Behind every TV stripper...

Last updated 08:28 08/05/2008
Sunday Star-Times
STRIPPING DOWN: Bikini streaker Lisa Lewis is set to front Alt TV's Naked News Flash.

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Serious journalists are shocked that Lisa Lewis has scored the job as naked newsreader on a fledgling TV station. Our naked auditions were hitherto a deep secret.

We've always interviewed for work in the nick, which explains why so many of us maintain such bodily perfection. A core truth, we believe, is contained in exposing our breasts. Call it light relief from punctuation and that other stuff.

We have to expect something a little different from actors, like Oliver Driver, who enter our world, and I guess he didn't realise that the casting couch, that familiar tool of his trade, is handled more discreetly in ours. Driver, once frontman for a TV arts programme, has now revealed himself as "creative director" of Alt TV.

The naked newsreader idea is his, and he defends it as simply taking news as entertainment to its logical conclusion. "We want to take the piss out of news because the news is crap", he has explained, I'd like to think in Shakespearean tones.

"It's Jin the missing otter. It's Nicky Watson's lost dog. In order to get you to watch good news we'll take titillation to its extreme. And we also want to make it funny."

I have high hopes for the channel's promised bulletins, dealing with "piss", "crap" and "titillation" in post-modern perspective.

Lewis was the only woman at the auditions to leave her knickers off as well as her bra, which means an automatic senior grading.

Her news reading skills were honed on reading Thomas the Tank Engine to her toddler, practice that should be excellent preparation for wrapping her lips around catastrophes and other froth.

"I'm 27. I might as well use this body at its peak - maybe for another three years - and see where it takes me," Lewis says.

I like her style. Naked rugby commentating would be a logical career step from here - she's already practised by streaking during a 2006 test match - and winter weather would firm up her assets fetchingly.

But if I draw back from flat-out praise of Lewis and her talent, even of Driver and his intriguing media philosophy, perhaps it's because the ghost of Chloe rises before me, tiger slippers in hand, stolen clothing from her washing line flapping, and Gary McCormick grinning. What big teeth he has.

McCormick, you'll remember, discovered Chloe in a Wainuiomata shopping mall, and filmed her at home with her husband, kids, and hideous jokey footwear for a TV series he made about our heartland.

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Chloe has a truly original voice, and a fey quality that made her a celebrity just long enough to lose a husband and cast her fate to the winds, while McCormick sailed on to greater things.

She has not featured in news reports since for cheerful reasons: her washing really did get stolen, she really couldn't sing, though she made a recording - and last week she appeared in court for shoplifting.

Of all things, it was flea treatment for her dog that did for her, because she couldn't afford to buy it. The dog, she said, was scratching itself raw.

There was no fortune made from Chloe's brief fling at fame, as this latest episode reveals, and Te Papa, in a strikingly unkind gesture, even sent back her tiger slippers when she donated them to the nation.

I hope the same doesn't happen to Lewis when she offers her historic copy of Thomas the Tank Engine - or to Nicky Watson, when she offers her breast implants.

Somewhere at the back of female celebrities, women who are prepared to strip either literally or metaphorically for our amusement, there's always a grinning male with a clever justification.

I remember the repellent interview with Watson when she told all to a smirking male reporter; I remember McCormick and Chloe; and now I'll remember Driver in the same light.

I don't share the sniggering belief that using real people in such stunts is funny. There's a pretence that people know what they're doing when they court the media, or play along with it, as these women have done.

But at the end of the day it's always the cheesy, grinning male who does very nicely, and whose career prospers, while the exhibitionist women become the mere cast-off brassieres, if you will, of notoriety.

- The Dominion Post

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