By LIBBY MIDDLEBROOK
The man who collected $55,000 in a taxpayer-funded defamation payout from Prime Minister Helen Clark says the settlement has cost him his health and career.
At a National Party lunch yesterday, West Aucklander John Yelash said political controversy over the payout had reduced his career prospects and his diabetes condition had also been affected.
A theatre company had refused to give him a part in a stage production because his involvement could have had a detrimental effect on an application for a Creative New Zealand grant.
The 66-year-old had endured two months of "slander" during a political firestorm over the confidential settlement, which was paid out after Helen Clark called him a murderer when he had in fact been convicted of manslaughter.
Mr Yelash said he had previously worked hard to regain "some reputation."
He had recovered from alcoholism, speaking out against it in school talks, and had brought up his son as a solo father.
"That's why I sued," he said.
Publicity over the settlement had brought some welcome attention.
He said that more than 100 people approached him each week to shake his hand, anywhere from the supermarket to the night trots, to congratulate him on taking on Helen Clark.
"It's almost turned me into a rock star for the oldies. If I was younger I would have taken advantage of it."
Mr Yelash was invited to speak at yesterday's lunch by National MP and personal friend Marie Hasler.
Up to 40 party supporters from the Mt Albert and Titirangi wards attended the fundraising event at Ferndale House.
Mr Yelash, who was in the writers' set in Wellington in the 1960s with James K. Baxter, discussed the poet for most of the lunch, calling him a homophobe and a great friend.
One elderly member of the audience fainted as Mr Yelash recited a piece from his book Jail Song, which was peppered with the words masturbation and homophobia.
Mr Yelash said he did not have a National Party background, but he hoped that the party would win the next election.
Jail Song, which is based on Mr Yelash's one-man play, will be released this week.
By LIBBY MIDDLEBROOK