Michele Hewitson interview: Mike Puru

The Edge morning radio jock reveals why he asked Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh to his same-sex engagement party. Photo / Richard Robinson
The Edge morning radio jock reveals why he asked Prime Minister John Key and his wife Bronagh to his same-sex engagement party. Photo / Richard Robinson

When I phoned the radio guy, Mike Puru, to ask for an interview he said: "Is there a scandal I don't know about?" I did hope not. I already knew more than anyone should know about him - including having seen a picture of him on the internet wearing red Speedos. Later I thought: A scandal involving him that he doesn't know about, and I don't know about? Everyone would know about such a scandal because he'd have told them.

He also said: "But you only interview interesting people." So here are some of the things anyone who knows who he is would know about him and which may or may not be interesting: He is one third of the Edge's top morning radio trio of Jay-Jay, Mike and Dom who inhabit a world where the stars are known only by their first names and whose schtick is stunts and general craaaaziness and sharing every, or most, of the personal details of their lives. This despite the fact that he "pretended" for years and years that he wasn't gay, until he came out, on air, in 2010.

He then became engaged to his long-term partner, Regan Wallis, a manager at Kmart, sold the story to a woman's magazine (of course) and invited the prime minister to his engagement party.

You might be able to excuse this invitation as sheer cheek but the really strange bit of that story is that the PM, and his wife, Bronagh, actually went to his engagement party.

"He stole my thunder all right!" Served him right, I said, because, honestly, what shameless sucking up and self-promotion. That he cheerfully agreed that it did indeed serve him right to have his thunder stolen lessens the shamelessness not a bit. This story gets (according to me) much, much worse because he then sent the PM a text saying he and Regan had a "thank you for coming to our engagement party present", and they'd like to give it to him.

Which is how he ended up at the PM's house on election day to hand over the present which was a "cheap" $44 bottle of wine which the PM presumably graciously accepted and then placed in his wine cellar. How big is his wine cellar? "It's huge!" This was, said the suck up, "the most embarrassing day of my life". Well, good, because that is beyond sucking up. He said, a bit shamefacedly, I thought: "Well, what do you give the prime minister?"

How much of a suck up is he? He's now a National voter after having voted Labour all his life.

He said, about my knowing about the going to the PM's house on election day: "You've done your research." No I hadn't. The PR person at the Edge told me to ask him about it. But I bet if I'd said "Mike Puru" to anyone who had met him even once, at his corner dairy, say, they'd have said: "Ask him about going to the PM's house on election day." Because he'd have told him.

He said: "I copped quite a bit of flak" for having the PM at his engagement party. Goodness, I wonder why? "Oh, people think you're a bit of a wanker for having the prime minister at your engagement party." No kidding. "Hey! If you're a young Southland dude from Gore, who ends up living and working in Auckland and you're at the point where you can say to the prime minister of the country: 'You should come along to our engagement party,' and he turns up!"

That could have sounded a bit show-offy but it really wasn't. At 36 he still seems like the sweet little boy from Gore, whose family - mum, dad, his two sisters and their partners - worked at the meat works, and who still can't believe his luck. He's been at the Edge for 17 years; and on the breakfast show for five.

"I sometimes feel guilty about the job that I do: Four hours of pissing around having a laugh, never paying for anything, and here these guys are slogging their guts out in a concrete shed, eight hours a day."

His is a strange job. It involves sharing, he says, about "90 per cent" of his private life with his listeners - 90 per cent! I don't want to know about the other 10 per cent, thank you very much. He told me much more than I wanted to know about going to a U2 concert and having wild sex in a Portaloo. Blimey.

Who with? "Regan!" Oh, well, that's all right then; that's just old married couple sex. (They have been together for nine years and were supposed to get married this year but they haven't got organised.) He also told me about "a sexual rendezvous" with a famous pop star. I shouldn't have asked who, but I did and it was one (I think it was only the one) of a group from Amsterdam called the Vengaboys, who I'd never heard of. Their first number one hit was Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom.

