Based on the 1950s US show of the same name, This Is Your Life first began honouring and embarrassing famous New Zealanders in 1984. Past recipients of the Big Red Book have included Sir Howard Morrison, Davina Whitehouse, John Walker and many others. Bob Parker was the original presenter of the show (later hosts were Paul Holmes and Paul Henry). Before lives and careers are celebrated there's a moment of mild excruciation as viewers wait for the presenter to surprise the soon-to-be-anointed subject with the famous words: "This is your life''. XXXX
Paul Henry surprises bungy jumping entrepreneur Alan John Hackett at Auckland Airport with the immortal words, "This is your life". The many guests in this 70-min. special include childhood go-kart friends, bungying celebs and police boat chief Lloyd McIntosh, who recalls the day he witnessed Hackett leaping off Auckland Harbour Bridge as "a highlight from his career". Hackett later stole up, and leapt off, the Eiffel Tower (less Man on a Wire, more man with rubber rope). Adds his mother Margaret: "I'm buggered if I consider him famous. He's just AJ."
New Zealand’s greatest war hero was the subject of this 1985 episode of This is Your Life. Charles Upham was one of only three people to receive the Victoria Cross twice and the only combat soldier. The reserved Upham has little to say about himself when confronted with Bob Parker’s red book, but is full of praise for those he served with. And they are on hand in numbers to honour their former comrade. There are stories of bravery and humour from the battles in Crete and Egypt to Colditz Castle where Upham was held after being wounded and captured.
Based on the US show of the same name, This Is Your Life has been honouring famous Kiwis since 1984. This 1988 edition hosted by Bob Parker features Colin “Pinetree” Meads, whose All Black career spanned 15 years, 133 games and 55 test matches. New Zealand’s “Rugby Player of the Century,” remains modest throughout his tribute at the Avalon TV Centre, where guests include fellow All Black legends Brian Lochore, Kel Tremain and Wilson Whineray; and Irish referee Kevin Kelleher, who controversially ordered Meads off the field in Scotland in 1967.
Host Bob Parker opens the book on the life of 81 year old George Nepia. Considered by many to be the greatest rugby fullback ever, Nepia was the star of the 1924 All Blacks, the legendary 'Invincibles'. At just 19, he played every one of their 32 games as the team went unbeaten through the British Isles. Helping celebrate Nepia's life are legendary rugby journalist TP McLean and two of NZ rugby's other stellar fullbacks, Don Clark and Bob Scott. The Invincibles' kiwi mascot makes a special appearance, and Nepia performs his hit song 'Under a Maori Moon'. Nepia died later that year.
All Black great Grant Fox is given the big red book in this award-winning episode of This is Your Life. The first five-eighth’s record points tally and marshalling of stars like John Kirwan made the playmaker a key cog in the 1987 Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks and champion Auckland teams. His distinctive goal-kicking ritual became as reassuring as a metronome for fans. The diminutive Auckland Grammar old boy meets family and teammates, discusses discipline and his single All Blacks try, and gets busted by coach John Hart. Fox would become an All Blacks selector.
“One of nature’s gentlemen” and “very nice, always correct,” that’s the bottom line for many of the guests honouring World War II fighter ace Johnny Checketts in this 1990 This is Your Life. The Kiwi pilot shot down 14 and a half enemy aircraft (one was shared) but plays down his own heroics. He can’t control the emotion though when he meets a French woman who helped rescue him after being shot down over enemy territory and who he hasn’t seen in 50 years. Checketts is also joined by friends, family and colleagues, including the man who taught him to fly.
After days of elaborate subterfuge, host Bob Parker, with his trademark red book, ambushes champion middle distance runner John Walker at a dinner at Trillos nightclub. A week earlier, Walker had become the first person to run 100 sub-four minute miles. Parker leads him through a career that also includes his mile world record, the epic 1974 Commonwealth Games 1,500 metres final and Olympic gold at Montreal in 1976. Those paying pay tribute in person or via satellite include athletics superstars Filbert Bayi, Sebastian Coe, Steve Scott and Peter Snell.
