My life with the extremely famous

Oscar Wilde once said, and I'm paraphrasing, if a man can hold on to a grudge for more than 213 days, then he must be genuinely angry. It is 214 days since this newspaper ran a feature about Dunedin locals and their brushes with extremely famous people.

I was not invited to list my experiences with the rich and famous in that feature, and I am still so livid it is a miracle my neck hasn't burst open like a stabbed haggis.

No man in this town can match my brushes with the extremely famous. And I am talking every aspect of human activity. Where to start?


OK. I have written about sport since 1965, and quite frankly, I have met them all. The most famous?

No question.

Norman Woods. Norman lived at the bottom of our garden. No, he wasn't a gnome - his family lived over our back fence in Gowry Pl.

All the Woods boys played cricket, but Norman was the only one who played for Otago. You would probably have to go back to 19th-century cricket to see a weirder bowler than Norman Woods.

While every other opening bowler stormed in from 50 yards, left-armer Norman took a couple of steps and just sort of looped the ball over slowly. My grandfather said he got his wickets with guile, flight and deception.

Whatever. He looked dead easy to me. But in his first game for Otago, and I saw every ball, he took 6/56. Nobody had a clue what was going on. I spent the next year boasting I knew Norman Woods. I still often say this when I am very drunk.


No question. Richard Walls. But before he was a member of Parliament or our mayor, this was when he was in his very prime, running a magic shop in Upper Dowling St.

I was two feet high and short-panted when I discovered this shop, where I would go every Friday night. Richard, a magician himself, would hear the sound of clacking castanets that was my knobbly knees knocking together in fear, and he would peer over the counter and ask me if I was interested in real magic, sawing women in half and turning each half into a rabbit that could do card tricks, or just cheap tricks. I would tell him just cheap tricks.

And I never came home disappointed.

My favourite two, which I subsequently flashed most successfully in the playground, were Chinese Birth Control and the Breast Chart. Chinese Birth Control was four vertical lines of Chinese characters which, when folded over in a certain way, read SLEEP ALONE. Brilliant.

The Breast Chart was probably the most significant educational aid I ever experienced. It had drawings and names for every kind of breast, and with this card committed to memory, I went from a naive boy who thought all breasts were the same to one who could walk down the main street of Dunedin seamlessly spotting Basketballs or Bee Stings in the bat of an eye. I was very young, and misogyny was the name of a beauty contestant from a country called Sodgeny.


I have cut bread, drunk overpriced champagne and smoked weed with all of them. It is impossible to choose the most famous. But I will try.

My friend Elsa. She was Elsa Cherry Pie when I first discovered her at the university, dancing and comedying like the maddest fish in the tank. She also wrote witty raunch in Critic that made me laugh and blush. She is still acting, and any day now, maybe even tonight, you will see her in Coronation Street as an extra. Elsa was paid 120 to stand in a Lakes bar drinking brandy in the background behind David. She is on screen for one fifth of a second.

Coronation Street is incontrovertibly more famous than Christmas. Now do you understand why I am so angry?

• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.


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