Michele Hewitson Interview: Martin Devlin

By Michele Hewitson

Martin Devlin. Photo / Dean Purcell
Martin Devlin. Photo / Dean Purcell

Is the broadcaster and sports nut Martin Devlin a right plum? Of course he is. It's the best possible description of him and he wrote it, in, of all things a press release.

The press release was to announce the lifting of a suppression order in relation to a bonkers incident during which he had a row with his wife, former TVNZ PR manager, Andi Brotherston, and sat on the bonnet of their car "for some inexplicable reason", as he wrote in that press release, on Quay St. The silly bugger.

Does he know why he did it? "Yeah, because she was probably going to run me over otherwise." Is that true, or one of his jokes? "I married the only person in the world who's never been wrong."

And she married the only person in the world who's never been wrong. "Probably." (Actually, they probably both came up with that "right plum.") He was charged, he thinks, over the bonnet sitting on "the suspicion of disorderly behaviour". I would think that with him there is always the suspicion that disorderly behaviour is lurking not very far beneath the surface.

He has a new gig, although not yet a start date, as the breakfast host for Radio Hauraki - my reason for going to see him - although beyond saying his show would be "talking a load of bollocks about stuff and doing it again the next day", we didn't actually talk about his new show. Instead he talked a load of bollocks, and I sat there trying to decide what was true and what was truly bollocks.

Almost all of it, alas, turned out to be true. He really does collect taxidermied animals, for example, and he really did say, when I asked why on Earth he'd want a dead bear as a rug, that it was so he could do things to the missus on it. That's the sort of thing he loves saying, and the sort of stuff that really is utter bollocks, I hope.

I had an hour with him during which he was (for him) actually pretty well behaved, except for the swearing at the top of his voice. This was in a cafe, where a few kids seemed mildly intrigued by the shouty sweary man in the way kids would be if a clown had wandered into the cafe and had lunch.

Anyway, it is very nice of him to see me because there was a row with this paper over an incident in which he was escorted from a Jetstar plane by the police. This is a long story but the outcome was that he complained to the Press Council about the paper's coverage and, according to him, "We dicked their arse, didn't we, really? I mean, we picked their freckle big time!" I think that's what he said, although that's a new one on me and I was talking over the top of him at the time, trying to shut him up, with predictable effect.

It was as profitable as trying to get a mad dog howling at the moon to shut up; you just encourage it. On he went, howling:"We just absolutely took the cane and we gave them six of the best and then we gave it to them again!"

If he says so, and of course he does, with enormous enjoyment. He likes a good shout. I did wonder why he was so bothered about the Jetstar story because it doesn't do his image any harm to be seen as a bad boy, surely? "It's okay to be a larrikin. To be accused of abusing somebody who is working puts you in wanker mode, doesn't it? I mean, God, I was humiliated. I didn't want to go out of the house. [A mother of] my kid's friend basically banned her son from playing with him because of what his father did on the plane. Some dickhead at mum's work cut out the story and put it in her bag."

Had he forgotten that he was talking to somebody who works for the paper who he, or so he says, gave six of the best and so on and on to? That is entirely possible. He sent the editor a congratulatory note when he got a promotion.

That is the part of him that is the boy who was raised a Catholic and went to St Patrick's College, Silverstream, in Upper Hutt. His definition of being a Catholic is "you realise that all it teaches, really, is to be kind to people and not to f*** other people off and try to raise your children nice." That is possibly not strictly a theological definition, or quite how his teachers might have put it, but the sentiment is there.

He's a funny fish, one of those puffer ones, perhaps, which blows itself up when threatened and is toxic if not prepared properly and regarded as a delicacy to anyone brave enough to risk eating it, or in his case, employing him. He swims around perfectly peacefully, if loudly, the rest of the time, at home, where he does all of the cooking, and the washing.

