Public Address would like to thank the Speaker's Office for kindly allowing us permission to reproduce Dr Smith's end-of-session speech.
Once again, we have reached the end of another parliamentary year. Despite the economic downturn, it has -- in many ways -- been the most successful year ever in parliament. Not least because of the sense of flair and excitement that I've been able to introduce as Speaker of the House.
I realize that many of the junior members will know me only from my role in cabinet, where I was arguably the greatest Minister for International Trade in New Zealand history. But before that, of course, I had an award-winning career in television, and worked with many of the great names: William Demarest, Charles Carlton Maxwell, and Bamboo Harvester -- to name but three wonderful 'small screen' actors. I need only close my eyes to feel, once again, the glamour, drama, poise, and sense of haute école in those pioneering days of television.
In fact, the very phrase haute école immediately brings to mind the marvellous James Dean, who was perhaps my closest confidante when I first arrived in Hollywood. J. Edgar Hoover had recommended me to Jimmy as someone who could help him in his transition from cinema to television. I have happy memories of accompanying Jimmy on one of his car-buying expeditions: he had his heart set on a Porsche 550 Spyder, whereas I suggested the Volvo L3314. "I don't even like the word 'Volvo'," Jimmy told me, "it just sounds like somewhere I wouldn't want to go." Oh, how different television history would have been -- not to mention Jimmy's personal life -- if only he'd heeded my advice.
Another case of haute école was a struggling young actor called Dick O'Donohue. I took an instant liking to him, but felt that his surname was too Irish-Catholic to succeed in Hollywood. At one of Frank Sinatra's
parties, I told Dick that he should drop 'O'Donohue' in favour of the stage name 'Van Dyke'. As so often happens in my life, it was an instant success, and -- solely on the basis of the new name -- former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was inspired to invest her personal fortune in backing his television series.
It was through the 'Dick Van Dyke Show' that I met the young Mary Tyler Moore. I instantly thought that Mary was, quite simply, haute école personified. My instincts told me that she would make a wonderful television producer, and I immediately suggested the name 'MTM' for her production company. "It's a play on 'MGM'," I told her. "You could even spoof the slogan with a little ginger kitten instead of a lion. And, if you made a television series about a cranky psychologist, you could have him saying 'meow' when the kitten opens its mouth. You could even have a siren noise if you decided to produce a police drama."
Of course, at a single stroke I had come up with the idea for 'The Bob Newhart Show' and 'Hill Street Blues'. After that, Mary simply adored me, and she insisted that I meet her friend Suzanne Pleshette. Suzanne was simply bursting with haute école. I took one look at her, and said: "I bet you're a fantastic seamstress." I designed some fabric and Suzanne sewed it together, and the next thing I knew we'd created the most successful bed-linen company in the world.
In 1962, President John Kennedy contacted us in the hope that we could manufacture some stain-resistant sheets for the White House. The Cuba Missile Crisis was in full swing, and I told him: "Jack, offer the Soviets a deal whereby you'll take your Jupiter missiles out of Turkey
in exchange for them removing their SS-4 and SS-5s from Cuba." A few weeks later, I met him again at the second season première of 'Mr Ed', and he told me that our conversation had been the turning point of the whole incident.
Sadly, not everyone I met in my Hollywood days had the haute école of Kennedy. Gene Roddenberry had perhaps the least haute école of any person I've ever met. Poor sad little Gene -- in many ways he was the spitting image of Maurice Williamson. If I told him once, I must have lectured him a dozen times: "Gene, don't split your infinitives." He simply wouldn't listen, and his subsequent 'career' has confirmed my worst fears. You simply can't help some people.
Funnily enough, it was through Gene that I met Neil Armstrong. Neil had a surprising amount of haute école for such a tiny astronaut, and he asked me write him some lines for when he landed Apollo 11 on the moon. I wrote something suitable, and we rehearsed it for weeks. Neil was a bundle of nerves about the mission. "I'm simply terrified that I'll make a mistake and ruin your wonderful words," he confided to me.
I had to be honest with him: "I think you probably will, Neil, but just do the best you can." And, of course, on the day he did muff the lines that I'd so carefully composed. But it was impossible to stay angry at little Neil. Dear sweet dowdy Neil -- I wonder what became of him?"
It some ways -- perhaps in most ways -- parliament has been a disappointment after my days in the television industry. But I'm sure that we can improve the members' posture and deportment (not to mention their haute école!) with better
timing and even more zazz. Let's get snappy with those scene changes, people! And ladies, need I say more than décolletage?
I have every hope that 2010 will be another fabulous year for parliament.
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Even less related postscript:
In late-breaking news, a dramatization of the essay 'My First Stabbing' will play on the National Programme at 10.45 am on Friday 18th December. I'll also be interviewed by Kathryn Ryan at 9.30 am (check the Radio NZ podcasts).