A sorry tale of debauched excess and moral decadence was the theme for Kim Dotcom's surprise 40th birthday party at his Coatesville mansion on Tuesday. His wife, Mona, channelling the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, hosted a Great Gatsby-themed bash for her millionaire hubby, who wore his ubiquitous black fleecy. Jay Gatsby would have been appalled.
The American Dream is flourishing in Dotcom's Coatesville. The convicted fraudster, who's fighting extradition to the United States, is flaunting prosperity as he sets out on a rebranding mission with a new dance album, new music-streaming platform, and new political party. The New Year's fireworks display at Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne and the offer to sponsor Team New Zealand all add to the carefully crafted image of a munificent Daddy Warbucks on an upward social mobility trajectory.
But Facebook page You've Got My Car Park, Want My Disability Too? challenged Dotcom's big-heartedness this week by asking why his Mercedes was busted parked in a mobility parking space.
"Does he have limited mobility and have a mobility parking permit to be able to park in these spaces?" the site quizzed. Others on social media echoed the question.
Dotcom was filmed by 3News on his way to a radio interview with The Edge to plug his new dance album, Good Times, as his costly car took the disabled spot outside the station.
It's another PR bungle for the millionaire German, who was left red-faced last week when the launch of his Internet Party was scratched because of fears it breached Electoral Commission rules.
This week, the embattled tycoon faced disparaging reviews for his album. Herald music reviewer Chris Schulz awarded it one out of five stars, saying: "What really surprises is how awful it really is."
Could that explain why it's not getting widespread radio airplay?
Not according to Dotcom, who took to Twitter yesterday to suggest record labels were applying pressure to commercial radio stations to ban his music and advertising. He threatened legal action.
"Labels are calling radio stations and asking them not to playlist my songs. Please call radio stations and request my songs," Dotcom begged his 350,000 Twitter followers.
He added: "Labels called a major radio network about my Mega ad campaign and successfully forced them to pull my radio ads. Dirty tricks to stop me ... Radio stations, radio DJs and music distributors. Have you been intimidated by labels regarding my Good Times album? Please contact me. #Lawsuit."
But MediaWorks Radio, owners of The Edge, The Rock and More FM, rubbished Dotcom's conspiracy theory. Group programme director Andrew Szusterman told The Diary: "There is no industry pressure not to play Kim Dotcom's tracks on our stations. In fact, we've spot-played a few of them. Just like all artists, Kim has to accept that tracks are play-listed on the basis they will be liked by our audience."
With bad album reviews and a botched foray into politics, how long can the party last for Dotcom?
Green Party's secret meeting
Russel Norman visited Dotcom's mansion twice late last year to talk him out of entering politics, the Green Party co-leader told The Diary. And he left a rather large carbon footprint flying to Auckland Airport and hailing a Green cab for the 44km journey to Coatesville for the meetings.
"I met with him twice, about policy issues and his proposed party. I've got a lot of time for Kim, but I don't support the Internet Party."
Norman says although he backs some of Dotcom's views on the GCSB and the internet, he feels he'd be competing for votes. "I tried to talk him out of setting up his party."
A media reshuffle
Rumours this week that Simon Mercep will be replaced on Morning Report by colleague Susie Ferguson have been denied by Radio New Zealand news boss Don Rood, but he was conspicuously more vague about possible changes to the afternoon and drive-show line-up.
Rood said there was no plan to move Mercep from RNZ National's morning flagship. "I've not had a discussion with Simon about that. All our presenters are on limited contracts and programmes get reviewed but Simon will host the show with Geoff, and then with Guyon [Espiner]."
Espiner will front Morning Report alongside Mercep when Geoff Robinson leaves in April.
As to rumours that Jim Mora's afternoon show may combine with Mary Wilson's Checkpoint drive show, Rood said: "We're looking at all sorts of things to refresh shows. Since Paul Thompson arrived there has been a whole raft of ideas. Money is always an issue and there are lots of things we could do, but we're still No 1. You don't always want to fix what's not broken."
Meanwhile, Sam Hayes will replace Espiner on TV3's 3rd Degree, co-hosting the television current affairs show alongside Duncan Garner.
No cuppa in Epsom
Is the bromance between John Banks and Don Brash over? Friends say don't expect a cup of tea in Epsom anytime soon between the two pals, both former directors of Huljich Wealth Management. Brash told The Diary last week that he had a secret meeting with Kim Dotcom at his mansion, which went down like a cup of cold sick for Banksie. Apparently the words, "You know who your friends are!" were spluttered down the phone. Brash may find more Tory friendships drying up if he keeps up a camaraderie with the large German.
Battle of brekkie babes
Former late-night host Sacha McNeil has stepped up to the plate as morning news anchor on TV3's Firstline, while rival Breakfast on TV One is still on the hunt for a permanent female co-anchor.
Toni Street has moved to Seven Sharp and Nadene Chalmers-Ross is temporarily filling in, and said to be very keen on the job. Melissa Stokes is on maternity leave after having her second baby.
Christchurch-based reporter Ali Pugh is understood to be the top contender. But former TV3 brekkie girl Carly Flynn has put her hat in the ring, well-placed sources say.
A rep for TVNZ would say only that no decision on a permanent host had been made.