God­fa­ther of gos­sip hon­oured

Sunday Star-Times - - News - JA­NINE RANKIN

A lit­tle black book crammed with phone num­bers to die for and the flow of emails from Los Angeles still keeps God­fa­ther of Gos­sip David Hart­nell spoiled for ma­te­rial.

The 73-year-old vet­eran of the celebrity scene has just been awarded the Pres­i­dent’s Medal­lion from the Va­ri­ety Artists Club of New Zealand af­ter eight years as its pa­tron.

Con­tact­ing Hart­nell means call­ing him on his land line.

Cell­phone? He doesn’t have one. He has 136,000 read­ers on­line, but so­cial me­dia? He doesn’t do it.

Hart­nell harks back to the glory days of Hol­ly­wood, the con­ver­sa­tions in the make-up room, watch­ing the likes of El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor and Joan Collins trans­formed into stars be­fore his eyes.

One of the first he was close to, and an en­dur­ing favourite, was Phyl­lis Diller, one of the first women to be a stand-up comic per­former, claim­ing the sort of ca­reer in en­ter­tain­ment he would rather have liked for him­self.

Hart­nell said he knew where the stars in the make-up room had come from the night be­fore, but would never be­tray the con­fi­dence.

He despised the sort of ‘‘nasty’’ gos­sip that dom­i­nated so­cial me­dia – which he de­scribed as bul­ly­ing at its worst.

And he com­plained there were no longer the real celebri­ties of ear­lier years to talk about.

If you had to ex­plain who you were talk­ing about, it did not meet his thresh­old for qual­ity gos­sip.

‘‘It’s so dis­pos­able now. My gos­sip was al­ways tongue in cheek, never nasty, and I would never put the knife into any­body. It’s sup­posed to be fun.’’

His ap­proach would seem to have served him well, with few peo­ple ever com­plain­ing or re­fus­ing to talk to him.

Clearly, Hart­nell has a looser and kin­der def­i­ni­tion of gos­sip than most peo­ple.

‘‘When the words ‘fake news’ came out, peo­ple said how ter­ri­ble it was.

‘‘I said, ‘my dear, I have made a liv­ing out of it for 53 years’.’’

STUFF

David Hart­nell be­moans a lack of real celebri­ties nowa­days.

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