The Trip of a Lifetime – Land of the Long White Cloud – Aotearoa – Kare Kare – Part Four

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Music producer Nigel Horrocks at his former Kare Kare home

I originally thought I could condense my entire week in New Zealand into one blog post.  Ha!  I packed a month’s worth of fun into the seven days I was there.  Kare Kare Beach was one of the highlights of my trip, and the series of events that happened there were truly surreal.

I’ll begin with the Jane Campion film “The Piano”.  This New Zealand-made film garnered no less than three Academy Awards in 1993.  That was one year before I headed over to the very shore where it was filmed. I saw “The Piano” at the quaint Nickelodeon Theater in Santa Cruz, and I’ll never forget my reaction to its shocking ending.  The opening scenes filmed on Kare Kare beach in which actress Holly Hunter landed there were intense and foreboding.  The weather looked cold, grim and overcast.  Little did I know I’d be there – life takes us to unexpected places, that’s for sure.

When John and I made our way to Kare Kare on his motorcycle, there were scattered showers.  Luckily John was a skilled motorcyclist and he smoothly navigated the windy road.  (I was still nervous and I clutched him so tightly it was a wonder he could breathe!) We made the pilgrimage to Kare Kare because Crowded House had rented a house that overlooked the beach.  It was in that designer home that the band recorded their album “Together Alone” with the producer Youth, the bassist of Killing Joke.  (This unique house had previously been rented by the actor Harvey Keitel when he was on-location filming “The Piano”.)

I didn’t expect to see the Kare Kare house up close, but on a whim John drove us up to the entrance and he pulled off to the side of the driveway.  To my embarrassment, a man stood there staring at us.  He wasn’t angry, like I had assumed he would be for our trespassing.  He drew us into a friendly conversation and inquired why we were there in the rain.  He invited us into his home for tea, and John gave him the groupie details.  We discovered that he was Nigel Horrocks, the owner of the house.  “I am impressed you came here in there rain!” Nigel remarked.  “You must come back here tomorrow night for my party.  It’ll be a music industry shindig!”  I was slightly in shock that Nigel would invite us to his event, but I welcomed his hospitality with open arms.

We took John’s car the following evening back to Kare Kare.  Nigel’s driveway was festooned with lit tiki torches.  After we walked inside I spotted a kava kava drink station.  I helped myself to some of the brew and it was my first time imbibing it. The drink made me a little woozy, and I relaxed somewhat in the crowd of strangers.  It was early but there were already around sixty people milling about.

I looked over toward’s Nigel’s cramped kitchen and I almost passed out.  Less than five feet away from me was Neil Finn.  Now, if you are not a Neil Finn groupie, imagine the musician (or actor or scientist or whoever!) you most admire in the world.  You are within spitting distance of this person.  What would you do?  I freaked out.   There was no way I was going to chit chat with him  I did find it rather symbolic that I saw him in the kitchen.  Neil has frequently written about kitchens in his songs; I’m not sure of the backstory, so I’m not the best Crowded house fan by any means, but it seemed very fitting to spot him the tiny kitchen.

There were other musicians strolling about drinking wine or kava who I  sensed were famous in New Zealand.  Unfortunately I was clueless as to who they were, except for the Crowded House keyboardist Mark Hart and Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner.  A television camera crew was in attendance, and I found myself on the New Zealand news later that evening.  (John kindly made a video of the segment, which I still have to this day.  I’m shown in profile holding my kava kava cup, speaking with another guest.)

A makeshift stage was set up in the living room, and several performers took advantage of the well-heeled crowd to sing, including the singer Emma Paki.  I was very impressed with the talent I heard that evening.  At one point nature called, and I took a breather in the bathroom.  I got a kick out of using the same toilet that the Crowded House musicians and Harvey Keitel used.  What can I say?  I’m easily pleased by such details.

One moment I won’t forget is when party guest “Jaz” Colman, co-founder of the band Killing Joke, took the stage.  I’m not sure if he had too much wine or whiskey or kava kava (or all three beverages combined, perhaps) but he was in a heated state.  He started yelling at all of us, calling us “C*nts!”  I was a bit offended, and slightly disturbed, but it was also a comical moment.  I guess you had to be there! (Someone did take the microphone gently away from him.)

It was getting late and the sky was pitch black, save for a beautiful full moon. Outside in the backyard there was a roaring bonfire and a small group of Maori log drummers playing.   The sound was intense and so was the vibe.  I found myself talking loudly with a friendly man who looked familiar.  John came over to take me aside.  “Do you know who that is, Dyane?” he asked excitedly.  “No,” I replied, wracking my brain.  “It’s Paul Crowther!” I shook my head and could not believe it. Paul “Emlyn” Crowther was one of the drummers of Split Enz from 1974-1976. Thousands of miles away from where John and I stood, in a Santa Cruz room lay my albums Crowther played on along with videos of him during his wacky Enz tenure.  Because he wasn’t famous like his colleague Neil Finn, I was able to relax and enjoy talking with him.  I returned to his side and he invited me to dance to the hypnotic-sounding drummers.  We joined hands and it was a magical moment.

