'He was the light and shade in all of us'

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 02/02/2013

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To the public he was a familiar face and voice, bringing the news every morning and night.

But to those who knew and worked with him, Sir Paul Holmes was a humorous man who could communicate with everyone.

Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to Holmes, 62, after news that he died early yesterday morning.

Peter Beaven was close friends with Holmes and former Labour Party president Mike Williams since their first day at Karamu High, with the trio forming a debating team.

"Paul was always passionate, and always followed up his words with getting personally involved. He was incredibly widely read and always had several books open and on a huge range of subjects," Mr Beaven said.

"With his sense of humour it was impossible not to warm to him as a person, and that's why people trusted him and were happy to be interviewed by him."

Acting was his first love and had he seen a career path in that field he probably would have taken it.

"But his intellect and his natural talents in all forms of media - writing, his radio voice and his presence on television - meant it was probably inevitable he would enter that field."

Dave Mahoney teamed up with Holmes to create the first tandem commercial breakfast show on Wellington's Radio Windy in 1981.

Holmes' radio philosophy was: "Wherever we can smell the pungent odour of hypocrisy, bureaucracy, stupidity and injustice, we will be there in our white frocks."

One morning the pair phoned a French airport because news broke that prostitutes were holding up traffic as they solicited prospective clients driving between terminals.

Mr Mahoney said Holmes conducted the interview in fluent French and kept up a humorous running commentary for our listeners.

He described his old friend as having an "insatiable thirst for knowledge, a curiosity that would put a cat to shame and an angled, quick and wicked sense of mischief and fun".

When Holmes moved to ZB he was a "radio rival" to former Windy Radio presenter Roger Gascoigne.

"He didn't quite get to know me so he rang me on air and asked me what the time was . . . he would just do that sort of thing to get a conversation started, it was lovely."

He described him as a polarising character. "When you're angry with Paul you could actually see the wart on his nose, but when he was doing good things you'd never notice it.

"He was the light and shade in all of us."

The first night Vicki Wilkinson-Baker worked with Holmes someone rang the newsroom saying "he should be locked in a bloody cupboard".

Dennis Conner had just walked off the Holmes show.

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As the longest-serving Holmes reporter, she could still picture his "naughty five-year-old grin".

The smile was often accompanied by a cheeky remark, like the time he described one of her reports as "a little OTT".

"He'd come back the next day and fess up and say ‘look we got it a bit wrong there', I used to think that was a marvellous thing and that's something we can all learn from."

During her 13 years on the show Holmes taught her that people mattered.

The day his marital troubles with Hinemoa Elder made the paper Holmes was chatting, laughing and hugging competitors in the special olympics.

"He could communicate with everyone from Maggie Thatcher down. He made every one of them feel important and that what they had to say mattered."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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