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July 12, 2021 July 2021 No Comments

The guest speaker at our 28 May meeting was retired media personality Ian Johnstone who discussed a few of his experiences in NZBC, TV 1 and TVNZ during the last third of last century. Topics ranged from the political to documentaries, local and international, to Crimewatch. Ian was the first to interview Robert Muldoon on TV as the new Prime Minister in 1975 and moderated his last TV debate as PM with David Lange in the run up to the 1984 election. 

He spoke about a series of documentaries, “Beginners Guide”, intended to illustrate  first encounters with novel situations. The first programme covered funerals but he spoke more about a later, well-reviewed episode in which he was found guilty of a fictional crime and was sentenced to two days in Mt Crawford prison. He described walking upright into the prison in his civilian clothing, being taken into in custody told to strip and was handed his prison clothing. He demonstrated his unrehearsed change in demeanour with his change in attire. He asked the director whether he was wanted for any voice-over. “No Ian. Your body language said it all.” After two days of supposedly standard prison routine he was released. Two months later, in Shannon, he met a guy who had been in Mt Crawford at the same time on a drugs charge, now also released. Recognising Ian, he told him how delighted all the prisoners had been with his “visit”. Ahead of his arrival Corrections had painted the inside walls of all the cells and for three nights in a row, while Ian was in confinement, they had had chicken followed by ice-cream for dinner.

Ian hosted ten series of Crimewatch, during which they publicised some 1900 unsolved crimes, 53% of which were solved as a result. Police opinion was that one appearance on Crimewatch saved two weeks of an officer knocking on doors. Some crimes required a re-enactment for the screen, for which they employed actors. On one occasion they employed a Samoan actor, who held a senior public service role in real life, to replay a State Advances scam scene. Some days later the actor was travelling to work by bus when a woman passenger recognised him. Very angry she asked, “What are you doing here? You should be in prison!” It took some time for her to be convinced of her error. The still-available actor and now-retired senior civil servant, was our own SW Rebus member from Martinborough, Lani Tupu, now Ian’s close friend.

On another occasion they undertook to replay security camera footage supposedly of a criminal cashing a forged $500 cheque. Viewers were surprised to see the face of the Deputy Mayor of Nelson. The technical team, winding the tape back to the time and date of the offense for broadcast,  had forgotten to allow for daylight saving and got the time an hour out. Fortunately, the Deputy Mayor declined to sue them!

The South Wairarapa Rebus Club meets in the South Wairarapa Working Men’s Club on the fourth Friday morning of each month and organises an outing in those months with a fifth Friday. Anyone in the retired age group who may be interested in SW Rebus Club is welcome to come along to a meeting as a visitor.  Please contact David Woodhams 306 8319.

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