Editorial: Indebted to work of media icon

Paul Holmes did me a big favour once. He won't remember it.

It was in 1995, a few days before my wedding in Auckland. Shelly's dress had not arrived by courier from Wellington, where a friend had lovingly made it.

At that time, as host of Holmes on Television New Zealand, he always signed off with a one-minute story or item. Desperate times called for desperate measures, so I rang the show and asked them to highlight our dilemma.

He took the trouble to ring the courier company, assessing that they weren't feeling that good about it. They would, he said on air, pay for a new dress and shoes - and fingers were crossed that the original dress would turn up.

The next day it arrived at our Glenfield home. Not from a courier. But from a nearby house. It had been delivered to Tree View Ave, been driven down Seaview Rd and redelivered at our Valley View Rd address. I guess you can see how the mistake was made.

That was the power of Holmes, who by then was a broadcasting icon. The show's viewing figures were incredible, and our mystery deliverer had watched right through to that last minute.

A recent editorialist paper said: "Paul Holmes is one of those media personalities you love or hate." I feel neither emotion.

I respect him for his talent, and his honesty. It was 1987 when I first saw him in the flesh - rushing into a vegetable shop in the Wellington suburb of Kelburn. It was no wonder he was in a hurry - Auckland beckoned, he was about to become breakfast host at 1ZB driving the new format of news, interviews and talkback.

Within two years he'd risen into the collective consciousness of the country with the arrival of Holmes.

Many point to the notorious Dennis Conner studio walkout as a turning point for the show, but in those early years it maintained impossibly high standards of delivery night after night. Quite simply it was hard-working, cutting-edge television. We relied on it to deliver, and it almost always did. The ringmaster, the driving force you can guarantee was Holmes.

In a country where tall poppies are readily cut down, he never denied his considerable talents by subverting his personality so others could feel more comfortable.

He changed broadcasting, loosened it up. Who outside of television circles knew about the autocue until it failed Holmes and he turned it into a prop?

In many ways he is not your typical New Zealander, but he knew the heart and soul of New Zealand better than any broadcaster before him - he had the common touch.

Having delved into others' lives, he shares his own, not hiding from his frailties - marriage failure, parenting difficulties, health issues.

Few in any endeavour work harder, at such a consistently high level and under such daily scrutiny as he did for 15 years in those two media roles.

Of course he is also a writer of note and was involved in various causes. Not to mention his dabbling in acting, singing, dancing and flying.

Holmes earns instant recognition from anyone in their early 20s right through to the elderly - testament to his place in the media world.

I owe him a favour. I bet a lot of people do.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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