Cracker by Damian Christie


Fear Factor

The sun was beating down in Paraparaumu on Monday, as we stood around waiting for the wreckage of a Cessna to be removed from a quiet cul-de-sac. You've probably all seen the photos of what was left of the plane, looking like the result of some capping stunt gone very, very badly.

When the police offered the chance for us to cross the barrier and get the shots we needed, I tagged along with the cameraman. I didn't need to be there, our cameramen (and at TVNZ, they are all men) know far better than I do what's required of them, but human nature said I should go and look.

I've seen car crashes before, and been exposed to countless how many horrors on telly, as well as a lot of footage that never made it to air –one of my first jobs as a current affairs producer was to scroll through hours of footage from the Boxing Day tsunami, looking for the best shots. And I can honestly tell you, sensationalist and gratuitous we might sometimes be, but I saw horrors on those tapes I would never want to inflict on the general public. I've been told, but still can't imagine the impact it had on those who were there filming it. They are unfortunate enough to have learned –and to still recall– what decaying human flesh smells like.

We walked down the close, and at the little thermometer shaped bubble at the end, was most of a Cessna, upside down. It had a far greater impact on me than I'd expected, but the only word I can come up with to describe it was wrong. It sounds simple, but planes aren't supposed to be upside down. They're not generally supposed to be on the ground either, and certainly not upside down. I declined the offer to go inside the house and see where the engine had landed. I had to go and interview the 17 year-old pilot's father.

I have seven days left at work, and if I never have to approach another dead child's parents and ask them to postpone –or better yet, display– their grief so the nation can watch, it'll be too soon. Some reporters can find a convincing argument they should do so – if I was a grieving parent, talking to the media would be the last thing I'd ever do. Some reporters take great pride and build reputations around their ability to 'get the get' in such situations – I'm just not that person.

Hear me now: From this moment on as a journalist, I will only talk to people who want to talk to me. Unless they're politicians, legitimate public figures with a duty of care (such as hospital board chairs and senior civil servants, not paparazzi targets) or crooks. I'm probably writing my own WINZ cheque right there, but that's the way it's going to be.

My colleague Charlie has been reading to me a list of facts from a Formula One magazine.

Did you know that when it is running at full throttle, a Formula One car sucks in 600 litres of air every second?

I now have a new worst fear. Being trapped in an airtight space with a Formula One car at full throttle. Even in a decent-sized room, how long could the air possibly last?

Fanta-pants Lindsay Lohan has stripped in yet another attempt by some starlet to recreate photos made famous by Marilyn Monroe. Which begs the question; which photos are starlets of the future going to be recreating? Miss Universe 2050-does-Lindasy-Lohan-doing-Marilyn-Monroe? Or are there going to be a lot of grainy night vision shoots in honour of Miss Hilton's 'One Night in Paris'? Shaky am-cam footage of a busty Baywatch look-a-like performing simulated lewd acts on a well-hung tattooed rocker as their launch steams steadily towards the rocks?

Lindsay's photos shoot is here (N particularly SFW). But based on these, This Gentleman Does Not Prefer Redheads. Madonna made a far better Marilyn all those years ago.

Of course, you could just love Lindsay for her intellect:

"If you saw my house, I have a lot of Marilyn stuff. I've got this painting of her in my house. It's eerie because it's a picture and it's kind of cartoony, and there's a big bottle of pills next to her, and they've fallen over."


In other news just to hand, Prime Minister Helen Clark has withdrawn the offer made to Owen Glenn to become NZ's Honorary Consul to Monaco. Instead insiders say Labour Party staffers are now drafting legislation to be introduced before the house within the next month. This new law will be known as the "Owen Glenn is Officially the Super Best Coolest Person in the Universe Ever (No Returns) Bill."

And can the increasingly ridiculous Sir Howard "She's too fat to be a Pop Star and by the way I invented 'Chur Chur'" Morrison kindly stick to singing?

From the 'Too-Soon?' files:

What's Black & White & Hungry?

Heath Ledger's Cat.

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