His wife, who I dealt with in her role as formidable and seldom passed gatekeeper at TVNZ, sent a text to ask if I would include that he lies around the house all weekend in his "baggy undies" tweeting, in the hope that he'd stop it. I was just glad to hear that he was wearing something ( although we could all have done without the "baggy" information). I hope he doesn't do the housework in the nude, and I certainly wasn't going to ask because he'd already told me more than enough about how he takes his clothes off when he's watching Manchester United play.

I'm not sure of the details because I really didn't want to know, but the clothes come off when his team is winning, I think. Does he get over-excited? I really shouldn't have asked. "Sometimes! I just whack it in the fridge door!" What? No, let's move on.You try moving him on.

He has some mad ideas about the differences between men and women. I hadn't asked because, who would? The only publishable example of how "you're weird, you women" is his "theory" that "I can walk into a shop and buy a pair of jeans and I'm trying them on in the booth and all of a sudden there's a knock on the door and [Australian model] Miranda Kerr, who is the shop assistant, says, 'I want to ... so I probably will.' [I've deleted the rude bit, but you get the gist.] A woman would phone the police, he reckons, and "that is the fundamental difference between men and women. Number one."

I said, desperately, trying to get him off his over-active fantasy life, that I was glad he was now happily married. I really am. If he's terrible now (his favourite word is "rooting"), imagine what he'd have been like single? It doesn't bear thinking about. So, thank goodness, he and Brotherston have been married since 1996 and they adore each other. So why does he go on like that? He's a bloke.

He's one of the blokey-iest blokes I've met, one who does all the cooking and washing and whose wife does the hammer and nails stuff and can rewire a sound system and set up the MySky and he's hopeless at any of that. He said, proudly, "she's a farm girl. She can drive a tractor."

He told me he pinched her from Steven Joyce (now an MP) and that I wasn't to put this in, but of course he wanted me to. What's more, he gave her the eye in front of Joyce, who was showing him around the New Plymouth radio station where Joyce was the boss, where Brotherston - who was living with Joyce - was working and where Devlin was about to start working. He didn't quite drag her off by the hair back to his man cave, but it's that sort of manly story. He was living with someone at the time too. So he was cheating on her.

"I've always been a believer in the Bill Clinton philosophy on this: "I didn't have sexual relations with that woman." This led to another of his loony rants on the nature of men versus women and it is that, 'You can be walking past a window and all a sudden, you're completely nude, getting rooted, and it may not mean anything." I think he read too many Playboy magazines in his youth.

And it's all just talk. His wife might be even stroppier than he is. If you whack him, you'll get a harder whack back from her. They are inordinately protective of each other and it's widely held in media circles that she's the one who runs his career and his image. "I think she'd be horrified to be accused of that!" He does have a point. When he was about to go on Dancing with the Stars, Brotherston was at a meeting at TVNZ where the contestants were described as "D grade celebs whose careers are f***ed". I won't say who said it, but he turned and said, "Oh. Andi. I didn't mean your husband!" She said, "Of course you did." He swears it's true.

He also swore that she tracks his movements through his phone - neither of us had a clue how this might be done - and that she asked him recently what he'd been doing in Titirangi. He said he hadn't been in Titirangi and she said he certainly had: "I tracked you on your phone." "Is that normal? Is it normal that your wife has actually got your password and changes it?" I thought he really was making this up, but when I told her he'd said this, she said, "Guilty." I don't know if it's normal that his wife does his salary negotiations, but he says he's hopeless at that too.

He loves it really, being stalked by his wife, via his phone. I think he loves the idea that there's one person, a woman, of all weird creatures, who can, almost, control him, if not his career. He says he and Brotherston sat down at one point and made a list of his potential employers and "I'd pretty much told the whole to F off." But why had he? "Because they all deserved it!"

He's an explosive, unpredictable character who was an annoying kid - "All the time" - and can be an annoying adult. He says he's clever and while he is, you want to give him a good slap for saying so. Of course he's a right plum, but there is something rather sweet about him. His definition of ambition is earning enough money so that his mum can stop cleaning toilets, which she does to support family. That's sweet. Saying so might do more damage to his reputation than anything he's ever done, but serves him right for all the bollocks.

- NZ Herald

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