07 Dec

Breakfast Coffee with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key

Breakfast Coffee with Prime Minister John Key

Breakfast Coffee with Prime Minister John Key

Last Friday Somboon and I had the pleasure of having a one-on-one breakfast coffee with our New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, at his favourite coffee shop Rosie’s in Parnell Auckland. It wasn’t a political catch-up, in fact quite the opposite, among many things we discussed was his experience on the David Letterman TV show in New York and how David Letterman hates flying. It reminded me he that David has the same fear as Steven Spielberg, who does not fly at all – well only when it’s an absolutely necessary.

Somboon and I were extremely honoured, that Prime Minister Key would take time out of his extremely busy day to have a long over due catch-up with us over an early morning coffee. Can you imagine another Prime Minister around the world doing this — I think not!

On a personal note – I feel that Prime Minister John Key is the best New Zealand Prime Minister in my life time, although I did like the late Sir Robert Muldoon’’s theatrical flair. Over the past 50 years I’ve interviewed international celebrities around the world, I put Prime Minister Key up there with the ones that shone the brightest. This was a morning coffee we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Grown-up’s column Monday 8th December 2014

01 Nov

Returning to glory

~ by Jess Lee

Long flight: St James Charitable Trust ambassador David Hartnell.

Long flight: St James Charitable Trust ambassador David Hartnell.

THE TRUST that fought to save the St James is thrilled the theatre’s curtain looks set to rise once more.

Big plans: Artist's impression showing the Queen St view of a restored St James Theatre and neighbouring 39-storey residential tower, dubbed the St James Suites, at 302 Queen St.

Big plans: Artist’s impression showing the Queen St view of a restored St James Theatre and neighbouring 39-storey residential tower, dubbed the St James Suites, at 302 Queen St.


The St James Charitable Trust, formed by Bob Kerridge, has lobbied for about three years to see the grand old Auckland dame get back on her feet.

The historic theatre at 302 Queen St is to be restored and a neighbouring 39-level residential tower built after it was bought by family owned Reliant Holdings.
Kerridge hopes the trust will be involved in some capacity in the restoration.

“We are thrilled a buyer has come on board who is interested in the restoration of the St James to see her return to her former glory.”

Any concerns the trust had about the future of the building are gone, he says.

The theatre was built in 1928 but closed in 2007 because of damage from a fire in a neighbouring building.

Generations of Auckland’s have fond memories of attending concerts and shows there including a screening of Jane Campion’s The Piano, the musical Cats, heavy metal band Moorhead, Nick Cave and members of the Finn family.

The development, estimated to cost about $175 million, will include a three-level retail precinct and 195 car parks.

Restoration of the theatre, including the heritage-listed bell tower, was confirmed by its new owners last week.

It’s reopening, subject to safety and earthquake strengthening work, could be set for 2018 when the whole project is earmarked for completion.

Trust ambassador David Hartnell is overjoyed by the plans.

“I’m delighted that this family sees the potential of bringing back an iconic theatre and one of the best theatres that we have in New Zealand.”

It is a category one heritage building meaning all work will be scrutinised by Heritage New Zealand. Funding is yet to be agreed but it is thought Relianz Holdings, Auckland Council and the Auckland Notable properties Trust will each contribute.

Kerridge says the St James Auckland Charitable Trust will likely help with funding as well.

“We need to know a little bit more about the conditions and so forth before we can make any decisions, but we will support what needs to be done and what should be done to bring the theatre back to life.”

Consents have already been approved for the high-rise development, to be called the St James Suites, on the adjacent site.

Hartnell says he has no issue with the 39-level tower.

“I’ve always said to build on top of the theatre – don’t destroy it. High-rise are obviously the way everything is going, so that’s perfectly fine.

“From the plans that I’ve seen it looks superb. They’re going to bring that right back to the frontage, which thank God is still there, so that’s fantastic.”

Heritage New Zealand northern general manager Sherry Reynolds says the theatre is in urgent need of attention.

But many of its unique original interior features remain intact, she says.

“The St James Theatre is a significant heritage asset for Auckland.”


