Cracker by Damian Christie

How the Grinch stole my Christmas

Ohhh, the claws are out.

I was sitting down to write a nice summery post about Xmas and the spirit of the season. I had another piece ready to go about public radio, but thought it a little weighty, and anyway, the stats show that people only read this blog during office hours, so it seemed a little wasted.

Then I was alerted to a post… about me. Unusually, it wasn’t written by me, as most stuff on the topic of Damian Christie tends to be. At least then it would have been vaguely amusing, if still largely fictional.

Over the years, working in various forms of media, I’ve never quite worked out how to deal with personal attacks. Unlike true public figures, I’m not subject to them often enough to have a system all worked out. So, I take approach each on a case-by-case basis.

There are some questions you always have to ask though. Do I acknowledge it? Do I respond, or let it run its course, without adding either fuel or water to the fire. In the past I’ve tended to do the latter, rather than invoke a further response and just drag…it….out.

But, as I was just emailing someone who’d sent me feedback today, words on the Internet are about as close to etched in stone as we have these days, what with stone not really being a popular contemporary medium any more. And if someone’s going to have a big, fat, hairy fictitious go at me, then goddammit, I’m going to have my two cents worth too!

I’m not going to link to it, though. Given the huge traffic that comes through publicaddress [thanks to all of you too, ‘you’ve been a great audience’] the last thing I want to do is link to some half-arsed site and give them a whole lotta readers they haven’t done squat to deserve, other than slag me. Again, this is the Internet though, and those of you who care enough can no doubt track it down.

Which is NOT to say I’m embarrassed one jot by what has been said. So I’ll quote big chunks of it for your reading pleasure…

It all stems from my last post, in which I took a swipe at Act for being all over the place when it comes to certain socially liberal issues, such as pot and prostitution. In particular I criticised an article by Act MP Deborah Coddington. Not the done thing, apparently.

I wondered at the time whether I should have mentioned the fact I’d worked for Coddington in the past. The whole ‘declaring one’s interests’ thing. It didn’t seem especially relevant to the debate, though, and aside from calling her thinking ‘muddled’, which from time to time it demonstrably is, I didn’t want to be accused of a personal attack.

I’m also wondering how much light to shed on things now. While I’m left in no doubt from whence the bile finds its source, when the attacker is an anonymous blogger, one has to be careful. Also, certain revelations on my part, regardless of their truth, could lead me up a litigious path I have neither the money nor energy to defend. I will choose my words carefully.

If you’ve read down to here, I guess you want to see what they wrote :) Here’s the bulk of it, minus the preamble… It’s called “Why Damian Christie cannot take his medicine”

Damian Christie was madly in love/lust with Deborah Coddington.

The boy had it bad...

One observer said that he would cuddle Deborah's shawl when she'd gone home! He was sure he was going to get her to reciprocate. He even emptied the rubbish bin one day after she'd been sick into it because Lindsay Perigo ordered him to, and he asked Deborah Coddington to leave him a certain black dress when she dies.

Oh dear.

An acquaintance of both parties says Damian has got quite some nerve attacking the MP after she let him stay in her house rent free, loaned him her cars, and generally looked after him when Radio Liberty crashed.

Whatever happened to common courtesy?

“Observer”? “Acquantaince”? If weren’t closed, I know that’s the first place you’d be looking for the story.

I did, indeed used to work at Radio Liberty with Deborah Coddington and Lindsay Perigo. I was their producer. Back then, even in her 40s, Deborah was bit of a looker. Although, I must add, even eight years ago she never looked as good as the photo accompanying her Liberty Belle column would have you believe. I guess that’s a woman’s prerogative.

So at age 21, a young eager recruit to the Libertarian stable, did I fancy Coddington? Sure, why not? She’s a strong, confident woman, and that’s always an attractive quality.
But am I a closet shawl cuddler? Er, no. Did I empty a bucket of rubbish bin she’d vomited in because Lindsay Perigo ordered me to? Not that I can recall, although even if that were true, Perigo was my boss, wouldn’t one file that under “following orders” rather than “has vomit fetish”? As a bar manager I’ve also bailed out flooded urinals and stuck my (gloved) hands into clogged toilets – what sort of pervo does this make me?

And yes, Deborah and I were pals for a time. I house-sat for her and her partner Alister Taylor when they were away on holiday. It’s usually considered a reciprocal arrangement, house-sitting. Hardly “stay in her house rent free”, but whatever. I had the use of her Volvo during that time too. Sue me.

What my attacker has neglected to add, when looking at the “common courtesy” I should therefore extend (presumably by never criticising an MP whose house I sat for a week eight years ago), is how our ‘relationship’ ended. Choosing my words carefully…

After Radio Liberty collapsed, I went to work for a publishing company owned by Deborah Coddington and her defacto husband Alister Taylor. The company is largely engaged in what is known as “vanity publishing”. If you’ve done something vaguely worthy of recognition (i.e. Auckland Harbourmaster, 1972-74), they’ll track you down, ask you for some biographical information so they can put you in a book of “Who’s Who”. Oh, and by the way, would you like to buy a copy?

