Twelve Questions: David Herkt

David Herkt, 57, is a writer and TV producer who has penned a history of gay Auckland for this month's Pride Festival. Partnered for 35 years, he will not be getting married.

Historian and writer David Herkt. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Historian and writer David Herkt. Photo / Brett Phibbs

1. What was the most surprising thing you discovered writing Auckland's gay history?

I loved the fact that Auckland had hotels in the 1930s that catered to the gay trade where you could rent a room and share a bed with your same-sex partner.

2. And that secret gay language?

Polari is a gay slang language which dates back to Britain in the 17th century and was in use here in the 1930s to 1960s. "As feely ommes ... we would zhoosh our riah, powder our eeks, climb into our bona new drag, don our batts and troll off to some bona bijou bar." Older gay men remember it, and some can even rattle it off pretty fluently. It isn't used much anymore though some polari words like "naff", "camp", "butch", and "mince" have crossed over and are in pretty general usage.

3. Do we still need a Pride Parade in 2013?

It's fun, why not? It's a good reminder of the variety that makes up New Zealand life. But it is all the other events that go on around the Parade that I like better, like the nice summery Big Gay Out.

I'm still a party-music-lights kind of person, so I'm looking forward to the Proud Party in Victoria Park. I have such good memories of Auckland dawns after a good all-nighter.

4. What's with all the sparkly hotpants?

I've always thought the supposed good taste of gay men has always been over-estimated ... But think of "sparkly hotpants" in terms of the Rugby Sevens - it's silly, it's different from daily life, it's a costume.

5. You came out while at school in 1970 - how different would your experience be today?

Easier, but I'm not saying it is a breeze, because it isn't. My high-school headmaster was an ass and tried to expel me for being gay, which he couldn't do today. Gay, lesbian, and transgendered kids generally have to be little toughies because being different is hard.

6. What do you think about Marriage Equality?

So not interested. I always thought straight people should have wanted what we had - fluidity of relationships, sometimes multiple partners, committed but not monogamous relationships, as well as the traditional pairing - a huge variety. I'm not sure marriage has ever worked really well for straight people, why on Earth should we want it?

7. How long has your relationship lasted?

Thirty-five years. I was in a cinema in Wellington, and I felt something that I still can't describe so turned around to see John behind me. It took me a month to track him down and ask him out. He said "No, not ever" but I hung in there. As he says, it has been day-by-day since then, but it works.

8. You were once notorious as one half of New Zealand's first paparazzi website. Regret that now?

No regrets. It was actually a pretty crap website, but we PRed it well. You asking now, 10 years later, is a tribute to that. I'm not much interested in false public images of people. Always liked accurate information.

9. Wasn't that just like outing closeted gays?

Honesty, as they say, is the best policy. I generally feel sorry for closets. It isn't a healthy lifestyle. In saying that, I don't think I've ever outed anyone, at least by name.

10. Who is the most influential gay person in New Zealand today?

Probably Sam Johnson, the founder of Christchurch's Student Volunteer Army, young 2012 New Zealander of the Year, etc. He's young. He's bright. He'll learn that people are more important than money.

11. You suffered a stroke at about the same time as Chris Knox, a contemporary of yours. Any link there?

Chris and I crossed over in the same hospital ward. It was a massive event for both of us. I had to relearn everything from toilet-training to walking again. I enjoy the company of toddlers now because I really know what they're doing and why they're doing it - and I cannot describe the pleasure of graduating out of nappies after a month of them. The whole thing taught me a lot in terms of appreciation. You learn how lucky you are with even simple things like being able to walk. I'm still a little unco-ordinated when I run.

12. Has it made you face your own mortality?

As my father would have said, you're a mug if you don't.

- NZ Herald

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