Grand dame: Elemental Construction Solutions’ Mike Gibbon, Auckland Notable Properties Trust’s Steve Bielby and Auckland Mayor Len Brown announce plans to develop the St James site and restore the theatre.

Auckland City Harbour News”

26 Sep

Digital examinations ‘no big deal’ for men


Get checked: Celebrity gossip columnist David Hartnell has become an  ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand in memory of his friend Robert Young who died of prostate cancer

Get checked: Celebrity gossip columnist David Hartnell has become an ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand in memory of his friend Robert Young who died of prostate cancer

Spare your blushes, men, and get checked for prostate cancer.
That’s the message celebrity gossip columnist David Hartnell wants to get across during the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand awareness month.

The Westmere resident lost his best friend of more than 50 years, theatre director and choreographer Robert Young, to prostate cancer in December last year.

“The last six months of his life it just took hold. It is just unbelievable aggressive,” Hartnell says.

“He handled it with grace dignity and humour – I don’t know if I would have handled it as well as he did really.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand men. About 3000 are diagnosed and more than 600 die each year.

young announced he had terminal prostate cancer in 2012 in a bid to encourage men to get regular checkups.

“Too many men put off going to see their doctor. I wasn’t one of them, but I still got caught out.”

Men should undergo annual prostate specific antigen blood tests and digital rectal exams starting at age 45 or earlier.

Having the test could save your life, Hartnell says.

“Men just don’t talk about prostate cancer. The digital rectal exam still puts so many off getting tested but it’s a matter of seconds – it’s no big deal.”

Hartnell became an ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand this year in Young’s memory.

“I spent the last 10 days with Robert and I told him I was going to do something in regards to prostate cancer, so he knew before he died that I was going to do it for him.”

He is holding a celebrity trivia quiz night this month to raise funds for the foundation’s awareness campaign Blue September.

All funds raised will go towards supporting the foundation’s helplines, research and public education about prostate and testicular cancer.

The Sky Tower turned blue on Monday to mark the beginning of Blue September and will be lit up for the whole month to help raise awareness.

From Auckland City Harbour News Sept 2014

by Jess Lee


05 Sep

David Hartnell’s Blooming Surprise

David's Garden

When did your love of gardening begin?
When I lived in London back in the ’60s and had one little window box. I knew nothing about gardening then and not much more all these years later. I used to buy packets of seeds and sprinkle them into the window box. Nobody was more surprised than I when they grew and blossomed.

How did you learn the art of gardening?
Believe me, there is no art whatsoever in my gardening – it’s all hit and miss. In no way am I a slave to it. However, I do spend more time in my garden than a Kardashian marriage typically lasts. If I like a particular plant, I always buy two because I’m bound to kill one. But I do grow orchids on our deck and have a lot of success with them.

Why do you enjoy it?
Whenever I’ve had enough of everything, I head out out the garden. There is nothing more relaxing than having a scratch around it. Also, when you’ve finished, you can always see what you’ve done, which is really rewarding.

What’s your favourite plant in your garden?
I like agapanthus, even though people say they are motorway flowers. They remind me of Las Vegas showgirls’ head gear as they blow gently in the wind. I love their stark white and dark inky-blue colours. I also like cactus plants – they’re spiky on the outside and soft on the inside, rather like a gossip columnist. Over they years, I have had some amazing cactus flowers, which only last about 12 hours.

David's Garden

When is your favourite time of year in the garden?
Spring, when everything is about to burst forth. I have been known to stick the odd artificial flower in a pot or two in the garden during the winter months to give it a bit of colour.

Have you ever had a gardening disaster?
Does the Pope have a balcony? There are far too many to remember. I’m not a slave to my garden, so if it’s a disaster, I just suck it up and get on with it.

