Rhythm & good times

Ac­tor Shavaughn Ruakere re­calls pre­cious days with friends Hol­lie Smith and the late He­lena Mcalpine, at a mu­si­cal fes­ti­val in 2009.

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“I’m at Rhythm and Vines and with my friends Hol­lie Smith the singer – she’s in the mid­dle – and He­lena Mcalpine. He­lena passed away from breast cancer not last year but the year be­fore. She’d just started los­ing her hair from chemo. It was com­ing out in chunks. The night be­fore we went to the fes­ti­val, she wanted to shave it all off. We’ve got a video of it – she’s got a cig­a­rette hang­ing out of her mouth and our friend, who also used to be a TV pre­sen­ter on C4, has got big clip­pers, hack­ing off her hair. She made it into a mo­hawk.

She put on an afro wig and me and Hol­lie said we’d wear them, too. So we’re in our wigs walk­ing in, and this 18-year-old ran past and whipped He­lena’s off her head. She went nuts. I’m sure he got a big fright.

Dur­ing her ill­ness, Hol­lie was very much the nurse/ mother – she’s a very ma­ter­nal per­son – very, very car­ing. She al­ways knew about He­lena’s treat­ments and where things were at. I feel like my role was more like, the fun friend. He­lena wasn’t some­one who talked about her ill­ness, and she didn’t want it to de­fine her.

Her fu­neral was amazing, it was at the St James Theatre. We called it a “fun”-eral be­cause we knew that’s what she’d want. It was a cel­e­bra­tion. This was the first time I’d lost a very dear friend. Even though I knew it was com­ing, she never got that ill from chemo.

When she did go down­hill, it all hap­pened pretty darn quick. She was re­ally out of it be­cause of all the drugs. When she was awake she won­dered what was go­ing on, was a bit grumpy, that sort of stuff.

When we brought her home from hospi­tal, there were lots of people at the house. I went into her bed­room where she was sleep­ing and I was sit­ting on the floor, just lis­ten­ing to her breathe. It was al­most dusk, sun­light was stream­ing through the French doors. There was this beau­ti­ful bird­song. I felt like it was a re­ally spe­cial mo­ment to have alone with her, be­cause we might lose her soon. Out of nowhere, eyes still closed, she just went, “F...king birds...”

I was like “Oh yeah, you’re here.” Then she was try­ing to get up to go to the bath­room, walk­ing into the wardrobe. She had her eyes closed but still seemed to know where she was. I was try­ing to get her back in the bed. At one point she said: “It’s all right.” And she called me Shavvy. It was the only time, dur­ing that time, I knew she knew it was me. Britt Mann

EACH WEEK WE ASK A HIGH-PRO­FILE NEW ZEALAN­DER TO SHARE A PHOTO MEM­ORY

Wig­ging out to­gether: Shavaughn (left) with her friends mu­si­cian Hol­lie Smith (centre) and TV pre­sen­ter He­lena Mcalpine, who died in Septem­ber 2015.

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