FRONT OF HOUSE

Fiona McDon­ald re­turns to the stage this month and talks to Chris Schulz about her other life.

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

She’s been per­form­ing on worn wooden stages and beer-drenched car­pets in venues across New Zealand and Aus­tralia for decades.

Right now, Fiona McDon­ald’s stage is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent: a pol­ished floor in a three-bed­room Kings­land home with el­e­vated views, plenty of stor­age and a CV that sits around the $1.2 mil­lion mark.

“Have I sold this yet?” chirps McDon­ald, speak­ing in a tone so cheery it sug­gests we’ve just be­come best friends, even though Can­vas has just met her. “No. We will though.”

McDon­ald is wear­ing a blue suit and heels that echo off the walls when she moves around those shiny floorboards. At 52, she jokes it’s her “cor­po­rate rock chick” cos­tume.

It’s an im­age that’s a far cry from her pre­vi­ous lives: first, as the voice of the 90s fronting ex­cel­lent bands Head­less Chick­ens and Straw­peo­ple; then, in the 2000s, as a TV star with stints on The Big Art Trip, NZ Idol and Ten Years Younger, as well as a se­ries of com­mer­cials. To­day, Matthew, she’s a real es­tate agent. Why? “My part­ner said, qui­etly, ‘Do you think it’s time you got a job?’ I said, ‘No! I don’t!’ Once I di­gested that re­quest, I thought, ‘No, fair enough’.” REAL ES­TATE wasn’t McDon­ald’s first choice. Once she’d de­cided she couldn’t re­turn to mu­sic and tele­vi­sion, she wres­tled with what to do.

“I was like, ‘What are the op­tions? Mu­sic? That never made me any money. TV? Been there, done that. You have your time in TV,” she says.

“I was a stay-at-home mum. If that was go­ing to change, it had to be po­ten­tially fi­nan­cially re­ward­ing enough . . . I also wanted flex­i­bil­ity so I could con­tinue be­ing at home af­ter three o’clock.”

She thought about prop­erty in­vest­ment and started go­ing to open homes.

“They say you should fol­low your pas­sion. As all Auck­lan­ders do, I’ve al­ways fol­lowed real es­tate. As soon as I thought about it, it felt re­ally right.” SO SHE stud­ied on­line, aced her ex­ams and last Septem­ber, listed her first prop­erty through Bar­foot & Thomp­son. Since then, she’s sold four, and has two more listed.

In Kings­land, her open home has fin­ished and the front door’s been locked. Can­vas ca­su­ally pushes McDon­ald on how much it may go for. $1.4 mil­lion? $1.6m?

She smiles. There’s a brief chuckle, then she looks away, grabs her open-home signs, and loads them into the back of her car. The ques­tion re­mains unan­swered. It was a test. She passed. And she knows it. Real es­tate has be­come the go-to ca­reer for many in the en­ter­tain­ment and sport­ing in­dus­try seek­ing a midlife makeover.

Re­mem­ber league leg­end Lo­gan Swann? He sells prop­erty for Ray White Re­muera. His web­site boasts about his “highly eth­i­cal ap­proach” to sales.

He shares an of­fice with Jayne Kiely, who hosted 10 sea­sons of Mitre 10 Dream Home.

“Her gre­gar­i­ous man­ner and quick wit made her a hit with view­ers,” boasts her pro­file page. Now, she’s “ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to serv­ing the real es­tate needs of Re­muera.”

For­mer Short­land Street and Out­ra­geous

For­tune star Shane Cortese sells on be­half of Sotheby’s in Taka­puna and Herne Bay. Nearby, Blam Blam Blam bassist Tim Ma­hon op­er­ates out of Bar­foot & Thomp­son’s North Shore branch.

Per­haps the most high-pro­file celebrity con­vert is Sally Ridge, a TV per­son­al­ity whose pri­vate life made head­lines through­out the 2000s thanks to her re­la­tion­ships with Matthew Ridge and Adam Parore, and her friend­ship with Nicky Wat­son.

She sells in­ner-city homes and apartments for Bay­leys. Her web­site boasts about her “tenac­ity, cre­ativ­ity and peo­ple skills”.

“It was the next direc­tion in my life I felt like I needed to take,” she told the Her­ald af­ter list­ing her first prop­erty in 2016.