New Zealand Womam’s Weekly

30 Aug

VAC Patron Profile Series: David Hartnell MNZM


David Hartnell

David Hartnell

David Harold Ward Hartnell MNZM is a journalist, media personality and gossip columnist whose syndicated columns have run in magazines and newspapers around the world for over 40 years. His gossip column currently features every week on www.grownups.co.nz, he writes a weekly Hollywood Trivia and Q&A for New Zealand Woman’s Weekly and has a column in every issue of Ponsonby News. He is well known for his catchphrases, “My Lips are Sealed!” and “I’m not one to gossip, but!” It has been said that he never repeats gossip so you need to listen very carefully the first time! He has written nine books, his most recent, David Hartnell’s Celebrity Quiz Book was released in
May. He is the Ambassador of the St James Saviours, a society dedicated to saving and renovating the St James Theatre in Queen Street.

In June this year he took up the role as Ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of New Zealand. The Variety Artists Club of New Zealand presented him with a Scroll of Honour in 1998, the Fullers Entertainment Award in 2013 and in 2009 he became a Patron.

In 2011 he was honoured as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM). He has stars on the Greymouth Walk of Fame and the Boulevard of Dreams in Orewa. Hartnell is style consultant for Citizen Watches.

Young David Hartnell

Young David Hartnell

David Hartnell was born David Harold Segetin in Auckland on 29 June 1944 to John (Mick) Segetin and Georgina née Stott. At the time his father was a petty officer at sea on the HMNZS Archilles and it would be another eight months before he held his son. Mick walked out on the family in 1948 and when Georgina remarried in 1953 David took his stepfather’s surname and become David Ward. His maternal grandfather was a Quaker and had been imprisoned in Mt Eden Jail during WWII as a conscientious objector. His grandmother’s brother is Earl of Mt Edgcumbe in Plymouth England. In 1953 his mother and stepfather adopted a baby girl, Maryanne. David grew up in a state house in Mt Roskill and attended Owairaka Primary School and Mt Albert College.

Auckland Deluxe Roller Skating Rink

Auckland Deluxe Roller Skating Rink

Asthmatic as a child, he began visiting the Auckland Deluxe Roller Skating Rink at the top of Khyber Pass and by the age of 10 was practicing figure skating. David was soon competing in solo and pair competitions, winning national titles including the Men’s Singles in 1962, the Freestyle Pairs and runner up in the Men’s Singles. In 1959 he came second in the Dance Pairs at the World Roller Skating Championships in Christchurch. He developed a flair for costume and make-up, sewing and decorating his sequined outfits and props. David was also fascinated in magic and joined the New Zealand Society of Magicians. “My grandparents took me to all the shows at His Majesty’s Theatre, the Civic and the St James. My grandfather loved vaudeville shows so I probably get it a lot from him and I’m very grateful,” he says.

David was badly bullied at school and on turning 15 joined the work force, first at a Four Square grocery store then in his grandfather’s factory, Venlite Industries, one of the first Venetian blind manufacturing companies in New Zealand. For a year in Christchurch he coached at the skating rink, made hamburgers, sold stationary and worked in a tomato sauce factory.

Bob and Dave La Rue

Bob and Dave La Rue

Back in Auckland in 1966 he teamed up with a dancer, the late Robert Young, to create the comedy drag act, Bob and Dave La Rue, miming to a 1953 recording of Ethyl Merman and Mary Martin. Agent Phillip Warren booked them into the Peter Pan Cabaret, the Colony Club and Surf City. They opened Mojo’s Nightclub with a Diana Ross and the Supremes take-off.

The next year Hartnell sailed to Kings Cross in Sydney and landed a job with Revlon Cosmetics as Australia’s first male make-up artist, discovering that he had a flair for publicity. In 1967 he took a job at Gala of London Cosmetics.


That same year he changed his surname to Hartnell, after Sir Norman Hartnell, a British fashion designer and dressmaker to the Queen Mother and the creator of Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress and Coronation gown. The two Hartnells became friends when David settled in London. David feels that his new surname has served him well and says, “You can say anything you like about me but please spell Hartnell with two L’s. It looks extremely ugly with only one.”

On his way to England in 1969, David stopped off in Hong Kong and worked freelance for a local television station, helping them with their move into colour. He had been commissioned to apply makeup for opera Diva Dame Joan Sutherland on Australian Television so had a good understanding of the medium.

