Sports Cafe: The full interview

By Kris Shannon

The stars of Sports Cafe reunited to discuss the legacy of the show a decade on. Photo / Chris Gorman
The stars of Sports Cafe reunited to discuss the legacy of the show a decade on. Photo / Chris Gorman

The Herald caught up with the stars of Sports Cafe to reminisce about the show almost 10 years after the conclusion of its original run. What followed was a rambling discourse about the scandals, the snails and the Salizzo factor.

Does the gang still hang out?

Leigh Hart: "People probably think we hang out all the time, because of the show, but we didn't hang out back then."

Graeme Hill: "With shows like that, people think it's like The Monkees, where they all live together."

Eva Evguenieva: "I try to avoid it at all costs."

Marc Ellis: "It's ironic because Ric [Salizzo] is the guy who always talks about how they were wonderful days. It's almost to the extent where we've had enough of him and, as a net result, cut ties. That's why he's not here today - he's not actually overseas."

Hill: "This is the first time we've all been together in one spot and we've actually sacked Ric from the friendship circle. This is a coup while he's away."

Ellis: "He's got to look forward. Sure, they were halcyon days - by his standards. But we've just kept on charging. If you want to look at someone who exemplifies the attitude, it's the human cannonball. He's running a very successful advertising agency and he's the one with a decent car."

On news Ric has been digitsing old VHS tapes of the show...

Hill: "It's sad when it comes to that, really, isn't it? I didn't know it was that bad."

Hart: "It's a bit like watching footage of a colostomy or something. It's powerful footage but you're just not sure you want to be watching it."

Do fans still approach you about Sports Cafe?

Hart: "You hear stuff all the time from the public, which is great, because you've got great memories of the shows and all the fun stuff. But then you think of all the financial allegations that went on, with Ric and stuff. A lot of the time we didn't know where the money was going. There was a lot of that going on."

Evguenieva: "We kept trying to get paid but he didn't want to pay me, and we still haven't been paid."

Ellis: "He's made it. He's in Mission Bay and he's got a four-wheel drive."

Hart: "It's like the winebox, inquiry trying to get to the bottom of it, but you never will."

Ellis: "What we can say about that is, the apple and the tree, it doesn't fall far apart. And Ric's father was Italian."

How much of the tension on the show was real?

Ellis: "[The tension between Lana Coc-Kroft and I] was a different kind of tension. More of a sexual nature, at least from my perspective. Lana's so much more mature - she's moved on now. Ric's was another form of tension. It was the only job where you could get paid to have a few beers and try to ruin a show."

Hart: "Often if you had enough beers you could even wreck the next show as well. If you did it properly - not just the show you're on but next week's show as well. If you really tied one on."

Hill: "The more you tried to wreck it, the more people wanted to see a wreck."

Hart: "We can't really remember those one."

Ben Hickey (aka Human Cannonball): "It was two years of alcohol abuse, really."

Lana Coc-Kroft: "Two years? Did you go to treatment or something? And they just told you to shorten that time?"

Hart: "You probably squeezed five years into those two."

Ellis: "I think somebody had to leave because that had a little problem with it. Hong Kong sevens, he came back with no footage at all and he's lost his suit and his bags and his wallet. He went into Ric's office, saying, 'well, shit, this isn't going to go down so well, but I might have made a mistake'. You could hear the blood-curdling screams from blocks away."

Hart: "We went to Las Vegas, you, me and Ric, and came back with no footage, either. But that was Ric's fault. He was in bed hungover the whole time and we were out trying to film stuff."

How often were you intoxicated on set?

Ellis: "You see, that's the beauty of the show - we'll never know the answer."

Hart: "Often if you have a cameraman that's drunk he can make whoever he's filming look drunk, because he's all over the place. If the camera's wobbling around, then it's going to look like you're wobbling around."

And acting?

Ellis: "An enormous amount. We'll never know really."

Hart: "About 70 per cent, 30 per cent. But you can't tell which is which."

Was the 2008 comeback series akin to Michael Jordan tarnishing his legacy during his stint with the Washington Wizards?

Hickey: "If Michael Jordan was an alcoholic."

Hart: "It's pretty hard to tarnish rust. Severe oxidation."

Ellis: "I think the problem with the show, and its longevity, was clearly Ric."

Hill: "And we concentrated too much on sports. It would seem to be every week sport was pretty much the major thing. And I have no idea why."

Where did the That Guy - and his snail-racing debut show - come from?

Ellis: "They was all mates from varsity, effectively. I think it was a strange, South Island sense of humour."

Hart: "It was a strange transition from sitting in a car with Marc and a Tupperware container full of snails, knowing that you're about to make your TV debut. Nothing organised other than that. Seat of your pants kind of stuff. Especially when there's no one in Sky studios and there's no one laughing. I left that thinking I'd wrecked everything. No one lingered afterwards and said, 'that was cool', or anything. I didn't hear anything for weeks. I just about committed suicide."

Coc-Kroft: "It's not often you get to perform for so many years completely unrestricted. Uncontained in any way. And it was live. If you've ever worked in television, it takes so long and it's so arduous. But here you'd just show up and do the show and if you had a bad show, you didn't care."

Hart: "The pre-recorded stuff was even live as far as Ric was concerned. If I did a filler story, Ric would never know what it was going to be like, because he's always ask you to something and you'd do the opposite. He'd be going nuts at the cameraman afterwards, going, 'what did you do that for?'

Evguenieva "We basically did whatever we wanted to."

Will there be another comeback?

Coc-Kroft: "The answer's no. I'll answer on behalf of everything."

Ellis: "I refuse to work with Ric again. If Ric were man enough to step down, then I'd be the first to put my hand up and take his role. If everyone else was amenable..."

Hill: "I'm thoroughly desperate. I'll do anything."

Hart: "I'd say most of us have got a better chance of working with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, before we work with Ric again."

Ellis: "I can't remember the bloody show, full stop."

Hill: "You are here for the right show? This is Sports Cafe."

Ellis: "Shit. I wondered where Ridgey was."


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