[***contains Helen Clark anecdotes***] The year I moved to Wellington one of my flatmates got incredibly excited that I knew someone on Shortland Street. People get excited about that sort of thing in Wellington. I got excited that she knew Kate Camp - and yes she thought that was weird.
If you're an Aucklander, knowing actors is not a very big deal. New Zealand actors, even if they're in a movie, are generally still poor and just shlumping around, freely accessible. Writers, even if they're in Sport or Landfall a lot, ditto. So there's something about fame in New Zealand that is completely removed from material success. This is why, out of many anecdotes sloshing around the after-party (at Cafe a la Raskil) of the No.2 premiere on the weekend, my favourite was the one where an actor I know from No.2 met Helen Clark at the North Country premiere a few days earlier. The actor in question asked a minder how he should address our dear leader. The answer (take note) is "good evening Prime Minister", but if she says "call me Helen", you may call her Helen. Happily, it came out as "good evening Mister Prime Minister".
Yep, he had been completely relaxed upon meeting and spontaneously hongi-ing Charlize Theron - but became hopelessly tongue-tied upon meeting Helen Clark five minutes later.
Another of the No.2 actors I know had been asked by Mr Prime Minister what her job was, as the PM didn't recognise her. The actor said she was an actor, then said with much grace (great deadpanners these actors): "and what do you do?" Helen went: "Hurh hurh hurh. I'm in the public service." "Oh, that must be a good job, a nice steady income." "Well yes, it is actually, hurh hurh hurh. Excuse me." From the telling of this particular anecdote, I ascertained that there is an entire new generation of young actors who have mastered the art of brilliantly impersonating politicians. Apparently, Madeleine Sami can do an entire album of Beyonce songs as Helen Clark.
Helen Clark was not at her most intimidating the night of the No.2 premiere however. To introduce the film, she pumped out a few boosterish homilies to the multicultural audience, to warm effect - then said that No.2 will do for Mt Roskill what broTown has done for Mt Albert, and perhaps soon
they'll be saying 'Mt Roskill forever!' - just like 'Morningside forever!'"
Cue the sound of five hundred people putting their heads in their hands, then turning to their neighbours and silently mouthing: "Morningside for - ever? Not even ow!"
As well as myself, others must have been struck by how endearingly uncool this was, as shortly afterwards someone called out from the audience: "You da man, Aunty Helen!"
Helen Clark is never going to be cool. This is also what we from Mt Roskill once thought about Mt Roskill. And you know, it's still true. Mt Roskill is demographically one of the most interesting, 21st century ethno-cultural melting pots in the country. But there's still nothing much to do in Mt Roskill except visit your parents. I mean, that young 1.5er Korean guy who works for his folks at Roskill Fisheries is pretty hot, and there's the Halal butcher if, if you need, like, meat... oh that cafe next to the Post Office is secretly Malaysian, and there's... um, United Video... but well, somehow it's not enough to get me round there more than once a week. Needs a bookshop or something, or as previously discussed, a Sci-Fi-Chinatown with cool robots. There's still not even anything much to do in Morningside, except go to Briscoes or the Zak factory shop. But something has changed. The people who grew up in those nothing places with nothing reputations have become adults and learnt the ways of the outside world. In interpreting that world, we've come to take pride in the places that we left. Maybe it's because they defined our self-deprecating humour, or because the people we left behind are so definitely stuck there that they'll always be there for us when we need to go back, or because the boredom and limitations of living there made us exercise our imaginations and ambitions, and also perhaps because the modesty of a Mt Roskill mise-en-scene is the perfect humanist-scale backdrop for evaluating your life in context, should you wish to do so. It's rare that when out with for example, the literati, or hipsters, or Asian Movement cadres, or musicians, journalists, academics, that when two people from Mt Roskill meet, there
is not a sudden wild grin and a not-actually ironic round of high-fives... although I have had to threaten to 'smash' some people once for saying that 'Hay Park Primary were the bad kids.' We never thought it would happen, but it does appear that we do now in fact matter - that those demographics left to ferment and foment down in the average lower-middling state-housey suburbs, have actually turned out to be the centre of something. The centre of...
...the Labour Party constituency during a period of unstable minority-government.
Whoops, sorry, no, what I meant was: Increasingly, we, the dirt-coloured children of migrants and white trash from Mt Roskill... are the voice of Mainstream New Zealand. When Aunty Helen drags out that dessicating cliche 'telling our stories', she's talking about us. Bloody hell.
Attempting to peel away the Roskill parochialism now, I can say that yes, objectively, the film is really good, just ...bloody strong all round: script, direction, cast. It's all they say it is, warm, funny, true, sparky, gutsy. And full of hotties. You may notice a definite cross-polination in its strengths, style and cast with Rene Naufahu's Otara blinder 'the Market', which was buried late at night on TV1, and definitely the best New Zealand television to screen in 2005.
Returning to Roskill parochialism now, as my mother said: "Oh Ming, King Kong was so stupid! I want to see No.2! It's set in Mt Roskill!" We went to the premiere together. After you follow my mother's example, (I think the film goes on general release mid-February), or perhaps before, visit Gareth Fraser at Cafe a la Raskil on K Road to see what the character 'Soul' is like in real life, and to check whether Taungaroa Emile gets him right in the film. Yes, once known as 'the place all the Christians come from' which banned the practise of Yoga from its municipal hall because of its heathen origins, it's now a suburb with a film, a soundtrack, and a theme cafe.
Okay, and I usually never do this as it just encourages the nutters, but this response to my last post was just too hilarious:
I think your views are very immature,i love how you manage to turn it against us when you are the one over-reacting.It was a cartoon is all.And what do the Towelheads to in return?Set off on their little racist attacks and expose their extremist values.Gooks and dune coons are a threat to the Western Civilisation.How can you disagree when they chant slogans like "death to Europe" I enjoy reading your biased one sided opinion but honestly you're just a stupid nip.
When oh when will the defenders of Western Civilisation learn how to punctuate?