In London he settled into Hamstead and later the prestigious Eaton Place in Belgravia, finding employment with the Dorothy Gray Company doing promotions in department stores and hair salons. He soon became their head makeup artist. In 1970 they were contracted to do the Miss World Contest at the Royal Albert Hall. He began writing a column for the Warrington Guardian which led to several books on makeup and a set of skin-care cards.

David eventually went freelance. He had a regular spot on a Scottish Television talk show and designed the facial features for store mannequins in Britain and Italy. He created the faces for the glam rock band, Sweet, and later he would design the makeup for the New Zealand band Ragnarock.

After four years in England David took a job with the Maybelline Cosmetic Company in Memphis, Tennessee, marketing their Fabulash Mascara. He moved to their New York branch then to Los Angeles. It was while living in Hollywood that David began interviewing local celebrities as a gossip columnist.

In 1974 he presented a retrospective photographic Face Art exhibition in Auckland and by 1975 had returned to New Zealand to work on Max Cryer’s television talk show Town Cryer. This led him to becoming the makeup
artist on Ray Woolf’s Two on One and eventually presenting a live gossip segment.

Saturday night show on Radio Pacific

Saturday night show on Radio Pacific

He did the Saturday night show on Radio Pacific and later took the weekday afternoon slot, interviewing local personalities. He presented a gossip segment three times weekly on Alice Worsley’s Radio i program and appeared with her on New Zealand’s first-ever television shopping show. They broadcast live from Beverly Hills and Universal Studios interviewing celebrities such as Mel Brooks, Eva Gabor, Jackie Collins and Phyllis Diller. His Hollywood gossip columns appeared in NZ Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, Metro Magazine and the Sunday News. From 1981 he began publishing his yearly list of New Zealand’s best and worst dressed celebrities.

In 1978 David was presenting a school holiday show at the Farmers Department Store, dressing the children up as characters from The Wizard of Oz, when security staff received a homophobic bomb threat. “After that I never did any shows for children again – a shame, really.”

He managed Miss New Zealand Sue Nicholson in 1974 and in 1975 co-judged the first Miss New Zealand Drag Queen Contest at the Peter Pan Cabaret in Auckland with Carmen Rupe. He was the chairman of the judges for the Miss New Zealand Contest between 1982 and 1987.

David Hartnell

David Hartnell

He continued over the years to work as makeup artist for many well known television shows including The Billy T. James Show, The Early Bird Show, Good Morning, The Ray Woolf Show and The Express Report, New Zealand’s first gay-orientated TV series. He presented The David Hartnell Show on Triangle TV in 2004.

David McPhail impersonated him in a satirical segment called Hartnell’s Parliament in their 1981 McPhail & Gadsby show. David even appeared in one episode as a mirror image of McPhail’s impersonation. He started presenting his Fickle Finger of Fate Award on the Saunders and Sinclair TV show in 1985. The prize went to someone who had made a memorable goof the week before.

In 1994, while recording radio interviews in Los Angeles, David experienced a major earthquake that wrecked his hotel room and destroyed the nearby freeway overpass. 1997 was a difficult year with a bout of hepatitis followed by a back injury after having been struck by Marc Ellis and Matthew Ridge’s Chevrolet during the filming of Fresh Up in the Deep End.

David Hartnell

David Hartnell

During 2008-9 David presented a series of armchair chats at the VAC Meet ‘N’ Greets, interviewing some of our colourful members such as Marian Burns, Tom Sharplin, Jon Zealando and Shane Hales. Recently he was interviewed on The Beat Goes On by Gerard Smith.

David Hartnell & Somboon

David Hartnell & Somboon

David lives with his partner Somboon and their Pekingese dog Miss Liza. He has an adopted sister, Maryanne, a half brother, Tom and a half sister, Pam. He has four nephews and two nieces. In June of this year David celebrated a triple event—his seventieth birthday, fifty years of writing celebrity gossip and his twenty-first anniversary with Somboon.

