Brian Edwards Media

Is it Time for Paul Holmes and Dennis Conner to Kiss and Make Up?

An intriguing little item appears in this morning’s Herald. It’s about a question Radio Live’s Martin Devlin put to Dennis Conner in a phone interview at the weekend: Was there a chance that, when he attends an America’s Cup Legends charity dinner in Auckland this month, he might ‘make complete peace with Paul Holmes’.

Holmes was due to front the event, but was dropped after Conner, though not demanding that he be replaced, had expressed discomfort with the arrangement.

Conner’s reply to Devlin’s question was: ‘I don’t really remember that. Never say never to anything but certainly not high on my agenda.’

 And then, without pause: ‘Thank you, have a nice day and thanks for the call.’ And he was gone. A walkout of a sort and a minor re-run of the end of the original Holmes interview.

Devlin commented: ‘Hmm. He doesn’t remember, eh? Remembers enough though to insist that the bloke isn’t going to be the MC.’

Not according to David Higgins, one of the organisers of  the event,  who told the Herald that  Conner had not specifically said he didn’t want Holmes as MC:

“I gathered that probably wasn’t the right way to go… I like Paul. I have a lot of time for him but I spoke to Dennis on the phone and he actually came across as sharp.’

Holmes was quoted in the Herald on Sunday as having said it was ‘pathetic’ a person could hold on to something for 21 years.

Devlin is probably right that it’s barely credible that Conner can’t remember his interview with Holmes, given his response to Higgins. I suspect the truth is that he would find a public appearance with Holmes uncomfortable and that he doesn’t want to revisit or discuss an unpleasant episode in New Zealand 21 years ago when he’s returning to speak at a function to raise funds for Asthma New Zealand. He was an asthma sufferer himself as a child and it’s a cause close to his heart.

It might have been better if he’d just said so. But Conner is clearly someone who, both in a physical and a metaphorical sense, ‘walks away from’ disagreeable situations. I have some sympathy for him, I’m a bit like that myself.   

And the interview with Holmes was disagreeable. Its purpose was to antagonise and provoke Conner into the sort of unseemly outburst he was famous for. It was designed to achieve precisely the result that it did achieve – a nationwide public controversy about Holmes and Holmes. And this was to be done by badgering and humiliating the American.

As a sometime interviewer myself, I’m familiar with this approach, which is dependent on the interviewee being widely disliked or held in low regard by the public. It’s fine to get stuck into Brian Tamaki, but you’d be considerably more circumspect in an interview with Sir Paul Reeves. Interviewers and their producers know that nothing is better for ratings than riding popular bandwagons.

If you take another look at the Holmes/Conner interview, you’ll see that Conner is determinedly pleasant and polite in the face of a number of legitimate but forcefully presented questions about his team attempting to enter a catamaran in the America’s Cup. He argues that this was not his decision and that he was uncomfortable with it. Holmes then turns to his televised abusive remarks to Bruce Farr and asks him if he regrets his behaviour.

Conner replies: ‘Paul, it’s not a perfect world and I’ve made some mistakes in my life that I think all of us have. I look forward to moving on in a positive vein here.’

Holmes doesn’t want to move on in a positive vein.  He plays the video clip of Conner abusing Farr.

Holmes: ‘I want to give you the opportunity to say whether or not you regret that occasion. I know things can happen in the heat of the moment.’

Conner: ‘Paul, as I just said, it’s not a perfect world and we have all made some mistakes we’re not proud of. I’m no different.’

Conner has in fact expressed regret for his behaviour, which is precisely what Holmes originally asked him to do. But Holmes wants his pound of flesh. He repeats what Conner said to Farr. Then, speaking for the nation:

‘Do you think that those are things that need an apology to the New Zealand people in a country where you’re going to have to spend a bit of time?’

Conner stands up, wishes Holmes well and politely takes his leave.

Holmes calls after him: ‘But would you be interested in apologising to Mr Farr, in public, Mr Conner?’

It surely had to be a rhetorical question: ‘Would you like to ritually humiliate yourself on television, Mr Conner?’

Well, the country debated the rights and wrongs of the interview for several weeks. But Paul was up and running with the most successful local prime-time show that  we’ve ever seen or ever will see on New Zealand television. Asking people to apologise would become something of a theme on the programme.

I have enormous respect for Paul Holmes but my view of the Conner interview was that it breached the last item in Sir Robin Day’s Code for Television Interviewers:

10. He should remember that a television interviewer is not employed as a debater, prosecutor, inquisitor, psychiatrist or third-degree expert, but as a journalist seeking information on behalf of the public.

Nothing there about demanding public apologies.

As for Martin Devlin. I’m a huge fan. I told him just last week that if I ever made it on to Millionaire, I would want him as my sporting ‘phone a friend’.

