Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Kevin Milne
Random House - $39.99

A life on the box reveals the good, the bad and the very funny
Hurtling down SH1 not realising the wheelie-bin full of rubbish was still hooked up to his bumper until it exploded; an intrepid Kerre Woodham investigating a complaint where a builder had installed a cat flap at the top of the door; being sacked from his first job at NAC for sending people off to the wrong destinations; and the apprentice who unwittingly ordered a $575 bottle of wine.

These are just some of the hilarious yarns Kevin Milne, one of our most beloved and trusted (according to a recent Reader’s Digest poll) TV personalities, spins in his thoroughly delightful and moving memoir, in store from 5 November.

The New Zealand Listener once said: ‘In an age of glossy packaging, Kevin Milne is a brown paper bag’. Assuming they meant it as a compliment, Kein Milne has called his book ‘The Life and Times of a Brown Paper Bag.

As he says, Fair Go stories are all in the telling. So, too, is his memoir. It’s insightful, incisive and constantly entertaining. Kevin’s relaxed and laconic writing and his self-deprecating humour makes this such a joy to read as he talks and laughs about his life, both on and off television.

The book’s publication is now especially poignant with the recent news that, after years of going into bat for the ‘little guy’, Kev just last week presented his final Fair Go programme.

This year, New Zealand been observing 50 years of television and, remarkably, Kevin Milne has worked in the industry for 40 of them; 25 of these with Fair Go, one of our most successful shows.

Naturally much of the book centres around Kevin’s years with Fair Go and the most memorable investigations he’s been involved with – from Maxicrop’s $6M defamation case which was the longest civil case in Commonwealth history, to the pensioner who bought a couple of old nuns for forty bucks then complained they were undersized and the wrong sex.
There are countless anecdotes of dodgy dealers, rat bags and outright crooks who Kevin and the Fair Go team have blown the whistle on over the years.

Kevin’s fondness of, and respect for, the untold reporters, presenters and back room stars who have come and gone on Fair Go over the years is palpable. Many cut their reporting teeth early on with the show and ended up with breaking news stories under their belts. He throws bouquets to them all but singles out the two who he believes are our best-ever broadcasters.

On a personal note, Kevin also writes revealingly about the sadness and tragedy of his teenage years, the joy of family life with Linda, his wife of over 30 years, their three boys and becoming a dad again at 53; and his recent ill health.

As you would expect, a career stretching to 40 years hasn’t always been smooth sailing and he also shares some of his professional disappointments – usually as a result of people simply being insensitive and cavalier in the way they dealt with others.

He also reflects on what’s ahead both for him professionally and for the fast-changing world of broadcasting, with stakeholders’ incessant drive for profit, and where Fair Go fits in to this: ‘Television is at a crossroad. Fair Go is at a crossroad. My career is at a crossroad.’

Here are a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite by kind permission of the publisher

Chapter one:
I’m in a shopping mall car park. Owen, my cameraman, starts filming. I randomly select a car, note its rego number, model, make, colour, and walk into an adjacent Post Shop. Using that scant information, I’m able to download the personal details of the owner off the Motor Vehicle Register. As if that wasn’t invasive enough, those details are all I need to now fill out a change of ownership form and have that car put in my own name. All this happens in five minutes and I return to the car, still filming.

When the car’s driver, a young woman named Jade, arrives back, I ask her if she owns the car. ‘Yes, I do,’ she says firmly.

‘So you are . . .’ (I mention her name and her address). She’s unnerved. ‘How do you know all that about me?’

I don’t answer her question but press on. ‘These ownership papers show this car’s registered in my name not yours.’

‘It’s MY car. Let me look at that.’ She’s astonished to find I’m right. ‘I’m going to talk to my father about this. He’s a policeman.’

I assured the lovely woman I had no intention of taking her car. But a few days later when Fair Go broadcast the video, our point was made. For months I’d been concerned how easy it was for crooks to change someone else’s car into their own name and for creeps to find out private, personal details about owners — particularly attractive, young female owners like Jade.

As a direct result of that story, a bill was passed in Parliament which will restrict access to the Motor Vehicle Register. I felt pretty clever.

Not long after, late one December Saturday morning, I had to dash from my home on the Kapiti Coast to Levin to pick up a Christmas tree. I had only half an hour till the place closed. I was in a panic because we were also due at friends’ for lunch. As we were about to set off, my son asked if he could stick the wheelie bin full of rubbish on the tow bar and drop it off at the gate when we drove out. Save him having to wheel it out our long drive later. ‘If you must,’ I said to him. ‘Just hurry.’

I confess to exceeding the 100 kilometre speed limit that morning on State Highway 1, especially in the passing lanes. But just before Otaki there was an enormous explosion — gave us all a hell of a fright. I pulled the car over. The kids were first to spot the problem. ‘Dad, you forgot to take the wheelie bin off.’ Unable to cope with speeds of up to 110 kilometres per hour, the bin, with its axle red-hot, had exploded, catapulting its contents all over the highway though, luckily, not into any other car.

It’s difficult to visualise how large an area the strewn contents of one big wheelie bin can cover. While the rest of the family sniggered safely from inside the car, I dashed between oncoming traffic, plucking up the Milnes’ domestic trash. It seemed mainly soiled disposables — our little girl was just two at the time.

I imagined kids in cars, screaming past, yelling to their parents, ‘Hey, wow, that guy gathering up the crap, wasn’t that the Fair Go guy? What’s his name?’

‘Don’t be stupid, son. That’s just a dosser going through trash. You get a lot of it round Christmas. Couldn’t be a TV presenter, anyway. They all go to Italy or somewhere for summer.’

I mention these two stories because whenever I start to think I’m a bit out of the ordinary something ruins it. Even when people try heroically to inflate my ego, it somehow doesn’t come off. One day I was walking to work and a guy shouted to me from across the road.

‘Hey, Ian. You’re a living legend mate.’ I adore outrageous flattery. If only he’d got my name right.

Over 20 years ago, Noel O’Hare of the Listener put it this way, ‘In an age of glossy packaging, Kevin Milne is a brown paper bag.’ Bang on. I think it was meant as a compliment and I’ll settle for that.
So, welcome to the life and times of a brown paper bag.

Just Desserts

Then there was the complaint that a carpenter had put in a new door on someone’s house with the cat door at the top. Unbelievable but true. Kerre Woodham, Fair Go’s blonde bombshell who had a lovely touch with those sorts of stories, was sent out to film the problem. She took with her a couple of Siamese-type cats belonging to Fair Go’s redhead bombshell, Rosalie Nelson. She also took one of those mini trampolines popular at the time for personal exercise and gym work. Fair Go stories are often all in the telling. To illustrate the difficulties facing any cat wanting to get through the cat door, she rolled cameras and popped the two lithe cats through the cat door so they jumped down onto the trampoline a couple of metres below. Then, in post-production, she simply reversed the action. With judicious editing, the cats seriously looked like they were taking a couple of build-up bounces on a trampoline, then with one huge effort were soaring great heights up to the cat door, clambering through and dropping to the floor on the other side. It was a masterful treatment, turning an oddball story into a funny, visual treat.

Publication date – 5 November

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