Sir Paul's sign off is far too soon

By Roger Moroney

By this stage of things you will have read and heard pretty much all that could be said about Sir Paul Holmes, who left the studio for the last time yesterday morning.

Indeed, as you will have come to conclude, he was a remarkable sort of a bloke.

He didn't do or achieve everything in his 62 years of life but he gave it a pretty good shot.

Being in this media game, I met up with Sir Paul a couple of times, when he was simply Paul.

The first occasion was memorable.

"I thought you were a bloody schoolteacher," he snapped at me, with the hint of a smile emerging.

I was speechless and went to say something but nothing came out.

"But there's nothing wrong with schoolteachers - got a lot of time for schoolteachers," he added quickly, then said "right, where do you want me for the photo?"

It was a story I was doing about a reunion of his old school, about a year after he had burst big-time into the media spotlight in the wake of his confrontational interview with Dennis Conner.

I was doing television reviews for the old Daily Telegraph and had made the point that it appeared "Dirty Dennis" had been set up. That an interview with a man at the top of his game in America's Cup yachting was really not the ideal occasion to try and elicit an apology from him for his "get off the stage, loser" comments to one of the beaten Kiwi cup team.

In hindsight, it was a media masterstroke, and I guess underlined the philosophy of Sir Paul - if there was an avenue there to wind them up or carve them up, go for it.

He never compromised himself.

And so, I met him for the story and he recalled my review with a wry smile and an almost tut-tut attitude - linking the review to a schoolteacher clumsily berating a pupil.

I said "you're not going to walk out on me are you?" and his face blazed into a smile.

"Wouldn't dream of it," he said, before getting in the great last words.

"No one walks out on anyone if they've got nothing to hide."

I did, however, get the feeling he would never invite me over for a few drinks and, on one other occasion, he sort of grinned oddly when he saw me and said "ahh, it's the schoolteacher".

Sir Paul was arguably one of those people you either embraced or did not, and I liked the guy.

He was hard-edged yet had a remarkable compassion about him.

Hard to sum him up, really, and my real sadness is that we are summing him up a good two decades too early.

He'll stay within New Zealand broadcasting history the way Walter Cronkite has stayed in the American arena.

Can't be matched.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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