Michele Hewitson interview: Mikey Havoc

By Michele Hewitson

The former enfant terrible of New Zealand broadcasting is happy in his new Hauraki timeslot.

Mikey Havoc is a bit bruised by life, but he's still reaching for the stars. Photo / Dean Purcell
Mikey Havoc is a bit bruised by life, but he's still reaching for the stars. Photo / Dean Purcell

We've had a wonderful day! Mikey Havoc said in response to the query from the waiter. He may even have meant it. I hope he did. The waiter said: "I'm sure every day's a wonderful day in the life of!"

The wonderful life of Mikey Havoc. He was only 10 minutes late, which for him, or the former him, was like being a week early. I had been teasing him a bit about his notorious lateness - he sometimes turned up hours late for his bFM shows - and he got a bit huffy.

All of that is ancient history and if I wanted to waste more space than has already been wasted in "a national newspaper" banging on about lateness, and the infamous parking fines he got about, as he would say, a zillion years ago, then I was a dick. He didn't actually say that, but that is what he meant. Being a dick is, in Havocland, the very worst thing a person can be; the prime minister is one too, by the way.

Is he a dick? Of course he can be, and has been. He can be belligerent and petulant and noisy and annoying. It's part of his appeal but he, mostly, gets away with it because he is also actually quite sweet.

I'm not sure I'd have guessed that he was; not many journalists would.

The old Havoc, in every interview that I can remember reading, seemed to go out of his way to antagonise his interviewer by telling him or her how crap New Zealand journalists were, and how amazing he, by comparison, was. Oddly - or at least at odds with his radio and television character - he mostly came across as angry and humourless which is what is called payback. You could never have accused him of trying to charm for flattering copy. You'd have doubted he possessed any charm.

We had lunch at Euro and he said that, amazingly, he'd never been here before. I suppose he meant that people, like the waiter, assume that he lives a pretty starry, wonderful life.

I asked him where he'd like to go for lunch and he said he didn't know because he hadn't been out for two years. He laughed like anything at the waiter's assessment of the life of Mikey Havoc. "Ha, ha, ha! Yeah, well, I struggled to get 20 bucks to get here. I had to borrow 20 bucks to get over here."

I felt like a heel (which is not quite as bad as being a dick, but close.) I hadn't even thought ... "No, you were too busy worrying about my parking fines, weren't you?" No, really, I was sorry. I wasn't to be sorry, he said, he had to come over (from the North Shore) for his newish job at Hauraki anyway. "I just mean that, you know, such is reality. It's all right."

The reality of being Mikey Havoc is that he's happy enough. He is very happy to be at Hauraki. He'd like to have some money and he'd like to move out of his mother's house where he's been living for the last two, broke, years. I said his mother sounded lovely - "oh, she's awesome" - and that he was lucky to be able to live with, and get on so well with, his mother. Still, she might be looking forward to getting rid of him. He said: "I'm not the burden I might seem. You'd be surprised."

He was a bit bruised by an earlier interview, but I wasn't to go into the details about why. "I'm trusting you, Michele." That was fair enough, but he didn't seem to have learnt about telling people silly things off the record. That was one of the sweet, almost naive things about him.

He said he thought there were more interesting things than the fact that he was 42 and living at home with his mum. Yes. He is Mikey Havoc who at 42 years old is living at home with his mum. He of all people should understand story arcs, and of course he does. Everyone will read that story and that nobody wants it to be, however tenderly told, about them.

He is spending 23 hours a day "over-analysing" his new show (he deserves a plug so here it is: Havoc Nights on Hauraki, from 7pm - 10pm.) When the Hauraki people asked him to come and see them, they asked: How was his dance card? Empty, he said. They told him about the job and he said: "Can I do this?" You can't imagine the old Mikey having told a journalist that story.

He said: "Probably I'm quite self-critical." And self-conscious? 'Oh yeah, I'm a lot more self-conscious, I think than most people realise." He said, "You know, I'm very genuine. If you've been watching my TV shows and listening to my radio show, the person that you imagine I am is pretty much what I am."

A clattery, noisy person, for one thing then, I'd have thought. He said, about restaurants, and going to them, in the days he used to go to restaurants: "I hate clattery, noisy restaurants." I thought he might be noisy, even when was at home, alone. He said, with really hardly a trace of sarcasm: "I don't have a radio show to myself. 'Hey, hey! It's me! I'm on!"' He likes Downton Abbey.