Much of the information and photos in this article come from his wonderful memoir, Memoirs of a Gossip Columnist, published in 2011. It’s well worth a read. But more than that, my lips are sealed!

The Variety Artists Magazine
- Michael Colonna

21 Jun

David’s Triple Celebration

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly


David Hartnell - NZ Woman's Weekly Jun 2014

Legendary gossip columnist David Hartnell has spent years being a guest at exclusive parties attended by Hollywood royalty. He met Princess Grace Kelly at one function and was even invited to Elizabeth Taylor’s star-studded 60th bash, held at Disneyland.

But when it comes to his own 70th birthday celebrations later this month, he won’t be making any fuss. In fact, David hates birthdays.

“When I turn 70, I’m not leaving the house,” he exclaims. “Nobody’s coming here, there will be no cake and no singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ – none of that rubbish.”

Although one might assume the Auckland-born-and-raised personality is pessimistic about all milestones, his face lights up when he talks about the two treasures in his life that he believes are worth celebrating.

“This year marks 50 years of my being in the entertainment industry and it’s been 21 years since my partner and I got together,” he says proudly. David’s long-term love is Somboon Khansuk (47), whom David met soon after Somboon moved to New Zealand from Thailand.

“We hit it off straight away. It was just right,” David says with a smile, as he glances at Somboon. “He had no idea who I was and I liked that. The only celebrity he had ever heard of was Michael Jackson.”

The couple moved in together after three months, and as Somboon spoke limited English at the time, he brushed up on the language by watching Fawlty Towers and Coronation Street with David. They now live with their pooch Liza in a quaint Auckland villa, filled with hundreds of photos of David with stars, and a vast collection of memorabilia and books about Hollywood.

“We’ve lasted this long because we are best friends,” Somboon tells.

Somboon is Buddhist and David holds no religious views, but despite their differences, the couple have enjoyed a lasting friendship. Both their families have embraced their relationship. They’ve even bought a home in Thailand and visit it each year. But despite celebrating 21 years together, and David being one of the first openly gay men on New Zealand television, he says marriage is not for him and Somboon.

“We’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s with wills and legal documents, so why get married? I think it’s great that people can, but I’ve never been one to wave any flags,” David tells.

Landing a job as a make-up artist at Revlon in Australia in the 1960s led David into the world of celebrity, and eventually into writing.

“I’d always wanted to be in show business,” says David, who had a passion for magic tricks and roller skating as a teenager. “I can’t sing, I can’t dance, so writing about celebrities was the nearest I could get to being a part of this world.”

The Weekly was the first magazine to offer David a permanent gossip column in New Zealand in 1976. “Jean Wishart was the editor then. She is what Hollywood would describe as a classy dame.”

These days, David continues to write a weekly Hollywood quiz column and compiles the annual Best Dressed List.

Celebrating 50 years as a gossip columnist, David says the pinnacle of his career was receiving a New Zealand Order of Merit from the Queen in 2011 for services to entertainment. He’s the only gossip columnist in the world to be bestowed such an honour.

The writer says his gossip is tongue in cheek, and he always sticks to his self-enforced rules. He never talks about stars who are pregnant until the baby is born, in case something goes wrong. “As soon as the baby is born, trumpets are blaring,” he says. And he always takes pictures of himself standing with every Hollywood celebrity he comes across.

He learned a valuable lesson when he attended the premiere of Total Recall, starring then-unknown actress Sharon Stone. He didn’t bother getting a photo with the now world famous star.

“When you attend these functions, you have to take a photo with anything that moves, because you don’t know how famous they might become!”

On David’s frequent trips to Los Angeles, he visits the cemetery where many of his celebrity friends now lie, often spending extra time at the grave of actress Eva Gabor.

“She was a huge star,” he says mournfully. “Now her final resting place is weathered, the gold lettering is fading, and all that is left is a piece of marble.”

During each celebrity interview that David conducts, he asks how they would like to be remembered. When asked the same question, David thinks of Eva’s grave and responds, “The only people I truly want to remember me are Somboon, my family and close friends. They are what is important

David Hartnell NZWW-JUNE-2014

Aroha Awarau