But expecting Conner to kiss and make up with Holmes in public over his attempted humiliation by the New Zealand interviewer, however long ago, just isn’t realistic. Though the impasse might be resolved if Paul were to set the ball rolling by apologising to him. Conner may consider that apology 21 years overdue.

 

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28 Comments:

  1. Could have done without that mental picture :) , but it’s certainly time for the both of them to grow up. What kind of got lost in the press coverage is that the event in question was meant to be a fundraiser for Asthma New Zealand not Aged Ego Concern.

  2. To a degree I agree with Craig, but I think a showdown between Connor and Holmes (nicely managed )would provide great publicity for the cause.The yachting of that era needed a apology from someone.Dennis Connor was possibly the scapegoat for the New York Yacht Club debacle. The Holmes Show IMHO wasnt the correct forum for his argument with Farr.I think the little fracus with Holmes told us more about Dennis and the cronies he represented than any interviewers code.

  3. Holmes is as pigheaded, as competitive, as single minded and as obnoxious as Dennis Conner. If they both sat down as mature adults they probably would find they have much in common, such as mutual Sarah Palin fans.

  4. Does anyone actually care? Neither Connor nor Holmes are worthy of any thought other than the possibilty that they might both be dropped into the Waitemata Harbour and left there.

    • Does anyone actually care? Neither Connor nor Holmes are worthy of any thought other than the possibilty that they might both be dropped into the Waitemata Harbour and left there.

      Proclaiming from those lofty moral heights again, Ben. Holmes is a seminal broadcaster of exceptional ability, but, like the rest of us, he has flaws. Conner’s achievements in international yachting are without par, but he too has his all-too-evident flaws. You simply cannot write off two people like this.

  5. What we know, is that on the night of this non-event charity dinner, Paul Holmes will have to make arrangements for his own dinner.

    And that’s the weight of the story.

    • What we know, is that on the night of this non-event charity dinner, Paul Holmes will have to make arrangements for his own dinner. And that’s the weight of the story.

      Well, it isn’t really. Holmes may be piqued that he was dumped for what he would consider inadequate reasons, but he needs neither the money nor the gig. The issue really has to do with a clash of titans in their own fields. And the question is: who should be apologising to whom?

  6. Devlin reflects the Kiwi psyche. Life just isn’t fair. Here are a few more that get trotted out ad nauseam Under-arm bowling…
    Pavlova (only last week) and much to Wendy Petrie’s delight – why should it bother her – it was the 1930′s Phar Lap (1930′s)
    Just let it go.

  7. “The issue really has to do with a clash of titans in their own fields.”

    More like a clash of the titans in their own heads. Whether they choose to “kiss and make up” is of absolutely no interest to anyone, save for those who are inclined to deify a couple of Yesterday’s Men.

    Note, that the HoS are disincentivising its readers from writing in, by way of the prize on offer for the “Best Letter”.

  8. Seminal: pertaining to or of the nature of semen; well, I always thought he was a wanker.

    Moral high ground has nothing to do with it. We have two men with massively inflated egos one of whom believed his own publicity until reality struck home and we have another whose only achievement is to participate in a rish man’s sport populated by those who have no concept of the meaning of sport or loyalty and where money buys anything.

    They are two sad examples of the cult of ‘celebrity worship’.

    • Seminal: pertaining to or of the nature of semen; well, I always thought he was a wanker.

      New Shorter Oxford: Seminal: (of a person, a book, a person’s work etc.) highly original and influential; important, central to the development or understanding of a subject.

  9. A couple of old men from yesterday’s world arguing? It happens all the time, usually over something petty.

    At least Abe Simpson is funny when he does it.

    • A couple of old men from yesterday’s world arguing? It happens all the time, usually over something petty.

      Nice touch of agism there, Tom. Bugger wisdom and experience.

  10. It seems quite reasonable to me that if you’re a celebrity flying all the way to NZ to help out a charity you’re entitled to express your opinion that you don’t want the event MC’d by someone who previously deliberately humiliated you on live national TV, even if it was 21 years ago.

    The fact that Paul Holmes publicised the matter in order to further embarrass him just confirms that both Conner and the event managers made the right decision.

  11. Actually that seminal interview is often cited as the first compelling piece of evidence that TVNZ really was initiating a dumbing-down process (thus confirming widespread speculation).

    It’s all been downhill since then.

    • Actually that seminal interview is often cited as the first compelling piece of evidence that TVNZ really was initiating a dumbing-down process (thus confirming widespread speculation). It’s all been downhill since then.

      You may well be right. But I didn’t describe the interview as seminal. I was referring to Holmes’ influence as a broadcaster.

  12. I really don’t care but find it interesting that I don’t like either man, yet respect their accomplishments.

    • I really don’t care but find it interesting that I don’t like either man, yet respect their accomplishments.

      A very reasonable position.

  13. Holmes set out to humiliate Conner by constantly needling him. And it came with a lot of grandstanding as well. You can hardly blame Conner for feeling so angry, even after all these years.

