Pictured here alongside Chicane the magician in costume for a recent Steampunk themed event at SkyCity.
The Steampunk science fiction genre is set in an alternative, post-apocalyptic version of the British Victorian or American Wild West era where steam power has remained in mainstream use. Added retro-futuristic technology includes fictional machines like those found in the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. And whatever crap we happen to be holding in the picture above.
Also entertaining the 600 strong corporate crowd was the popular Mermaids Dance Band consisting of Pauline Berry, Joe Cotton and Amber Claire with Stuart Pearce on keyboards.
I feel invincible in a cravat.
The Amazing VAC Variety Show at the Rose Theatre in Belmont was a great success. Ticket sales were so strong that an extra row of seats had to be placed in front of the stage.
Performers included Dizzy Summers (Paula Wray), Gemma and Maryanne Rushton, Colin Parris, Paul Bennett, Roger Skinner, Ken Strong, Karen Davy and Marian Burns. Holding the show together was our MC David Hartnell MNZM, Patron of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand.
My thanks to all members of both cast and crew who worked so hard to put on a fantastic evening of entertainment. Lots of emails and positive comments from the public about the professionalism of the show and in particular the wide variety of talent on display.
Thanks also to our major concert sponsor – Paddy Fahy from Nature’s Sunshine Products New Zealand. Support also graciously received from Kenderline Electrical – suppliers of MARTIN professional lighting, Edwards Sound – suppliers of D.A.S. Audio, Musicways Limited – suppliers of ZOOM sound effects and Trumpeter DJ John McGough.
The Amazing VAC Show will return …
Everyone loves a good old joke. And to prove it, here are without a doubt the oldest jokes you’ll ever hear in your life. They come from an ancient Greek jokebook called Philogelos, The Laughter Lover, thought to date back to the fourth century AD.
The book contains 264 jokes and is credited to two authors, Hierocles and Philagrius, about which nothing is known.
Just like the jokes told by modern-day comedians, much of the humour in the collection is topical. Unlike today’s stock lines concerning technology, the Internet and modern relationships; the subjects Hierocles and Philagrius cover included eunuchs, slaves and scholastikos, a stereotype roughly translating to a book-smart, street-dumb intellectual. The scholastikos were the ancient world’s version of the Irish or Australian scapegoat character.
One section of the book concerns medical gags that we’d now refer to as ‘Doctor, Doctor’ jokes, and there’s even a prototype version of Monty Python’s iconic Dead Parrot Sketch—a man buys a slave, who dies shortly afterwards. He complains to the previous owner and is simply told, “Well, he never died when I owned him.” Other chapters concern drunkards, those with bad breath, misers, women haters and the undernourished.
With that, here are some of the better jokes from Ancient Greece. I’ve left the verbiage as it is so you get the full effect.
A friend said to a pedant who was going on a journey, “I wish you to purchase for me two slave boys of fifteen years each.” He replied, “If I do not find such, I shall buy for you one of thirty years.”
A pedant, a bald headed man and a barber were travelling together, and pitching camp in a wild area they agreed that each one should take turns to stay awake on guard. It fell to the barber to watch first. Desiring to play a trick, he shaved the head of the sleeping intellectual, and his watch being finished, he woke up the latter. The intellectual, rubbing his head on awakening and finding himself bare, said, “What a worthless fellow is that barber, he has made a mistake and wakened the bald-headed man instead of myself.”
A certain person coming to a pedant who was a physician said, “Doctor, when I awake from sleep I have a dizziness for half an hour and then I recover.” The physician replied, “Get up after the half hour.”
A man, just back from a trip abroad, went to an incompetent fortune-teller. He asked about his family, and the fortune-teller replied: “Everyone is fine, especially your father.” When the man objected that his father had been dead for ten years, the reply came: “You have no clue who your real father is.”
A pedant whilst swimming almost choked to death. He made an oath that he would not go into the water again until he had first learned to swim well.
A man with bad breath asked his wife: “Madame, why do you hate me?” And she said in reply: “Because you love me.”
A pedant seeing his family physician approaching, hid from him. Upon being asked by one of his companions why he did this, he replied, “I have not been ill for such a long time that I am ashamed to meet him.”
A pedant was on a voyage when a severe storm arose and his slaves were crying out in terror. “Do not weep,” he said, “For I have given you all your liberty in my will.”
A pedant was quarreling with his father and said to him, “You wicked fellow, do you not understand how much injury you have done to me? If you had never been born I should have inherited my grandfather’s estate.”
A misogynist was sick, at death’s door. When his wife said to him, “If anything bad happens to you, I’ll hang myself.” He looked up at her and said, “Do me the favour while I’m still alive.”
Two parricidal pedants were complaining to each other because their fathers were living. One of them asked, “What do you wish? Shall each one strangle his own father?” “By no means,” replied the other, ‘lest we be called parricides. But if you are willing, you shall slay my father, and I will kill yours.”
So, next time someone asks to hear a joke, hit them with some humour from Ancient Greece and you’re bound to be the life of the party.