"Because it feels like somebody's put some effort into it." He doesn't watch it in his slippers, does he? Surely he hasn't got slippers. "I've got sort of slippers." What about his image? I don't actually know what his image is anymore. He doesn't either, although "I probably spend more time than I should contemplating it."

It's hard enough working out what it is he does. He settled for radio broadcaster. "I find it kind of weird that I'm good at radio ... I've listened to me but I don't know how to describe it. Why is it, it turns out that blithering nonsense and getting excited about everything is sort of ... I've tried analysing it."

He said: 'I don't do what I do, whatever that is, so that people will think I'm a cool person. For f***s sake. I gave up on thinking I'd be the coolest person in New Zealand quite a long time ago."

He had mineral water at lunch. Later, I said to people: Mikey Havoc doesn't drink and doesn't take drugs. They all fell about laughing. He asked me to phone him and I did the next day and I said: I told everyone you don't take drugs. And they fell about laughing. "Happy to take the test," he said. He was sort of, but also sort of not, joking.

I asked him at lunch about the drink and he said he's never really liked it and when he had his bar, Squid, he saw enough drunk people to put him off wanting to be one of them. Everyone thinks he takes drugs, he says and yes, they do - mostly because he's done everything to encourage that idea and nothing to discourage it. "No. Because it's okay for people to go out and get rotter face pissed. I just don't like the double standards that people have with drugs and alcohol." He said, of my glass of wine: "Aah, yes, the early morning nip."

HE is a bit bruised by life, which perhaps hasn't turned out to be quite as wonderful as it might have promised to be. He has been married, to the actress Claire Chitham, and is now divorced. They were great friends before they got together and they still are, but she now lives in Australia, so: "You know, I miss my friend."

He loved being married. I said, idly, and idiotically: "Can't you get back together?" and he was rightly, rigidly, furious. He managed not to call me a dick; instead he told me a story about a silly woman he met just after the break-up who said (he put on a silly, falsetto voice): " 'Oh, my God, you're my favourite celebrity! But did you really try to work it out?' I actually felt my fist form ... It was just like, you know: 'No, I just got wasted and forgot about it."'

You do rather get that when you sell your romance, and your wedding, to a magazine. If you want complete strangers to buy into your romance, they're going to be upset when you break up. He shrugged and said, the romance and the wedding story paid for the wedding, and he didn't "give a shit" about the women's magazines and he only did one other and that was when he was in the band Push Push and that was about drink driving. His father was killed by a drunk driver.

He said: 'I'm very serious about some things ... I'm really, really proud of the stuff I've done and I've been really lucky to be able to say things to the prime minister ... and being able to ask people questions ... and initiating some sort of conversation that has people talking about things that they should be talking about that they might not have otherwise."

He says he never thought, when he left bFM, that he'd be more or less out of work, except for a few fill-in gigs, for two years. But he hasn't sat around crying into his mineral water. He wanted to wait until the right job came up, he says. What he's really saying is that he absolutely hates the idea that people might feel sorry for him. Who would want people to feel sorry for them? Especially when you have, like Mikey Havoc, been the king of the world, the bees knees, a star, really.

Except that - and he'll no doubt say I'm a dick for saying it - I do feel a bit sorry for him but I like him all the more for it. He's softer, somehow - he did a bit of his usual ranting about how crap TV is; on The Ridges: "If that show rates, well, f*** you New Zealand, it's your own fault, stupid dicks", but it all seemed a bit by rote. He told me to F off a couple of times but it was more mild tetchiness than real temper.

Perhaps, I thought, he's grown up. I really shouldn't have asked whether he had any hobbies. He does and it is collecting, and wearing, and making up strange little skits in various creepy masks. His favourite is a cow/devil mask which is very weird. He showed me this on his phone. Then he showed me a video of him wearing an even creepier mask and driving a mobility scooter which belongs to his mate, Oliver Driver.

The idea of Oliver Driver, who is about 8 foot tall, most of it in perfectly able legs, owning a mobility scooter, appealed to him enormously.

He's a complicated, clever, seriously silly, and sometimes very serious character. He's been trying, for some years, to get a TV series on New Zealand's night sky made. And I thought, as he went: There goes Mikey Havoc, still reaching for the stars. And good on him. He can drive you mad, but you can still wish him all the luck in the world. That is his elusive charm.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n2 at 17 Sep 2014 22:48:08 Processing Time: 471ms