Seventeen years in the parliamentary press gallery and a plethora of insider stories and secrets under his girth, it's no surprise the politicians flocked to Duncan Garner's booze-fuelled farewell bash on Wednesday - to make sure he left the building.
"It was a good old-fashioned piss-up," said the guest of honour. "David Shearer apologised he couldn't make it, he had to be with his son. He said he was sorry he couldn't help escort me off the premises," Garner chortled. "He's been hurt by my blogs."
The outgoing political editor is proud his TV3 reports and blogs on the network's website have exposed the animosity between Shearer and David Cunliffe, which culminated in the latter's caucus demotion this week. Garner boasts he's been reprimanded by the Labour leader's attack dog, Fran Mold. It's a sign, he says, he's doing his job. But as Gerry Brownlee tells it, Garner didn't always do his job.
"Gerry made a speech, well, when he could get a word in edgewise from self-appointed MC [Barry] Soper. He reminded me of a tip-off he gave me in 1996 about a coup to roll Jim Bolger. I said, "f*** off Brownlee, what would you know?' Turns out, more than me," Garner laughs.
Brownlee was joined by Cabinet colleague Paula Bennett, who brought her dancing shoes and a bottle of bubbly to the party. "I was celebrating the MSD's win over John Tamihere that day," Bennett said.
Tamihere's Waipareira Trust lost a lawsuit in the Auckland High Court against the Ministry of Social Development which ended their Family Start contract earlier this year, valued at $1.4 million.
Former Labour bovver man Trevor Mallard was there with his new girlfriend, Listener columnist Jane Clifton. He's now dubbed "Trevor Mellowed" for the noticeable niceness makeover he's undergone since Clifton's arrival. "He was really lovely," said Garner. "It was the first time in 17 years."
Andrew Little arrived - without the paper bag he threatened to wear.
"Little said he didn't want to look like a leak," Garner said, in reference to his legal wranglings with Crusher Collins.
Shane Jones toted his new partner and had earlier promised to "bring some kai". But Garner had made sausage rolls the night before and made a call to Pizza Hut.
"I ordered a pile of pizzas for Gerry and a couple of vegetarian ones for Russel Norman and the Greens. I made sure the mozzarella got the heart-tick for Sue Kedgley."
Patrick Gower, who replaces Garner as TV3 political editor, played barman. Garner moves to Auckland on Monday with his family to host RadioLive's drive programme. Next year he will front TV3's new current affairs show 3rd Degree.
Holmes: I'm fine
A blog posting this week suggesting Paul Holmes has terminal congenital heart failure and been given weeks to live is "rubbish" says the man himself.
"Nothing is really wrong with me," Holmes told The Diary. Earlier this month he was re-admitted to Hawke's Bay Hospital for observation after a bladder infection. "The prostate cancer came back a bit and gave me a bit of a worry, but that's the extent of it. I'm fine."
Anna stays mum
Anna Paquin welcomed twins back in September, but the 30-year-old True Blood star is still staying mum on the names or their gender. Even brother-in-law Russel Norman, who's happy to harp on about the banking industry, is staying schtum. However, Life & Style magazine reported this week the couple had a boy and girl.
"They had a baby boy and a girl and thought that was perfect," an unattributed source told the mag. I guess we'll have to wait for the inevitable paid-for tabloid story.
Apple gets two bites at 50th
As far as 50th birthdays go, Billy Apple has had two. The 76-year-old, born Barrie Bates, celebrated a half century of his self-developed brand last night with drinks at a K'Rd gallery. The who's-who of the Auckland art scene toasted the man who, after a Kiwi DIY reinvention, went on to become a significant figure in New York pop and conceptual art.
It all started in a London flat in 1962. Bates was killed off and Billy Apple was born.
"The brand was a way to get away from the New Zealand connection. Suddenly, you're from nowhere, you're brand new. I became British - I was created there in 1962. I could say: 'Billy Apple was born in London,' and a lie detector wouldn't twitch," Apple told Frieze magazine.
Fifty years later, the irony is not lost that the brand is toasting his longevity in New Zealand. Billy Apple will be the subject of a survey exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery next year.