Probably the poshest place I've ever interviewed a star was The Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles. In my time I've visited with very posh people at terribly posh hotels, but The Peninsula was the swankiest joint of all.
I was interviewing a film star in a private bungalow hired for the day just so I could meet with her. I felt like a big lumbering interloper as I entered the lobby; the star was perfect, the hotel even more so.
Probably the least posh place I've ever interviewed a star, was an inner city boxing gym in Auckland. It was the evening, and it was all but empty except for me, a couple of minders, and Sonny Bill Williams. It was as different to The Peninsula Hotel as possible. It was where a super star trained in front of no-one and then drove off in a people mover, but what a star.
I was lucky to meet with Sonny several years ago. He was preparing for his first boxing match, and a wonderful young producer at NZME. made contact with him for me. I was given an interview when many others were not. I think Sonny trusted that I didn't want to grill him; I just wanted to get to know the man behind the mountain. I say this now in the most non-sexist way possible, as I think of Sonny as a friend or relative.
Sonny Bill Williams is bloody perfect! But although I appreciate his physical magnificence, it would feel remarkably inappropriate to find him sexually attractive.
I get that he's 'hot', but there is something to the man that gives off no air of animal sexuality. He is contained, appropriate and humble. In saying this, when you meet him, you cannot avoid noticing that he is a perfect human being. He is built like a six-foot-five action figure. It's ridiculous, but I do think God made Sonny and then decided he should add flaws to the rest of mankind just for fun.
I sat for a few minutes in the boxing studio, reminiscent of the first Rocky, while he showered after his work out. I gazed around and took in the whole strange scene. Nothing about this weird situation was anything like an interview I'd ever had with any star before.
Stars of all kinds come with 'people' and 'publicists' and 'photogs' and severe looking minders who like to snap their fingers at you and push you out of doors.
I was alone, waiting for Sonny Bill Williams. And when he arrived he stooped to reach down and hug me, and then spent the rest of the interview making sure his eyes met mine and that he in no way towered over me.
It was like Sonny was doing everything to make me feel more important than him. That was never going to be the case.
Sonny told me about challenges, and his love for his family. He told me about how his mum played netball and had red hair, and he flicked through his phone to find me a picture of her when she was young: she was gorgeous. We sat and showed each other pictures of our families, and the softly spoken Superman was kind, and open, and genuine.
I left that first encounter with him smitten by his genuine humanity and utter humility. So when the story came through from the UK that Sonny Bill had given a young boy his RWC medal I was overwhelmed with pride, but not in the slightest bit surprised.
Not only was it genuine, but this is a man that has learnt that when you have a chance to help anyone you it that as a blessing and deliver. He wasn't looking for publicity. It wasn't contrived. Sonny Bill Wiliams, like it or not, is a real life Superman. Someone give the man a black cape.