Coddington and Taylor have been in the press lately for all the wrong reasons. This story by the Sunday Star Times’ Jonathan Milne sums up pretty nicely what’s what, as does this later story from NZPA. Allegedly, people paid for books which in many instances failed to turn up. Some people are reported to have literally died waiting.

As Milne’s piece notes, Coddington was involved in Taylor’s business as, but now is going to great lengths to distance herself from his allegedly dodgy dealings. It may seem odd to attentive readers that while the general public was alerted to Taylor’s business practices as far back as 1991 [Du Chateau, Carroll 1991a, 'Alister Taylor's back in town', Metro, Aug., pp.71-87], Coddington took nearly a decade longer to get the heads up.

Here are some of the choicest parts of the sixteen page[!] Metro article. Unfortunately it’s not available on line, but I’ll happily scan it and email it to anyone who wants to see it. It’s all a matter of public record, and as the author of The Paedophile and Sex Offenders Index, Coddington can hardly object, can she?

While he and his partner Deborah Coddington flew to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the authors of the books they were selling there were often broke.

Deborah Coddington blames Paul Greene for Taylor’s eventual downfall. Late last year lunchtime habitués of Rosini’s in High Street were entertained when Coddington approached Green and hissed ‘Are you still sending people bankrupt, Green?’ before stalking off.

Greene is furious too. ‘Taylor was capable of the most extraordinary deception,’ he says. ‘Take the Goldie books. Alister said they’d completely sold out, when there were 50 stashed away at the Old Post Office… which Deborah said were hers.’

What neither Taylor nor Coddington seemed to realise was that their lavish lifestyle looked very bad through the eyes of the hard-up writers and illustrators… [the] constant assurances about the cheque being in the mail and the book being out next week were wearing thin. Both Taylor and Coddington now drove a Mercedes.

Authors were always ringing up to find out how their books were going. The basic strategy was to butter them up and stall, stall, stall.

[After Taylor was bankrupted] How come copyrights and properties thought to belong to Alister Taylor Publishing were owned by Deborah Coddington? Hadn’t Taylor told the creditors’ meeting that “Alas, we are no longer together?

While I wasn’t exactly enamoured by some of my own experiences within the business, I’m not going to go into it, because it’s too long, too boring, and too fraught with legal minefields. However I will say that parts of the comprehensive Metro article, again written years before I came onto the scene, and more than a decade before Taylor’s recent dramas, struck a chord with me.

I will also tell you how my involvement with Coddington and Taylor came crashing down. No, I wasn’t caught sniffing Coddington’s shawl… I wouldn’t make that mistake twice.

Fairly out of the blue, Coddington confronted me one day. She accused me of dobbing Alister in to the IRD. I hadn’t - the IRD aren’t exactly my best friends either - and anyway, I wasn’t privy to the company’s financial affairs, let alone anything (allegedly) untoward. Apparently I’d also sabotaged their computers while I was housesitting. Of course, that's the sort of thing I'd do, spiteful little man that I am.

But anyway, bugger evidence, due process, or in fact any general rule of law or decency, that was me down the road. To the best of my recollection, Coddington’s exact words as she sent me packing from the business she was most certainly involved with at the time: “You’ll never work for a company I’m a director of again!”

Always one for a spot of drama, old Coddington.

So that’s what happened.

Right. Phew. Exhale.

This is SO NOT the piece I wanted to write on Xmas Eve. In fact, this is SO NOT the piece I wanted to write at all. Sure, you can now say I’ve only written this because I’m pissed off about being fired for no reason eight years ago. Wouldn’t that have been a better accusation in the first place? “Damian attacks Act because Deborah Coddington once fired him”? Doesn’t quite have the same “nice old lady” spin to it I guess…

The anonymous blogger responsible for forcing my hand might want to consider whether outing me as a scarf-sniffer was really the best response to my previous post. It’s particularly strange given the supposedly niche focus of their blog. I would have thought also that the “sources” and “acquaintances” referred to would have learnt that Pulling a Mike King is not particularly wise in terms of PR and damage-control. Again, I didn’t want to write this post, but call me a bucket o’ vomit emptier and you bring it on yourself. Dicks. I can “take my medicine”, cheers. Can you?

Oh well. Today dear readers, as we wind up for the holidays, you can honestly say you’ve learnt two things. You’ve gleaned a little bit more about Act MP Deborah Coddington’s involvement as a shareholder and director in an allegedly dodgy publishing company that she’s now trying to distance herself from. And you’ve learnt about my passion for pashmina. I hope both serve you well this holiday season.

Merry Xmas. Drive safe.