The Hits radio host Mike Puru says being dumped from The Bachelor taught him that his life is not defined by a job. He hosts the Santa Party at Aotea Square this Sunday after the Farmers Santa Parade.
1 How did you cope with being dropped from The Edge Breakfast Show and then TV3's The Bachelor?
It took a while for me to get through, in all honesty. After 20 years at Mediaworks, I was disappointed. I thought I was delivering everything they needed me to, so it came as a surprise. It took three years to find full-time work again and I got to the point where I thought, "Maybe I'm no good at this" but my partner kept telling me it was going to be alright. I ended up getting this job on The Hits Drive with Stacey Morrison and Anika Moa. We're the gayest, brownest show on radio. I love it!
2 What did you learn from that whole experience?
I learned not to take it personally - it's just business. I discovered that I am a good broadcaster - I just needed more confidence in my abilities. I learned that your whole life is not defined by one job. In hindsight, it was the right time for me to try new things. It also taught me the importance of your relationships with family and friends - if you've got that strong core, you can get through everything.
3 You're known as the nice guy of radio. Does anything get you angry?
I just take a few deep breaths and try not to get over analytical about everything. I still get a bit frustrated when people are judgemental because I'm thinking, "You don't know what's going on in people's lives."
4 You 'came out' as gay on the radio nearly ten years ago. Looking back, would you do anything differently?
I wish I'd done it sooner. I was petrified that it was going to ruin my career and I was worried about the impact on my family. The silly thing that helped reinforce keeping it secret was Havoc and Newsboy going to my hometown on their TV show and calling it, "Gay Man's Gore; dirty old, round the back of the fence, be careful in the toilets Gore". The mayor got involved and it was all through the papers. I thought, "Oh my God, the last thing Gore needs is me coming out on the radio." Later on, Mikey and Jeremy told me I'd got the wrong end of the stick and they were actually mocking homophobia in Gore but at the time it just made me scared.
5 Why did you decide to go public?
When you're on the radio, you've got to wear your heart on your sleeve and share your life with people. It just became too hard to dance around the pronouns; 'he said' would be 'they said', 'my boyfriend' would be 'my partner'. I also got tired of hiding my partner at the time. We'd go out to dinner and I'd be worried people were looking. Coming out on air was a really big turning point. The response was incredible. I had thousands of emails. To this day, people still come up to me and say how much it meant to them.
6 Growing up near Gore, what sort of childhood did you have?
I had a happy childhood on a farmlet in Waikoikoi, just out of Gore. Mum and Dad were teenage parents. Mum always went up to Opotiki to have us children with Dad's family because her family, the pakeha side, weren't too happy with the relationship back then. Mum used to breed German Shepherds in her spare time which she got into showing. I had a little Corgi called Gizmo that I used to take to the shows. One year I won the Southland Child Handler of the Year.
7 When did you realise you wanted to work in broadcasting?
I always loved music. One of my part-time jobs was at the local music shop, Alan Black Music, on Friday nights. At St Peter's College, our music teacher made our whole class go and audition to be munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. I fell in love with operatics and the more I did, the more I liked being on stage. I decided radio was for me after spending a day at the local station on work experience.
8 If you weren't a broadcaster, what would you be?
I don't know. Mum and Dad both work at the meat works and my sisters both had stints in the meat works too. I've been very lucky that I've never had to do that sort of hard work. I've always been fascinated by the airline industry. I wanted to be a pilot at one stage. Maybe being so isolated in Southland I thought that would be a good way to see the world.
9 Are you a political person?
I liked Bill English growing up because he lived just over the fence. Mum and Dad always voted Labour but they thought John Key seemed like a decent bloke when he came to my engagement party. It's weird how many politicians you can know in New Zealand. I used to work with Jacinda's fiancé Clarke at The Edge - he's a decent bloke as well. Politics seems like a pretty shit job with average pay. If somebody wants to put their hand up and put themselves through that, then I'm not going to give them a hard time about it.
10 Do you use social media much?
I do, but every time I go to say something on twitter or Instagram it takes me about an hour to hit send because I'm always very cautious of how it may look and sound, who might be offended or what commercial relationship might be affected. Also you don't want to show off about your life going, "Here I am at U2 one day, here I am doing this the next day"- but I still do it anyway.
11 What was it like hosting last year's Christmas in the Park with Jess Quinn?
I was just so excited. Standing on that stage for such a big event was a really cool moment. Having done a bit of am-dram, I secretly hope to sing on a stage like that one day. I am singing in the Town Hall next week, which is nerve-wracking. I'm singing Shaboom by the Koi Boys with primary school choirs from around Auckland. I had one rehearsal and thought, "Oh my God, those poor kids."
12 Can you share a childhood Santa Parade memory?
Yes, I loved going to the Christmas parade in Tapanui, near Gore. It was on Christmas Eve, so all the farmers would come in to grab their last-minute supplies. There would be sheep trucks, gravel trucks, tractors, hay balers and rural vehicles of various assortment along with one colourful float from the local am-dram society. I wonder if they still do it? I hope they do.
• Mike Puru will MC Santa's Party in Aotea Square after the Farmers Santa Parade this Sunday www.santaparade.co.nz You can also hear Mike on The Hits weekdays 3 - 7PM with Stace and Anika.