Originally appeared in the May edition of Inside Entertainment, the monthly membership magazine of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc.
Around a hundred and twenty years ago, a man picked up his morning newspaper and, to his surprise and horror, saw his own name listed in the obituary column. The newspaper had reported his death in error, instead of the death of his brother. He was mortified.
After he regained his composure, his focus turned to what people had said about him.
The obituary was headed Merchant of Death is Dead. It went on, ‘The man who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before has died.’ The man had been the inventor of dynamite and had also designed military armaments.
The stark black and white words resonated with him and rattled around in his head. He came to the realisation that if he had indeed been the one who died, this would have been his legacy. He decided that this was not the way he wanted to be remembered and from that day on started working toward peace.
His name was Alfred Nobel and he is remembered today for the great Nobel Prize—one each year for physical science, chemistry, medical science, literary work and the fifth for the person or society that renders the greatest service to the cause of peace.
I’ll have my PA take care of that right away.
Pictured here at the MOTAT Stars and Cars display alongside a 1954 Chevrolet Deluxe formerly owned by Billy T. James and the iconic yellow Mini used in the classic New Zealand road film Goodbye Pork Pie.
Thanks to MOTAT for asking me along to do a story for Inside Entertainment, the magazine of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc.
Also on display is the Tool Guys van from Outrageous Fortune, a home-built motorcycle constructed by Richard Pearse in 1912 and a scooter once owned by Helen Clark.
I’ve driven past Taupiri Mountain countless times and thought “one day I’ll go and see Billy T. James”.
Billy was the face of New Zealand comedy until his untimely death in 1991. He could tell jokes and write original material, he could act, he could sing, he could play the guitar and the saxophone at professional level, he was an accomplished artist and his impressions of celebrities were spot-on.
In 1985 he was named New Zealand Entertainer of the Decade, the following year he was appointed to The Order of the British Empire for services to entertainment. In 1990 he was presented the prestigious Benny Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand for a lifetime of excellence in the performing arts. He truly was a legendary variety performer in every sense of the word.
Coming back mid-afternoon from performing a magic show in Hamilton, I thought that now was as good a time as any so stopped at Taupiri Mountain and set off to find Billy’s burial site. A quick check of Google confirmed that yes he was buried there, but provided no indication of where. What surprised me first of all was just how many graves were on the mountain; driving past you really get no idea of how many people are resting there. The vast majority are not visible from the road and the mountain goes up, and up, and up with dozens upon dozens of sections.
There didn’t seem to be any sort of structure to the layout of the sites; graves from the 1930s sat alongside graves from the 1990s, some were only accessible by steep climbs or dips; there were a total lack of any steps or pathways leading to some of the sections. As I was stumbling up dirt tracks and slipping down loose gravel I couldn’t help but think that if this was in Auckland someone would have broken an ankle and demanded the council put in handrails and concrete pathways. And probably wheelchair access.
Finally I stumbled across the 1974 gravestone marking the final resting place of Ruby Taitoko. I immediately recognised the surname, it was Billy’s mother. Billy was buried in the next plot.
His original marker from 1991 is pictured below. Notably, it only mentions his birth-name, William James Te Wehi Te Toko. Billy was known was Te Wehi as a child, the stage name Billy T. James only came about when he was touring internationally with the Maori Volcanics showband, as “it was something the Aussies could pronounce.”
Pictured below is the much newer carved Hinuera stone sculpture of Billy, which was unveiled in March 2000 by his uncle Bill Awa. It was originally holding a ukelele, which was presumably taken by someone as a souvenir. The uke was replaced by a can of beer, somewhat apocryphal as Billy very rarely drank during his lifetime. The text reads “In Loving Memory of Te Wehi William Taitoko, Billy T. James, A Great Entertainer Loved By All. Arohanui Na To Iwi”.
The third and newest marker, the distinctive white shell-like stone, appeared mysteriously on the mountain shortly after the sculpture of Billy was unveiled. It’s thought to have been placed there by his step-daughter Cherie, but this has never been officially confirmed. The text on this gravestone reads “In Loving Memory, Billy T. James, 17 Jan 1949-7 Aug 1991, Dearly Loved By His Family.”
If you’re passing Taupiri Mountain and wish to visit, Billy is located on the lower slopes. The white stone is quite visible from the road, even when driving past. Enter the main gate and follow the path to the right while keeping an eye out, you’ll spot Billy’s burial site quite easily.
As spotted in Epsom in January. Note the caption on the window – Going Places?
Not anymore by the look of it.
Just finished up a new website for the Brotherhood of Auckland Magicians. The BAM was formed in 1945 and has a focus on membership from working professional magicians.
The Brotherhood of Auckland Magicians are the custodians of the prestigious Grand Master of Magic Award, which is a lifetime achievement award for New Zealand magicians. There are full biographies of each of the recipients on the website.
– I find that if I spend a little too much time doing HTML coding then it rewires my brain and before long I start trying to do simple household chores such as washing dishes, vacuuming or tying my shoelaces in HTML.
Great to perform my strolling closeup magic at the Viaduct Events Centre for the TVNZ 2014 New Season Launch Party.