Host Paul Holmes looks back on the life of “the Colin Meads of cricket” — the big hearted, Excalibur-wielding Lance Cairns; although the celebration is just as often of his enthusiastic fondness for the game’s social side. A cavalcade of cricket stars (Chappell, Botham, Lillee, Marsh, Hadlee, Coney, Chatfield, Crowe and son Chris) reminisce — with the remarkable sixes in his innings at Melbourne in 1983 coming in for special attention. Cairns’ profound deafness and the death of his daughter in a level crossing accident provide a more serious note.
Host Paul Holmes puts the life of opera star Dame Malvina Major in the spotlight and discovers her origins in a large Waikato family whose first love was country music. Guests include John Rowles and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (a fellow pupil of their often terrifying teacher, “the tiny force behind the biggest voices”, Dame Sister Mary Leo). Major’s triumphs are revisited, as is her decision to give up her international career to farm with her husband in Taranaki. A good sport throughout, she even manages a yodel for a ukulele-led family sing-along.
Olympic champion Mark Todd is the first recipient of the big red book as host Bob Parker launches the NZ edition of this show. Weeks earlier, Todd and mount Charisma had won NZ's first ever equestrian gold medal at the Los Angeles games; and there's footage of Todd's agonising wait, cigarette in hand, for American rider Karen Stives to make a mistake that would give him victory. Guests include Todd's parents (who recall him as a "lovable horror" as a boy), Captain Mark Phillips (then husband of Princess Anne), Stives and bronze medallist Virginia Holgate.
In a Hollywood studio, with This is Your Life creator Ralph Edwards prominent in the audience, Bob Parker surprises expat Nola Luxford with a high speed tour of her life. After outlining Luxford's early acting career in Hastings and Hollywood, Parker introduces radio and Olympic colleagues from her time as a pioneering US-based broadcaster — before memorable tributes from servicemen she looked after during World War II (while running a legendary New York organisation for Anzac servicemen). The so-called 'Angel of the Anzacs' would die in October 1994.
In September 2000 New Zealand's greatest athlete was surprised with the 'Big Red Book'. Paul Holmes reunites Snell with figures in his life, from the Rome 800m silver and bronze medallists, to Opunake locals and influential coach Arthur Lydiard. The tribute to an amazing career includes footage of Olympic triumphs and world records, and revelation of a performance enhancing drug: Fanta. Snell expresses pride in his academic achievement, where — despite a faltering start at Mt Albert Grammar — he became director of Texas University's Human Performance Lab.
Paul Holmes presents this episode of the show which honours and embarrasses famous people: this time the star is singer Rob Guest. The episode was made in 1998, at the height of Guest's career in Australasian musical theatre. It features excerpts from his starring roles Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables, and appearances by musical colleagues, friends and family. Guest is good-humoured throughout. He gives a gracious speech and performs an impromptu song after the closing credits. Rob Guest passed away after suffering a stroke in October 2008.
After decades as broadcasting's leading MC, Selwyn Toogood was on the receiving end in 1985 when he was This Is Your Life's guest of honour. Bob Parker hosts the former host of It's In the Bag, Beauty and the Beast and innumerable quiz shows. Friends paying tribute to Toogood include former "quiz kid" and future Speaker of the House, Jonathan Hunt MP, and former Bag hostesses Tineke Stephenson (née Bouchier) and Sue Scott. Also sending greetings are several stars from Coronation Street.
Howard Morrison gets the surprise of his life in this emotional reunion of his showbiz friends and whānau. Veteran This Is Your Life presenter Bob Parker consults his big red book to revisit all of Morrison's major career milestones. Known as 'The Sinatra of New Zealand' and 'Ol' Brown Eyes', Morrison was a New Zealand entertainment icon. The show brings back his first singing teacher, his Mum, Kahu, his sisters and many friends from the industry. The show is a roll call of major NZ entertainment figures who come to pay tribute to 'Mr Entertainment'.
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