DNA Detectives, television and radio personality Dave Fane discovered he wasn't the person he tho' />
Dave Fane was in for a shock when he started getting to the roots of his family tree. By Dionne Christian

Even before the cameras started rolling on TV One's DNA Detectives, television and radio personality Dave Fane discovered he wasn't the person he thought he was.

The comedian, actor and co-host of Flava FM's breakfast show thought of himself as "100 per cent pure Samoan" but when he told his Mum he was appearing on the family history show and wanted to know more about his background, she told him she was adopted.

"She said she'd told us and my older brother said he'd always known but it was news to me. Maybe it just never filtered down to my ears. I was sure I was a 'thoroughbred' and that there was no muggle about me," he says.

"Now I know I am made up of so many different things."


Fane is one of 12 Kiwi celebs finding out what DNA can tell them about who they are. Hosted by The Rocky Picture Show writer/creator Richard O'Brien, DNA Detectives uses the latest in gene testing to reveal their ancient forebears and the cultures they're connected to.

Each of those appearing - others featured include Jack Tame, Ray McVinnie, Michael Van de Elzen, Sam Wallace, Amanda Billing, Shavaughn Ruakere, Willie Jackson, Nicole Whippy, Kirk Torrance, Leigh Hart and Sonia Gray - take a whirlwind trip deep into history and around the globe to meet long-lost family.

Fane ended up in the "wild West" and was delighted to learn he has connections to a major US sport. "The sports genes run long and strong in my family. I look at my wife now [actor Bronwyn Bradley] and I tell her, 'Honey, I am a pedigree so you're a lucky woman!'"

But Fane nearly passed on the opportunity to learn more about his past. The first time he was approached to take part, he thought it was a joke but when he realised it was a serious offer from Intrepid Journeys maker Jam TV, he decided to go for it.

"Why not? I figured it would be something different and I remember my friend and colleague Oscar Kightley when he did something like this. He kept going on about how I would be amazed by what you can learn and what a rewarding experience it is. I didn't believe him. There's nothing like admitting to a mate that they were right and you were wrong. It's when you know you have nothing left to hide."

Fane spat into a test tube so a saliva sample could be sent to the US for DNA analysis. The results were matched to a worldwide database. With the newfound knowledge that his mother was adopted, Fane had questions about his past he had never thought to ask and the answers were just a DNA test away.

He says most of all, his three kids, 17, 14 and 9 wanted to know whether there was any evidence of Neanderthal connections.

Like the other participants in DNA Detectives, he wasn't told where in the world he was going until he turned up at the airport and received further instructions from O'Brien. Fane admits he was starstruck when he met The Rocky Horror Picture creator and star of the 1975 film.


"I think he had to tell me twice what was going on because I wasn't really taking anything in. I think I was talking about my father and lawn bowls but Richard was lovely. He would call at regular intervals with new clues to my background and I admit it did get to the point where I was dreading his calls because I didn't know what was going to turn up next."

When he left New Zealand he was more curious and excited than nervous. He eventually arrived at a US location he'd always wanted to visit - he won't say where.

He was fobbed off when he asked the accompanying TV crew if he could spend time there. "I thought, 'You're miserable - I've come halfway around the world and I'm doing your TV show and you won't even allow me the decency to stop here and visit.' And then we pulled out right in front and I knew something was up! It was the place I was meeting my long-lost relative and I was over the moon."

Fane acknowledges it was a strange sensation to come face to face with a stranger who looked like his mother and had similar mannerisms to other family members. Would he recommend it? Yes, he says, but it's not for the faint-hearted because you need to be prepared to deal with the discoveries you make and some may be challenging to deal with.

"At the end of the whole experience, I felt empowered and I came away at first feeling a bit foolish that I thought I was 'thoroughbred' but I'm the richer for knowing what I do now," he says. "It was fun and it hasn't left me feeling sentimental about things, just that it was great for my family to find some stuff out and learn we have connections halfway across the world."

Although he's not going out of his way to do more family research, he better understands its appeal and is keeping in touch with his newfound kinfolk. "Facebook was something I was never a great fan of; now I think it's the most wonderful tool in the world!"

DNA Detectives screens Wednesdays, 8.30pm on TV One. This week's episode features Amanda Billing and Sam Wallace. Dave Fane and chef Michael Van de Elzen discover their family secrets on October 28.