Memoirs of a Gossip Columnist By David Hartnell (Penguin, RRP $45)
There’s no doubt that most of us enjoy a good spot of gossip, but David Hartnell is one of those few people in the world who has managed to make a career of it.
It wasn’t always such a glamorous life, though, and for young David Segetin (as he was then) growing up was pretty tough.
From the age of three it was just him and his mum after his father walked out of the family home, and he didn’t see him again until many years later.
Life as a teenager wasn’t any easier: 1950s New Zealand wasn’t the most tolerant of times for a young gay man to make his way in life.
However, his positive outlook in life has carried him through: from a time as a champion rollerskater, to becoming the first male makeup artist in Australasia to finally taking on the role of New Zealand’s favourite gossip columnist.
Along the way he has had plenty of adventures, including being sued for one of his “Fickle Finger of Fate” pieces, meeting more celebrities than you could shake a stick (or microphone) at, and being thrown out of the lounge bar of an Invercargill pub back in the 1970s for wearing a roll-neck shirt. It has to be said that any sort of shirt would be classed as formal attire at some of our pubs these days.
And all of those adventures have happened as he has shared with us all the latest gossip on who is doing what, to whom and why. However, above all else, that gossip has always been good natured, which I suspect is why he has had such longevity: there are plenty of people out there ready to gloat when things go wrong in the lives of the rich and famous but they are all too serious and snarky.
Hartnell’s gossip has always been tempered with a good dose of humour and is generally nothing that will cause too much pain to the subject.
This book is a fun look at the life of a successful gossip columnist and is also packed with interesting little snippets about the celebs he has met over the years.
It’s a great read, and David: on behalf of all right-thinking Invercargillites, sorry about the shirt incident.
Reviewed by Jilian Allison-Aitken
– The Southland Times