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Editorial: A salute to Sir Paul Holmes

Fri 1 Feb 2013 In: True Stories WayBack Archive National Library

Sir Paul Holmes With the passing of Sir Paul Holmes this morning the New Zealand and HIV communities have lost one of their strongest and yet 'under the radar' supporters. Holmes was catapulted from being breakfast host on Wellington's 2ZB to become the star of the new Newstalk ZB format being launched in Auckland. His audience expanded further as 2ZB became the network source of most of the radio stations in provincial and rural centres. His influence exploded when he was beamed into the nation's bedrooms via the groundbreaking Holmes show on TV One. He became an institution, a cheeky, intense, self-deprecating member of many Kiwi families. For Holmes, homosexuality was nothing to be afraid of or look down on. He was at ease interviewing gay men and women. His fundamental view that decent human beings should be celebrated and the toxic creeps exposed carried over into the subject of sexuality. A queer person interviewed on the Holmes show, on TV or radio, was not an anthropological exhibit to be disected for the gawping public. He played the issue, not the man - or the woman. And to be accepted by Paul Holmes was a good enough cue for many New Zealand families. If Paul accepted and chatted and chuckled with a homo then maybe 'they' weren't so bad afterall? Nowhere was this more vivid than with the subject of HIV and AIDS. Holmes knew right from the early days of the epidemic that gay men didn't 'deserve' to get HIV and in the enormously contentious days of the explosion of HIV diagnoses, of scared medics, posturing politicians and freaking gay and bi men, he treated the virus and the people struggling against its deadly grip with tact, humanity and reassurance. He took some flack in our community's HIV circles for his high-profile committment to the cause of little Eve van Grafhorst, the photogenically impish child with HIV spurned by Australia and who found a home in New Zealand. Many in our communmities feared that his coverage of her situation fed into the "innocent little victims" vs "dirty filthy homos"  scenarios beloved of unthinking reporters and marginalising columnists the world over. But just as the hugely re-published images of Lady Di hugging a man dying from HIV broke down international walls of discrimination and fear, Holmes embracing of Eve helped chip away at anti-HIV fears and ignorance around New Zealand. Sir Paul Holmes was one of a rare breed, a decent and talented man who gloried in his own power to investigate, to elaborate, to entertain and to connect with folk. Many times, both officially and unofficially, he used those skills and qualities to our advantage. He was unafraid of difference, of non-conformity. In fact he embraced it, and us. For that we salute him.     Jay Bennie - 1st February 2013

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Friday, 1st February 2013 - 1:06pm

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