Remembering broadcaster Kevin Black, a funny guy who was always gracious

By Mathew Dearnaley

Kevin Black. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Kevin Black. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Broadcasting legend Kevin Black, who endeared himself to tens of thousands of listeners with his madcap antics on Radio Hauraki in the 1980s and died this week of a suspected heart attack aged 69, will be farewelled at a requiem mass at St Patrick's Cathedral in central Auckland at 1.30pm on Monday.

His former friends and colleagues share some of their fondest memories of Blackie with the Weekend Herald.

Tony Astle, Proprietor of Antoine's Restaurant, Parnell

"He was larger than life, one of life's characters - you got what you saw, straight down the line. He was one of our longest, shall we say, sitting customers - he had an amazing constitution and it didn't matter what he did, we forgave him every time.

"We loved him as a customer and as a friend and it's all a bit of a shock for us. He will never be forgotten and he holds many records."

Mr Astle, who knew Black in Wellington before establishing Antoine's in 1973, recalled sharing a regular radio spot on which the DJ would call him for recipes.

"I was called Hints with Mint - he used to wake me up in the morning and we'd talk absolute crap. Every Friday we'd do recipes that were absolute hogwash."

Alan Whetton, Former All Black - co-hosted breakfast show with Black on Solid Gold FM for several years until their mutual retirement from broadcasting in 2009

"I finished at the same time as him because we were a little team. I had the latest part of his career - only for two or three years, but what a two or three years they were.

"He was such a funny guy - anyone who said they couldn't get on with Kevin Black, well, you're in another world.

"I just loved him to bits and he was an extremely generous man with his time, especially for a rugby jock like me.

"He just took the piss out of me all the time, saying I was just hopeless and soft and how could I be a rugby player, I was too good-looking?

He wanted to rough me up to make me look more menacing."

Barry Jenkin, Aka Dr Rock - former Radio Hauraki DJ

"I never ever heard Blackie lose his temper - I'm not even sure he had one. I've got a fairly short fuse but Blackie, whatever happened he just let it roll over him. He just went through life with a sort of equanimity if you like.

"He was just a joker - if Blackie was in the room there'd be a lot of laughing - that was a given. He was an entertainer, funny as a fight. He was a great guy and it's been a hell of a shock."

Phil Yule, Former Radio Hauraki breakfast show producer from the mid-1980s with Black, aka Boy Bob

"If we came up with a good idea, he could take that and go anywhere with it.

"He would ring people up and have them on, but it was all fun - there was no meanness at all.

"It was quite kind of ironic that his heart got him because he had a lovely, big heart. He seemed like a tough street guy but he was a lovely, gracious guy.

"One time he rang up a hair salon pretending his home-dyed hair had gone wrong - it was all henna-coloured but when he tried to wash it out it had all gone green and orange. You were thinking it was the hair on his head but it slowly evolved that it wasn't the hair on his head - the woman at the other end [of the phone line] just cackled her head off."

Phil Gifford, Broadcaster aka Loosehead Len - sports-casted for Black at Hauraki in the 1980s

"One of the great charms of Kevin Black was that he always had time for everybody and he actually enjoyed it. It wasn't a chore. If he hadn't been in radio he would have made an amazing barman - he was everybody's friend.

"He always seemed on the verge of a party and if you had the stamina to tag along with him you were going to be part of that as well."

Gifford revealed he did not tag along as often as radio listeners may have been led to believe "because I didn't have the constitution that Kevvy had" but recalled one outing which began at the former Gluepot pub in Ponsonby before gravitating over several hours to an upmarket club in High St.

"There didn't seem to be a person we came across who Kevin not only knew but was mates with and had a joke with."

John Hawkesby, Radio Hauraki breakfast show newsreader with Black

"Kevin knew everybody in radio and touched a lot of people's lives - people loved him."

Hawkesby recalls how station manager John McCready campaigned to move Black from another slot to the breakfast show in 1982 because "he thought he was so zany," but may have wondered what he had got himself into after a celebratory lunch at Antoine's Restaurant. Black chose the venue as it was the top restaurant at the time.

Mid-way through the afternoon McCready said he had to get back to work and gave Black a taxi chit.

At about 6.30pm he received a call from Antoine's proprietor Tony Astle saying he was sorry but Black was slumped asleep at a table which had to be re-set for dinner. McCready returned to collect him. Black, standing there, looks at McCready, then looks at his watch, and says, "you are very late for our lunch, I'm sorry but I went ahead and ate anyway".

- NZ Herald

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