Then there’s Three sports re­porter and pre­sen­ter Hamish McKay, who re­cently chucked in his 20-plus year ca­reer in jour­nal­ism. Now he op­er­ates for Bay­leys Real Es­tate in St He­liers.

He toyed with the idea over 10 years, fi­nally tak­ing the plunge in 2016, around the time the hous­ing mar­ket was turn­ing. He says it’s a “slow grind”.

“If you come into this game think­ing there’s any­thing other than an ap­pren­tice­ship to serve, you’re kid­ding your­self,” he says. He’s play­ing a long game, men­tion­ing his five-year plan, sev­enyear tar­gets.

But: “I’d be ly­ing if I said there hadn’t been a few speed bumps along the way.”

McKay ad­mits his TV pro­file helps when

it comes to at­tract­ing list­ings. He be­lieves his for­mer life as a jour­nal­ist isn’t that far re­moved from real es­tate.

“I spent 20-25 years earn­ing the trust of the Richie McCaws, the Jerome Kainos, the Car­los Spencers and the Grant Foxs of the world, in the same way that I earn the rap­port and the re­la­tion­ship with ven­dors,” he says. “They’re both re­la­tion­ship games.” He might be do­ing it a lit­tle tough but McKay says a ca­reer in real es­tate has one key fac­tor go­ing for it: free­dom. That’s some­thing his job pre­sent­ing sports news didn’t have.

“For the best part of 10 years, I was con­fined to be­ing in one place at one time, at 6.30pm till 6.50pm each night, and there was a daily de­liv­ery of goods,” he says.

“I had some great mo­ments, world cups and the like.”

Now, he gets to eat din­ner with his fam­ily. “I never knew what that was like. I have three teenagers, one’s gone to univer­sity, I ques­tion my­self a lot: was it worth it?”

Aside from an oc­ca­sional ra­dio show, McKay has sev­ered ties with his pre­vi­ous life. He’s still an All Blacks fan, but doesn’t mind if he misses a game. Real es­tate takes up all of his time. Ex­cept around din­ner.

But Fiona McDon­ald hasn’t cut all links. This month, she’ll per­form with the Head­less Chick­ens when they re­unite for a head­lin­ing per­for­mance at The Other Ways fes­ti­val in Auck­land.

She’s also work­ing with Paul Casserly on a new Straw­peo­ple al­bum, their first since 2004.

“This one is go­ing to take as long as it takes,” she says, when asked when it will be re­leased.

“It’s not like the old days. I’ve got kids, we’re both re­ally busy.”

McDon­ald says her real es­tate ca­reer is com­pletely sep­a­rate from the mu­sic. She scoffs when asked if she’s ever thought about us­ing her

McKay has sev­ered ties with his pre­vi­ous life. He’s still an All Blacks fan but doesn’t mind if he misses a game. Real es­tate takes up all of his time. Ex­cept around din­ner.

de­light­fully evil Head­less Chick­ens cho­rus from Ge­orge — “Let’s make a deal / Or I’ll hurt you you know” — to fi­nalise a house sale.

But, for a brief mo­ment, in front of a Grey Lynn do-up with a CV of $1.6 mil­lion and an outer layer of faux brick cladding peel­ing away, her two lives sud­denly col­lide.

“If you were a lovely villa, and you had this on you,” says McDon­ald, point­ing at the fad­ing frontage, “what song would you sing?”

Without wait­ing for a re­ply, she breathes in, then bel­lows a fa­mous En­gel­bert Humperdinck song with so much force it could knock you off your feet.

“Please re­lease me,” she sings, ex­tend­ing the song’s syl­la­bles into full force erup­tions. “Leeet meee gooo.” A painter across the road turns his head. A door opens down the street and some­one peers out. A woman driv­ing past stares for slightly too long.

Grey Lynn, it seems, just got its first taste of this cor­po­rate rock chick. HEAD­LESS CHICK­ENS PER­FORM AS PART OF THE OTH­ERS WAY FES­TI­VAL, K RD, AU­GUST 31.

Fiona McDon­ald and the late Grant Fell from The Head­less Chick­ens.

PIC­TURES / SUPPLIED

Clockwise from above: Shane Cortese; Tim Ma­hon, left, with band Blam Blam Blam; Hamish McKay; and Jane Kiely.

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