Last year Sir Paul Holmes and I were nearing the end of the regular phone chat we shared on his Saturday morning show on Newstalk ZB. I thought we had finished, so I hung up. My husband was still listening in the kitchen and heard him say: "My brother was saying the other day that you bring out the best in me Wendyl ... are you there? Oh ... she's gone."
I felt so sad that I didn't get to hear him say that to me because I would have had the chance to correct him: Paul brought out the best in me and everyone else who had the privilege to work with him during his stellar career.
Paul and I " had history" as they say in the business.
We got off to a bad start when he tried to get me disciplined when I was a TV writer at the New Zealand Herald in 1989. I was hauled before my editor and asked to explain a review of Paul's first show, which featured the walkout by Stars and Stripes skipper Dennis Conner. I said The Holmes Show abused its role as a current-affairs vehicle by allowing itself to sway towards sensationalism. My editor Peter Scherer seemed to be under the impression from Paul that there was malice intended and he explained that if there was then I was in deep trouble legally and would no doubt lose my job. I was fairly shocked. Paul and I didn't talk for some years, and when we did he could still recount that review word for word.
Over the years, Paul gave the women's magazines I edited some marvellous stories. The most significant was his marriage to Hinemoa Elder which was covered by Woman's Day and signalled the arrival here of cheque book journalism. In 1997, I was editing the Woman's Weekly and secured an exclusive story with the infamous Ingham twins who, as 18-year-olds, gained international notoriety after stowing away on a Malaysian container ship in Nelson. Paul rang me, desperate for the story for his TV show.
"Come on Wendyl, give me their number," he said.
I got a lot of satisfaction from stringing him along just for the pleasure of getting him back for trying to get me fired at the Herald. But I was impressed that Paul himself got on the phone, because despite being surrounded by producers and journalists Paul would talk to newsmakers, secure the story and then follow it up with an interview of such intimacy and empathy that it sometimes took my breath away.
There was no false modesty from Paul , he enjoyed being well known, and he enjoyed being talked about.
But there was no room in Paul's life for second-rate work and he was demanding of himself in this regard, sometimes too demanding. My one hope is that Paul had the time to look back this past year, at where he'd come from and finally given himself a firm pat on the back for being the best broadcaster this country has produced and for being a man who helped others with a rare generosity.