My brilliant career, revisited

BESS MANSON
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013
Rochelle Brader

ROCHELLE BRADER: Her boyfriend got a Beatle haircut.

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Fame has come knocking once again for one-time Wellington '60s pop sensation Rochelle Vinsen (Rochelle Brader). 

Coiffed, bejewelled and dressed in an eye-grabbing red ensemble, former pop chick Rochelle Brader jumps up and bursts into song.

'''Lipstick on your collar told a tale on you...' My teacher in standard five always got me to sing that song in front of the class as I strummed along on a tennis racket.

''I knew then that I loved an audience. I don't think it was ego, I just knew it made me feel good to perform,'' says Brader, whose life is to be the subject of a Fringe Festival play with her daughter Chantelle playing her.

Brader is as cheery and chatty as the day is long. Flitting from anecdote to song, the 66-year-old grandmother of five gleefully rummages through an armful of scrapbooks heaving with masses of news cuttings, album covers and letters from industry folk she hung out with in the day.

The play - My Boyfriend Got A Beatle Haircut (one of Brader's own hits) takes us from the days of an very ''innocent and naive'' Khandallah girl hanging out with the likes of Pete Sinclair, through her open marriage to her spiral into depression and conversion to the Baha'i faith.

Helping her daughter piece together the patchwork of her life has been a reflective experience, she says. Brader's career started at the age of 16 when she and her Onslow College band The Silhouettes performed on Auckland talent show Have A Shot.

''I got a call a few days later from a guy who said he could get me a recording contract with HMV. I was so excited but two months went by and I still hadn't heard back from him. I was passing HMV recording studios one day and thought I'd just drop in. The receptionist had never heard of this bogus talent scout. I was devastated but just as I was about to leave, one of the managers there overheard my story.''

He told Brader to come back for an audition. She impressed enough to get a five-year contract and went on to make eight 45s - 16 songs, two of them making the top ten. Her record was Candy Kiss.

''Unfortunately, 2ZB's Bas Tubert refused to play the song because the backing track was too loud.

''I was so upset. All my school mates were starting to think I'd made all this recording stuff up. So I went in to see Bas in my lunch hour - dressed in my school uniform - and begged him to play it. He felt sorry for me and the next day he played the flip side.''

Nationwide tours and local gigs followed, all fitting  around her teaching studies. Music went on hold when she married a fellow teaching student, who incidentally, had a Beatle haircut.

She gave birth to her first son, Gary, almost nine months later.

''My poor mother told everyone Gary was six weeks premature because she couldn't bring herself to acknowledge I'd had sex before marriage.''

She went on to have another son, Danny. Then followed a bout of serious depression.

''At that time it was all about flower power and free love. My husband and I tried having an open marriage but ultimately it didn't work for me.''

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It was about this time that Brader joined the Baha'i faith, which she still follows today.

''I'd been so lost. I'd gone from this innocent and naive girl-next-door to living in an open relationship and all the things that went with that and I felt I'd lost who I was.''

Brader's marriage ended and she returned to singing in a radio show called Grandpa's Place, a sort of musical drama for preschoolers.

As well as working as a singing waitress at the Settlement restaurant in Wellington, Brader made children's albums and videos with an emphasis on how to stay safe.

It was a subject close to her heart - aged 5, she was briefly abducted by a man offering her a lift.

Brader remarried in 1982 and had the daughter she'd always longed for. 

She was tickled when Chantelle, 29, a Toi Whakaari drama school graduate, suggested she make a play about her life.

''She jokes that I'm like L&P - world famous in New Zealand but nowhere else,''  she adds with a roar of laughter.

''I'm excited about being famous again. But a bit nervous too. What will people think? This goodie two-shoes was not such a goodie-goodie after all I'm sure.''

My Boyfriend Got A Beatle Haircut, runs at the temporary Bats (corner of Cuba and Dixon Sts) on March 9 and 12-16. 

- The Dominion Post

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