation. She has also appeared in a range of feature films including Stickmen, King Kong, and Irish comedy Sensation.
Irene Wood has played Katherine Mansfield, a nymphomaniac pensioner, and a gin-toting grandma to a Go Girl. Her screen career first got busy in the early days of NZ TV, as an actor, TV presenter, and musical performer. Years later she would snare what is probably her best-known role: as a hard-drinking grandma over five seasons of hit show Go Girls. Wood has also appeared on Shortland Street and in movies Rest for the Wicked and The Shirt.
Designer Garnet Nelson has a distinctive attitude to fashion for the rural sector, showcased in a range of clothes combining style and practicality — although the after five combinations may be a step too far. This might be one of the celebrated Country Calendar spoof episodes, but the buy-in from models who could only be farmers and not actors is a sight to behold. And the fashion tips don't end there. Reporter (and long time Country Calendar producer) Frank Torley adds his own sartorial note with an unfeasibly long shirt collar that has a mind of its own.