Peter Sinclair - the face and voice to a generation

By SCOTT MacLEOD

Peter Sinclair believed that the last thing he would see before he died would be a pohutukawa.

In St Joseph's Mercy Hospice in Epsom, where he spent his final hours, one of the rooms he had been resting in was adorned with the picture of a pohutukawa.

He faced death in the same way he faced life - by taking control.

After 40 years of carefully managing careers in broadcasting, pottery, and writing about the internet, he spent his last months musing on his looming death, in a series of Weekend Herald columns.

As the months counted down to hours and minutes, friends took turns at a bedside vigil.

Sinclair spoke briefly, but mostly listened. He died early yesterday of leukaemia, aged 62.

The tributes then poured in for an icon of New Zealand broadcasting.

He was born in Sydney on November 15, 1938, and moved to New Zealand when he was aged 2.

He worked in radio in the 1960s before shifting to television, where he presented news and fronted the pop music shows Let's Go, C'Mon and Happen Inn.

He later presented Mastermind, University Challenge and a series of fundraising Telethons.

At various times he ran two pottery stores. Later, he wrote the novel The Frontman and penned columns about the internet.

Singer Ray Columbus' first memory of Sinclair was of a dapper young man wearing a top hat and carrying a brolly.

That was in Christchurch more than 40 years ago, and the image was so striking that Columbus recognised him years later when they met in the television industry.

"He was always so fit, trim and tall, and he smoked like a chimney," Columbus said.

"Peter always had a book. He would stand up, deliver his lines perfectly, then go back to reading."

Others remembered him for never fluffing a line, and as an intensely private man who shunned the drugs and booze of showbiz.

Ihug director Tim Wood forged a close friendship with Sinclair in the mid-1990s, after the presenter walked off the street into the offices of the fledgling internet business.

Mr Wood said Sinclair struck him as a genuinely nice, humble man who loved life and who was happy to chat with ihug staff.

"Peter Sinclair was just Pete to us," he said. "He looked death in the face and it didn't faze him."

This year, Sinclair was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to broadcasting and won a Qantas award for his writing.

But he is best remembered as the face and voice to a generation, to whom he presented pop shows when they were teens, quiz programmes through their university years and love songs on radio in their middle age.

* Before he died, Peter Sinclair wrote two final columns for the Weekend Herald. These last Sinclair on Life features will appear on Saturday, along with memorable observations and insights from the columns and a full obituary.

Read the collection of Peter Sinclair's 'On Life' columns

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 20 Dec 2014 07:38:08 Processing Time: 856ms