Monday, October 19, 2009

A BRUSH WITH SIR ROBERT

In 1968 John Rowles from Kawerau was having great success in the UK with two charting singles, “If I Only Had Time” and “Hush Not a Word to Mary” and we picked up the New Zealand rights through CBS. Both songs were hits in New Zealand and Kerridge Odeon decided to tour him. I joined John on tour and organised radio and press promotion as we travelled. John wanted to see his parents in Kawerau so I drove him there to meet the family. On arrival at John’s home we were greeted by a huge crowd and had to fight our way to John’s modest family home. I waited outside and eventually was noticed by John’s Dad who said to John, “Does your driver want a cup of tea?” Both John and I cracked up with laughter. A Powhiri followed at the local Marae and we shared a fantastic day.

I drove John back to Auckland to The White Heron in Parnell. Sir Robert Kerridge’s Kerridge Odeon Group, who was touring John, owned this hotel. I had organised a series of interviews with press and radio and we worked through to about 8.30PM.

John then invited me to dinner in the hotel dining room and off we went to get a table. I was dressed in a suit and tie and John in smart casual, as befits a pop star. We were greeted at the dining room desk by the maitre d’ who informed us that, "Whilst I could dine John could not unless he went and put on a tie" I took the gentleman aside and told them who John was and that Kerridge were touring him and surely this silly rule could be waived. I was informed it could not be.

Just at that moment Sir Robert himself arrived with a few friends for dinner so I took the opportunity to ask him for a moment. On explaining the situation Sir Robert also confirmed John could not be admitted to dine without a tie. I then got angry (my short fuse again) and told Sir Robert I thought his rule, stupid, unrealistic (in a show biz hotel) and that he should re-think a poor decision that made him and his company look bad to a major star.

Sir Robert then called the maitre d’ over and in a loud voice informed him “Mr Rowles is invited to join me for dinner and this rude young man must leave my hotel immediately.” I left, happy that John had been looked after.

Back in Philips in Wellington the next day Sir Robert’s complaint about me had already reached top management. After explaining to MD Dirk Hudig and Commercial Director, Bruce Garden what had happened, we all had a good laugh as they, like me, knew of Sir Robert’s autocratic style.

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