He said he could never boast about this liaison until after he came out, so perhaps it's the relief of having done so that makes him tell a complete stranger such things. I was asking him about that scandal he didn't know about, because he's never been involved in a scandal, has he? No. He was a good boy, and he still is, I think. He says he's "pretty good", and that's partly because he has to be because he's on the radio and: "Your whole life is on the radio."

He was head boy at St Peter's College in Gore (his parents weren't Catholic; the three kids went to St Peter's after the family home burnt down and the headmaster, "who was driving past at the time" and saw his mother crying, offered a free place and uniforms to his older sister who was about to begin her secondary education.) He never had a boyfriend in Gore.

"Have you seen the quality of the boys in Gore?" He did, later, have some girlfriends and he still feels bad about them, much later, finding out he was gay. But why would he feel bad? "I wouldn't want them to feel like I was using them." Despite not really being Catholic, he does seem to take on a lot of guilt. "Maybe that's my problem!"

He says he's neurotic, and he is a bit. But what is he neurotic about? He said: "I get paranoid about things too much." He worries about what people think of him. "Yeah, I do. Maybe I worry that people think I don't reach my own potential."

That is a very odd sort of worry. Why would anyone but him - and his mum and dad and Regan, possibly, and they all think he's done wonderfully well - worry about his potential? I think he worries about people liking him. "I think that's what it is." It's a big part of his job to make people like him, so you can see why he might have that particular worry and it's a rather endearing one.

"Yeah, that's bang on the money and that stems right back to that whole: Do you want to come out?" He went home and "cried for three hours, hysterical crying" after doing just that. He thought coming out might give people a reason not to like him. "Yeah, because although New Zealand is a lot more accepting than it was, and it's so much easier nowadays, still, people are funny about it."

Er, yes. Him for example! "Well, as Dom said the other day, maybe I'm a homophobic homo." And is he? "I think it's potentially true." But what does that mean, exactly? He did answer, in a variety, of ways, but I'm still not sure. Basically it means he doesn't enjoy the camp stereotype and he doesn't want to be judged as gay, whatever that means. What it means in practice is that he won't hold Regan's hand or show him any affection in public.

He also refuses to walk their two dogs around their Remuera neighbourhood because he doesn't want people to say: Look at those gay guys with those gay dogs. What sort of dogs are they? "One is a Sydney silky crossed with a Maltese terrier." You couldn't get a gayer dog!

"Regan insists on getting these gay dogs. At least it's not a poodle!" This dog is called Rusty and "Rusty had sex with my gay friend's Chihuahua and then they had a little puppy." This dog is called Lily. He showed me a picture on his phone, so he loves them, really.

He said of Regan: "He's completely straight. Well, he's not completely straight! Ha, ha. But, you know, he can go to a bar and people wouldn't think he was gay or anything."

This is all rather complicated, if you ask me, and I did wonder whether he thought it was a bit sad that he couldn't bring himself to hold hands with Regan, and whether Regan minded. (Nobody else does; not their friends, obviously, or their families.) "It is sad. And I sometimes think he does mind." He says he came out on air for Regan, and also for the show because "the best broadcasters ... are the ones that are themselves because people can relate to them".

I still don't quite understand why he put himself through what he calls "pretending" because - despite him telling people at gay bars who asked him if he was gay, that, no, no, he was just meeting a friend - everyone knew he was gay, surely? "You'd have to have been a blimming numbnuts not to have known, wouldn't you! I mean, jeez! I don't know. I don't know why I was so scared."

Anyway, despite the worry and the shock he seems to have given himself at having finally come out on air, and, when he's not being paranoid, he's blissfully happy. "People would kill for the sort of job and the sort of life that I have. I have great friends, a hot boyfriend, a nice house."

He's a nice fellow, and, yes, interesting. And I almost forgive him for the terrible sucking up because I now think he does it to everyone, not just prime ministers. He said: "Be kind. I've got another $44 bottle of wine in the car for you!"

- NZ Herald

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