Paul Holmes – Starry Starry Knight

Paul Holmes on Wellington's 2ZM in 1975 (courtesy

My congratulations to everyone named in today’s New Year Honours, but in particular to Paul Holmes. His knighthood is richly deserved.

I first got to know Paul in the early 1970s. I think he was a radio announcer in Christchurch at the time or he may have come to Wellington to work on 2ZB. I was then the Labour candidate for Miramar. I was also ‘the star’ of The Brian Edwards Travelling Road Show, a stage review dreamed up by Roger Hall and consisting of comedy sketches and music. We toured the country to ever-diminishing audiences.

The ‘we’ were Roger, Fay and Grant Tilly, Michael Noonan, singer Jenny Parkinson, Yours Truly and a new name and face to me – Paul Holmes.

Paul was a delight on and off stage. He was kind, warm and funny.

His ‘flea race’, in which the radio commentator has a lot of money on one flea and systematically eliminates the others by squashing them with his thumb, was a highlight of the show. There were many such highlights. 

Less successful was the ‘star’ himself.  I have always suffered from performance nerves but never more so than during the Travelling Road Show. My monologues were deadly and my attempts at humour dire. Only my harmonica playing (Summertime) at the very end of the show, was rewarded with scattered applause.

On one occasion Roger took me aside and, by way of encouragement, told me how much he admired me. ‘You go out there every night and die a thousand deaths, but you still go out again the next night. That shows real courage.’

Paul was ever sympathetic and encouraging, the ingénue cheering up the old hand.

Though it never occurred to me that he would one day be the country’s foremost radio and television interviewer, I did recognise his extraordinary talent.

Indeed, after one of his performances on the show, I committed the cardinal sin of singling him out from the rest of the cast. ‘Paul Holmes, ladies and gentlemen! One day that young man will be a star.’ I was quite properly rebuked by the producer.

Well, the rest really is history.

Paul would become a seminal influence in New Zealand broadcasting. He would change the landscape.

Though many fine broadcasters preceded him, he was our first real ‘star’. And, in that sense of the word that suggests Hollywood and glittering lights and dancers and  theme music and Emmys and Oscars and your name on the pavement of Hollywood Boulevard, he may well be only real star that our small nation has as yet produced.

As the inevitable corollary perhaps, he has also been our most controversial broadcaster, a polariser of public opinion. In a sense his very fame may have served on occasion to deny him the respect that his intellect, his extraordinary talent, his humanity and generosity required.

He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit some years ago, but the truth of the matter is that most Kiwis have very little idea of what our New Zealand awards mean. Paul’s knighthood changes all that. It is the ultimate expression of the country’s respect for a truly great broadcaster and communicator.

One must be careful not to write in the past tense. This is the guy who holds the New Zealand record for near-death experiences. To all today’s accolades, add ‘survivor’.

Cheers Paul.

Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards blogs at Brian Edwards Media

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19 Comments & Questions

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I couldn't agree that he was our first real star broadcaster. That honour belongs to Peter Sinclair.


Peter was a friend of mine and I admired his particular style of broadcasting. But I don't think the comparison really stands up.


It's not a comparison. I am simply saying that Sinclair was an extremely professional broadcaster, who just happens to have been around before Holmes.


Congratulations to a genuine 'personality'.


Pete Sinclair was of a different genre altogether. He didn't deliver hard news, nor interview the horrible souls who were fouling our lives. Paul, I take my hat off to you for telling me the news in a way I could understand, and telling it how it is/was, with no fancy silicone wrapping. I dearly hope that your health battles become minor over the next few years and you can enjoy the rest you richly deserve. All the best xxxx


It will be a cold day in hell before I call Holmes Sir.


Totally agree.
Holmes rise to fame was his anti-American stance, and nothing else. He was in fact a very rude interveiwer, frequently shoeing no respect fot the views of teh person he was interviewing. Such is not good investigative journalisim, nor does it elicit the FACTS.


With all due respect, as he is a human-I am shocked.Oh well, I guess there really is no accounting for taste.


Heard him on the radio this morning... I was impressed.


You're easily impressed.

Did he unleash a spray at feckless Māori, or did he restrain himself this time?


no doubt nice guy but wasn't that his job - these medals are given out far to freely


The point of a knighthood was never that should be handed out to egotistical celebrities constantly providing fodder for women's magazines. Holmes has bled over the pages of too many rubbishy articles to be taken seriously and a friend in England laughed with incredulity when he learned that Holmes had actually been knighted.

I agree with John Morrison. Not only will it be a cold day in hell before I call Paul Holmes Sir... This applies to most of our now farcically-titled "knights".

As for Brian Edwards's constantly centrestaging and lightweight columna .. why on earth is the NBR using this old lefty as a columnist?


well, there you go, Brian..we're still a nation of mealy-mouthed nasty little poppy-slashers if the above comments to your good piece are anything to go by.

Why can't people just let it be for a minute and give praise to a Kiwi battler which Holmes is....


What garbage.
Mary Wilson is streets ahead of both of the egotistical twits, Edwards and Holmes, and should've been away ahead of Holmes in the "honours queue".
I even rate Katherine Ryan and Chris Laidlaw as better, sharper and more even handed interviewers than the afore mentioned "egotistical twits".
The one I feel most sorry for is Mark Todd, who thoroughly deserves his gong, but now has to receive it linked to the sycophants, Holmes and Glenn.
Sorry Mark, you Sir have definitely earned yours. And then some.


I'm really distressed that you think so poorly of Paul and me, John Morrison. I'm sure neither of us could come up with such a brilliant critique as "egotistical twits". And the philanthropic Owen Glenn thrown in there for good measure. But please do me one favour - tell me that you're not the cricketer and cricket commentator John Morrison. That would be just too disillusioning.


It's obviously not the same person, Brian. Have you never heard Mystery commentate on cricket and being interviewed when he was both a member and coach of the NZ cricket team? Your powers of observation are frightingly weak.


No mystery, I am not he.
Being "distressed" comes with age Mr Edwards, a hat will compensate.


Okay an immediate declaration.
I class Paul Holmes as a friend .
We are not close but we have worked together for over two decades as I have been tasked with promoting/advertising his TV show and more latterly his radio show.
And we have also been involved in some personal stuff where I could assist Paul.
God I hate the small minds in this country who take a swipe at anyone who has the balls to put their head above the parapet, have a go , and succeed .
Get a life !
Brian Edwards got it right , Paul is an extraordinary talent and as such it is great to see him recognised .
The awards that mean the most to average kiwi's are those that they can identify with . Not some obscure person who may well be brilliant but in a field that does not touch their lives,
Paul connects with middle New Zealand , always has , always will.
That is why he is so successful.
He once told me that "there is no question you could not ask someone in an interview if you asked it the right way"
Just ask Mark Todd or Kim Dotcom. Paul asked them tough questions in a manner that elicited an answer, an answer to the question we all wanted to hear .
That is why I am very happy to salute Sir Paul.


"God I hate the small minds in this country who take a swipe at anyone who has the balls to put their head above the parapet, have a go , and succeed."

Rich irony indeed, coming from the man who ran the moronic Black Heart campaign in 2003.


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