Speaker by Various Artists

A hairy night out

by Peter McLennan

I'm surrounded by 2000 hairdressers. How did this happen? A late afternoon phone message from local comedian Radar, who is hosting the TV coverage for ETV at the L'Oreal Colour Trophy Awards 2003. He's got some spare tickets to this do. Lots of free alcohol and food, how bad can it be? Well...

We arrive and search out the alcohol. No worries there - they're handing out the bubbly as soon as you walk through the door. But as for food... there's a few waiters walking round with baskets of tiny bread sticks, and that's it. Are these people afraid of food or something?

Anyway, the stage looks fabulous, and out strolls Helen Clark to make the opening speech, praising the high calibre of our hair stylists - well, look what they did for her!

Then the fun begins. A young woman dressed as a 1930s dancer comes out lip-synching to a song out of Chicago - then Bang! Gunshots and oh, lookee, she's dead. A silhouetted figure walks down the stairs behind her; there's some strange orchestral music whining away... Oh dear, they've re-created the video of 'My Way' as performed by that famous pop crooner Mr Sid Vicious, complete with impersonator with perfectly spiked hair, as you'd expect from a hairdressing event. He lipsynchs the entire song, then shoots the woman but the gun doesn't fire so he throws it away and kicks her instead; does the fingers at the crowd and walks back up the stairs. I think it might be post-modern - or just really naff.

(Turns out he was actually singing it - the video screen behind him had a delay which made it look like he was lip synching. The talented chap in question was Clint Sharplin.)

Then the awards begin, hosted by Simon Praast and Danielle Cormack. As each of the first group of finalists paraded along the catwalk with their hair models the music blasted out piercingly loud: more punk rock, this time the opening bars of the Sex Pistols doing the Who's old clunker 'Substitute'. This music is repeated again and again and again. Later the finalists in another section are paraded to the Buzzcocks 'Autonomy' played over and over. I'm not sure what the connection with punk is here - this whole event is about celebrating the exterior, how you look. It's about artifice and the superficial, which is the opposite of punk.

The energy of the audience was great. Each time someone got up onto the catwalk with their model a small but vocal team of supporters / friends / workmates would leap up and cheer and holler for all they were worth. It was very cool. One winner even managed to fit in a happy birthday mum on behalf of a friend, very nice. Next it's David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, courtesy of our impersonator. He's back later for another burst of wierdness as Marilyn Manson doing that old chestnut 'Tainted Love'.

The other entertainment during the evening consists of two fashion shows from the Spring collections of Nicholas Blanchet, Karen Walker, Natalia Kucija and Trelise Cooper. There were some wonderful garments but mostly appalling music. Special points to the models for Natalia Kucija, who were subjected to the sound of a CD skipping through multiple CDs. After listening closely I could make out that someone had very cleverly edited it to sound like a CD skipping or a radio dial surfing - but making those poor girls trying to walk to it was just cruel.

When the Supreme Award NZ Hairdresser of the Year is announced the title goes to Penny Ainsley of Bettjeman's Orakei. She's so bubbly and excited that it's truly delightful. Her supporters in the balcony go absolutely nuts. After thanking half the planet, she holds up the trophy, and says 'let's party!'. The music roars - the Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' - and Penny and her model walk the catwalk a few more times before figuring out which way to exit. British DJ John Peel listens to this tune once a week - it's his benchmark for judging every pile of new releases he receives. Listening to the song blast around the town hall as it empties out it's not hard to see why. Such a glorious guitar sound!

And then it's off in search of more food. Did I mention we hadn't had dinner before this thing? Slight oversight there. No time. Silly boy.

In the Concert Chamber is the party, a crammed room of people listening to what the programme describes as "renowned DJ and entertainer" Mikey Havoc. Goodshirt continue the retro theme later on.

In the foyer downstairs we locate the food: more insubstantial nibbly things. Finally we source the real goodies - cute cardboard boxes of cold soba noodles with chicken. The video screen is playing a documentary about The Doors and in the corner is Radar and Entertainment TV shooting interviews with the important people. Before we entered the screen was showing a doco about the Clash with some amazing footage of the band playing live in some dingy club back in 1977, hurtling through 'I Fought The Law', which was electric. That's what I just don't get. Punk rock and hairdressing in 2003? They don't even go together in the same sentence, let alone in a room with several thousand hairdressers. Can anyone explain this to me? (It's as strange as Bill Ralston being told to chop $5 million out of his budget by TVNZ's board so the Government can get a dividend while that same Government gives TVNZ $12 million to help it meet its charter obligations.)

Still, we scammed another box of noodles as we were leaving. All in all a highly entertaining evening. Thanks, Radar.