  14. Come on!! The matter is 21 years old, and should have been left there. Why wasn’t it?

    I’ve little time for Dennis Connor, but I’ll go into bat for him on this one. Paul Holmes, for mine, is no journalist, and never was. I don’t like anyone who tells me what to think, who exhibits the tact of a three-year-old, and who seems unable to string enough words together to form a sentence. A journalist – the real thing – should inform, enlighten, and, yes, even attempt to persuade. No journalist myself, I will tell one how to do the job if I am to be expected to read, hear or take an interest in what the journlist has to say (Note that I am making no plea about ‘balance’). That ain’t arrogance: that’s the customer being ‘right’… ahem.

    The needling of Connor on that occasion made the inquisitor look worse whilst trying to make the inquisitee look bad. This sort of thing is frankly distasteful, doesn’t further a whit anyone’s knowledge of the issues (such as they were), and serves I believe rather to endarken the viewer as to the purpose of such a confrontation.

    Quite why Martin Devlin (a sports commentator I find engaging generally, but squirmingly irritating now and then) should bring up this matter after so long beats me. As for Holmes’s remark about someone ‘holding on’ to something like this for 21 years, to whom was he referring? Himself maybe? Possibly Mr Devlin? This country at large perhaps? Let’s face it: who brought the matter up this time? Not D. Connor, it weren’t. Perhaps Holmes should ease up on the gibbering and listen to himself for once.

    It’s of a piece with the meanness of spirit, the holding on to alleged sights and hurts, and the projection of our own attitudes onto others, that seem in late decades to have overtaken this country. Added to these, is a conspicuous lack of tact among many of our prominent … erm … journalists.

    When Mr Connor allows he had pretty much forgotten the incident, I see no reason to disbelieve him. Of course it looks as though he remembers it all too clearly, but don’t forget, Mr Devlin went out of his way to remind him. And Mr Devlin had a pretty good idea what sort of response he would get.

    You know: I’ve seen 4-year-olds behave like that. Needle someone until they react, and then it’s ‘But he started it!’ Someone badly needs to grow up, and, on the evidence, it ain’t Dennis Connor.

  15. Looking once again over these remarks, I am struck, Brian, by your regard for Paul Holmes. As you yourself are (or was?) a journalist I did have a lot of time for, your opinion commands attention at least, if not respect, withal.

    Personally, I have never rated Holmes highly. I do recall his handling of the Aramoana shooting, and gave him credit (still do) for his tactful interviews with people who had gome through that terrible experience. Yet within a short time I had stopped watching ‘Holmes’ altogether. I just couldn’t get past the bombast, the incoherence, the arrogance of the man – not to mention the needling. To be honest, I liked his occasional substitute – Sue Wood I think she was – even less. Possibly he did good work after I had stopped watching. If so, I never saw it. He’d lost me, and lost me for good.

    The few occasions I’ve seen him since then have never done anything to modify my view.

  16. Looking once again over these remarks, I am struck, Brian, by your regard for Paul Holmes. As you yourself are (or was?) a journalist I did have a lot of time for, your opinion commands attention at least, if not respect, withal.

    Maybe they are members of the same NZ mutual admiration society. I along with other agree with your comments about Paul Holmes Ion.

  17. New Shorter Oxford:

    My dictionary of choce is Chambers and it contains both definitions. in the context of the discussion I prefer my choice!

    • New Shorter Oxford: My dictionary of choce is Chambers and it contains both definitions. in the context of the discussion I prefer my choice!

      Naturally!

  18. If Beefy Botham and Ian Chappell can mutually recall their age-old differences quite recently in an Aussie carpark, perhaps that might be a more appropriate venue for Denis and Paul?

  19. Good riddance to both Pauls

    Paul Holmes is a right-wing idiot who foams at the mouth every time he opens his arrogant gob to inflict his one-eyed views on us, and who was let off the leash by an increasingly ratings-driven TVNZ. To describe him as a ‘journalist’ in the true sense of the word is laughable. He is someone who enjoys ‘celebrity’ status, true enough, but seminal?! Give me a break Brian! He might be hardworking and committed, he might be well-known and successful, but he is a legend in his own mind only. No aspiring journalist would ever be influenced by his confrontational and unenlightened style of interviewing unless they were…oh yes, Paul Henry. Good riddance to both of them! Sorry Brian, but you’re starting to slip in my estimation…..

    • Sorry Brian, but you’re starting to slip in my estimation…..
      Given the quality of your critique of Holmes, I’d say that was something to welcome.

  20. Being such a controversial NZ figure, as he so often likes to remind us all, you would think that he would have the good business sense to change the brand name of his recently released product. No wonder it’s not selling well. I bet you Gordon Ramsay wouldn’t wouldn’t have a bottle on his kitchen shelf.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZseXsysKh0Q