John and I had brought sleeping bags with us, and we did not want to impose on Nigel so we walked down to the beach.   The potent kava kava brew made for an excellent sleep aid.  Luckily we weren’t subjected to any rain during the night.  We made sure to sleep in a safe spot so that we weren’t overtaken by the tide.  It was an unforgettable time for us, and I’ll always be grateful to Nigel Horrocks for creating an extraordinary experience for two young, ardent music fans.

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The Trip of a Lifetime – Land of the Long White Cloud – Aotearoa – Part Three

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I should let you know that today’s reminiscence focuses on being a Kiwi music groupie, rather than upon the magnificent natural beauty of New Zealand’s North Island.  I will be writing about the scenic wonders I visited over the next few days.  I only went to a handful of them (Rotorua, Kare Kare, Waiheke Island, Cape Reinga, Ninety Mile Beach Sand Dunes)  but I’ll never forget their grandeur.  This journey took place over twenty years ago, and I thank God that electroconvulsive therapy/ ECT did not wipe out those memories!   

After a perfect landing at Auckland International Airport, I experienced deja vu when I walked by its lovely gift store.  I was tempted to stop in to buy more of the New Zealand milk chocolate (I wanted to actually taste it this time now that my cold was gone!) but I was distracted with finding the baggage claim.  I made my way to a Auckland youth hostel and was lucky enough to register for a single room at a reasonable rate.  After opening the door and throwing my heavy backpack on the floor, I promptly passed out on the bed.

The next day it was sunny and temperate, and I walked up and down Queen Street, one of Auckland’s main thoroughfares.  Queen Street reminded me a bit of Santa Cruz’s Pacific Avenue in that there were hippies and street performers galore.  I hit Real Groovy Records and bought a sleek, silver-colored, special edition Split Enz CD box set.  I would never find anything like that in the States and the price was reasonable with my beneficial exchange rate.  The set would be my most indulgent purchase while on the North Island and definitely worth it.  After I left Real Groovy, I found a nearby bakery and sat down inside for a snack.  On impulse, I looked through my box set and spotted a folded-up sheet tucked between the CD’s.  I opened up this paper to find I had the original autographs of Enz band members Neil and Tim Finn, Nigel Griggs, Eddie Rayner and Noel Crombie.  This was a true autograph boon as the band had broken up, and surprisingly it was included with the box set with no fanfare.  I crowed with glee over my unexpected luck!  I put away the box set in my roomy purse, and took out my well-thumbed North Island travel guide to review my itinerary’s must-see spots.

One of these must-sees not in the book included “Hang out with Auckland John”.  Over the past few years I cultivated an internet and phone friendship with John Dobbyn.  We “met” in a Crowded House fan club internet forum.  John originally hailed from Seattle and worked at Microsoft.  He immigrated to Auckland’s Microsoft branch to work there for a year.  We arranged to meet up after I settled in Auckland so he could show me some North Island sights. I had corresponded with John for so long that I felt relatively safe in terms of meeting him in person.  Now that I reflect upon my trip, I realize that it wasn’t the best idea to trust a strange man, no matter how comfortable I felt with him.  I was very, very fortunate that he was a stand-up guy.

John was even more of a Crowded House groupie than I was, so we were quite the pair.  He too had just gone through the end of a relationship, but we had a low-key, brother-sister dynamic between us that set me at ease.  We drove to Te-Awamutu, the “Rose Town” of New Zealand located in the Waikato Region.  Te Awamutu means “the river cut short” in Maori language, as it is the end of the navigable section of the Mangapiko Stream.  Te Awamutu is the birthplace of Neil and Tim Finn of Crowded House/Split Enz fame.  There is now a Te Awamutu Museum with a Finn Brothers exhibit, but unfortunately it hadn’t been created when we were there.  (The Finns have been called the “Lennon and McCartney of New Zealand”.  Like Sir Paul, they were awarded OBE’s by Queen Elizabeth II for their contributions to New Zealand music.)  All I remember of our Te Awamutu sojourn is taking a picture in front of Te Awamutu’s entry sign festooned with roses, and another photograph in front of the obscure Te Awamutu Shell.

To our credit, we didn’t stalk the proud Finn parents who still lived there, thank God.  If we did accost them, Neil may have written a song about us like he did about an American girl who stalked him in New Zealand.  Neil wrote “Mean to Me” for Crowded House’s first hit album about his stalker, and it’s a great song.  John and I drew the line when it came to stalking.  However, later on after I left the country, John would cross the line from fan to actual friend in a most enviable way.  Somehow John was able to contact Neil Finn in Auckland.  I don’t remember how he pulled it off, but he impressed Neil with his computer expertise.  This was the era just when the internet took off big-time.  Neil, who had a keen interest in technology of all kinds, decided to get to know John and arranged for some computer help.  He invited him to his home in Parnell, known as Auckland’s oldest suburb.  John visited the Finn home numerous times for dinner, and he would tell me about Neil’s wife Sharon cooking lamb chops for them.  I was wistful and a bit jealous, but at the same time I knew that I would never be able to handle having dinner with the Finns.  It would be a bit like watching how sausage gets made.