The event had a circus theme and I entertained the audience of around a thousand people alongside four other magicians. The ringmaster for the evening was Guy Cater who circulated throughout the room with a megaphone hyping up the magic with traditional showbiz flair.
Imagine my surprise when I turn around and bump into internet meme Alf Stewart from Home and Away. During the announcement of the new season’s lineup pre-recorded clips of the ever-popular UK magician Dynamo were shown on the big screen.
The funniest part of the evening was when Alan forgot his hat and accidentally left it in the dressing room. He almost got away with it too.
Pictured above with Sal Piacente from Brooklyn, New York. Take a look at the best parts of each of the four photos above and I’m sure everything will be in focus eventually.
Sal has been a world authority on Casino Game Protection since the late 1980s. Known in the industry as “The Hit Man”, he began his career as a blackjack dealer in Atlantic City. Two years later at a local dealing school he displayed his tremendous talent and knowledge of Game Protection to the owners of International Gaming Consultants in Cherry Hill, NJ. He was immediately brought on as a lead consultant, and thus began his journey of unwaivering determination and unsurpassed skills in the field.
Sal travels the world advising casinos on how to best protect themselves from cheaters. He’s been a consultant to the FBI, and can memorise the order of a completely shuffled deck of cards in approximately ten seconds.
Pictured with prominent kiwi entertainer Chic Littlewood.
Born in England, Chic arrived in New Zealand in 1964. His television debut was on Have a Shot the same year, and he went on to appear in practically every light entertainment show of the era, from Happen Inn to Go For It. He also made at least 500 afternoon appearances with his old sparring partner, puppet Willie McNabb (voiced by Alma Woods), writing and presenting the popular children’s shows Chicaboom and Chic Chat.
Both as a star in his own right and as support to such celebrities as Dame Vera Lynn, The Irish Rovers, John Rowles and the Shadows, he has toured the country many times with cabaret concerts, light opera and even ballet.
A show business jack of all trades, Chic can certainly claim to be a master of at least a few, having twice been nominated as Best Actor in a Television Drama, winning the coveted N.E.O.A. Entertainer of the Year in 1977 and the prestigious Benny Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand in 1979. More recently he starred in a prominent role on Shortland Street for three years and made appearances on Hercules, Mercy Peak and in Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
UPDATE : Sad to report that Chic passed away in January 2015, he will be missed.
Amid much hype and speculation, award-winning Auckland magician and entertainer Mick Peck has confirmed today that he will NOT be playing the twelfth incarnation of the iconic time-lord Doctor Who.
Widely regarded as one of the biggest roles in British television, Scottish actor Peter Capaldi has been cast as the Twelfth Doctor and will take over from Matt Smith who is to leave the show at Christmas 2013.
Mick Peck says: “Being asked to play The Doctor is an amazing privilege, it’s truly one of the greatest roles in television. However since the BBC have never even heard of me, much less contacted me for an audition, I can confirm today that I shall not be playing the role. In fact I won’t even be making coffee for the new guy.”
Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer of the show, says “It’s an incendiary combination: one of the most talented actors of his generation is about to play the best part on television. Peter Capaldi is in the TARDIS!” Inside sources say that he doesn’t even know who Mick Peck is.
Current Doctor Who companion, Jenna Coleman, says “I’m so excited Peter Capaldi is the man taking on the challenge of becoming the Twelfth Doctor. With Steven’s writing and his talent I know we’ll be making an amazing show with an incredible incarnation of number 12. I can’t wait to start this new adventure!” To date she hasn’t returned any of Mick’s phone calls, though she does occasionally send him text messages at three in the morning.
Charlotte Moore, Controller, BBC One, says: “Peter Capaldi has all the genius and versatility needed to take on the mantel of the great Time Lord and make the role his own. He’ll bring his own particular wisdom, charisma and wit to the Twelfth Doctor and take the show into an exciting new era.”
When asked about rumours of the popular New Zealand magician stepping into the role she asked, somewhat ironically, “Mick who?”
TALE OF THE TAPE : HOW DO THE TWO WANNABE TIMELORDS COMPARE?
– Peter Capaldi is an award-winning actor, film maker and lifelong Doctor Who fan. He has enjoyed an illustrious career to date in both film and television.
– Mick Peck does card tricks and drives across town with a rabbit.
– Before securing the coveted role of the Twelfth Doctor, Peter first appeared in Doctor Who in 2008, playing Caecilius in the episode “The Fires of Pompeii”.
– Mick thought that episode was nonsense, especially the magma-monster.
– Peter grew up in Glasgow and attended the Glasgow School of Art. While studying there he secured his first breakthrough role in Local Hero (1983). He has also had roles in Dangerous Liaisons, The Crow Road, The Devil’s Whore and Torchwood: Children Of Earth.
– Mick grew up in Pukekohe and secured his first breakthrough role in a 1992 school play featuring Peter Rabbit, Bill Worm, Spi Spider and a funny-looking bird with neon wings whose name presently escapes him.
ASSOCIATED PARODY PRESS