For TV Autopsies The Spinoff ventures deep into the TV universe to check in with New Zealand’s fallen stars, away from the spotlight’s glare. In this debut instalment Alex Casey went to Manurewa to meet four-octave powerhouse and Harry Warner hater, Wayne Anderson. //
Wayne Anderson, the greatest singer in Manurewa, first bellowed his way onto our screens in the 2005 series Wayne Anderson: Singer of Songs. The late-night seven-part “documentary” followed the aspirational singer and his bumbling manager Orlando Stewart as they clawed their way through resthome gigs and buckets of KFC – all in the pursuit of fame.
At the age of 47 in the show, Wayne was part Tom Jones, part Engelbert Humperdinck – and all showmanship. Decked out in a far-too-tight, far-too-unbuttoned white suit and a halo of frequently permed thinning hair, Wayne was determined to break out of the South Auckland scene and rival his vocal idols on the world stage. It all seemed too good to be true. Turns out, the show itself was – but Wayne definitely wasn’t.
Through a sordid turn of events involving an afternoon John Rowles casino gig and a G&T that I drank far too quickly, I found myself approaching Wayne and pocketing one of his giant (laminated) business cards. With the return of both Singer of Songs and second season Glory Days to Heartland next year, what better time to check in with the man himself and see how fame and fortune is treating him?
Wayne Anderson’s voicemail threatens to delete your message unless you correctly guess the name of the song that follows. Four minutes later (just enough time to google the lyrics in their entirety) I was in the inner voicemail sanctum. It was “Dommage, Dommage” by Engelbert Humperdinck, just in case you ever find yourself in the same situation. I left a message. He called me back at 11pm that night, explaining that although he was sick, he’d love to talk, “Wayne on two cylinders is still better than anyone anyway.”
Several days later, I found myself at his infamous record-laden Manurewa abode. From the outside, a chilling cardboard cut-out of Tom Jones in the window assured me that I was in the right place. Wayne took me around his house, opening all the kitchen cabinets which were filled with CDs, cassettes and VHS tapes. “Where people have their cups and saucers, I have Tom Jones,” he said proudly. I asked him where he kept his cups and saucers, he pointed to two lone mugs sitting on top of his fridge. It was surreal, but also completely as expected.
Sitting alone in his darkened lounge whilst listening to a deafening version of “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones (he kindly put it on for me before leaving to make coffee), I inspected the folder of hand-written lists of his top 240 CDs in order of preference, and then alphabetically. Layers of twink weighed the paper down as he had changed his mind over the years. It seemed like an administrative nightmare.
“I put the blinds down because the sun fades the records,” Wayne explained, putting me slightly at ease as he frantically paced around shutting out all sunlight. He held up two identical Glen Campbell records, one of which was faded, “see that? Thank God I’ve got six extra copies. This one’s called Light Years and I call this one Extra Light Years.” After several minutes quizzing him on the tracklists of his favourite records (because he asked me to), he finally sat down and removed his Dame Edna sunglasses. I noted that he had applied a very strong cologne.
When did you first get started in music?
The career probably began when I realised I could reach the same notes as Englebert and Tom [Wayne clears his throat and holds an enormous note for 20 + seconds]. I’ve always been musical. Music is in my heart, it’s my passion. I went on New Zealand’s Got Talent and I did really well, I went into the quarter finals. But I think they wanted 24 year olds who can’t sing, not 55 year olds who can.
I’m surprised they let you audition considering you already had a bit of a TV profile.
I think thats why I got booted. They were probably looking for fresh talent and I was a bit too established already.
How did you find the NZGT process? Are you a fan of talent shows?
It was bloody boring. Me and my girlfriend stood for about seven hours in a line in Epsom. I finally got there about 10 o’clock at night. Those talent shows are a joke. Most of the contestants can’t sing. I know that because I’ve got the best singing voice in the country. John Rowles told me that. I can match the best singers in the world, I’m not a dreamer.
Would you ever consider being a judge?
Oh yeah, definitely. I would know exactly what to look for.
I actually pegged you earlier this year for it.
I’d love to do it. I’m still waiting to hear a voice as good as Tom Jones. I’m better than any of them. And that’s really what my TV show was about. How my talent had been overlooked.
Do you have any interest in modern music?
Yes, because I’m open-minded. The mind is like a parachute – always keep it open. But, nothing impresses me. Everything took a nose-dive when Elvis died. The modern crap people play me wouldn’t feature on my top 500. Like Justin Beaver, I wouldn’t cross the road to see that.
I see you’ve got Bic Runga’s album there though, she makes the cut?
I got given that, I’ve been meaning to throw it away.
So, how did the first TV show get started?
I had a guy called John Baker who took an interest in my voice. Then Glenn Elliott stepped in and said “We’ll put you on TV. We’ll get you a computer and a car and a bank account and put out a CD.” Not a lot of that happened. I went on TV which was very good. You know, all exposure – good, bad, or indifferent – is good.
I didn’t realise they were mockumentaries, not documentaries. I thought they wanted to take me seriously as a serious singer, and when I found out they were comedies – oh boy, I felt like cutting a throat.
I’m a really funny dude, but I want to decide when I’m being John Cleese and when I’m being Tom Jones. I don’t want to be the butt of someone else’s stupidity. There’s good, witty humour – clever humour – and then there’s silliness. There’s a lot of things recorded for those shows that should have made the final cut, but it was all replaced with so much superfluous muck.
Do you feel like you were tricked into it?
Definitely. I also have Aspergers which makes some things difficult for me to understand. I know that I’m different, and that’s why they wanted me on the television. I’ve never been a conformist. I’ve never been a New Zealand sheep. The easiest thing to do when you’re gutless or have no spine is to bow down to peer pressure and do what everyone else does. The smart thing to do is to stand up and be who you are. Be true to thine own self, regardless of what other people think.
So with that attitude, you clearly didn’t let the TV show get you down too much?
There are some things that made me really angry – mostly the things they left out. For example, they should have put it in the footage of me singing with John Rowles onstage at the Hawkins centre. I stole the thunder from him completely for about a minute and a half and the crowd loved it.
You’d think me jamming with John Rowles would be the first thing they’d put in, instead they have me down at Countdown shaking tins of baked beans and wondering if they’ve got sausages or meatballs in them. Just stupid stuff y’know?
I can crack jokes really good. See if you said to me, “tennis is a racquet!” That’s tennis and racquet, y’know? “I’m having a ball” Y’know? Whatever. Say you want a joke about chicken…”oh, that’s a bit foul isn’t it? Nothing to crow over is it?” I can come up with them just like that.
Seems like you might come from a slightly different school of comedy
Yeah, it’s clever English comedy. If you have a good command of the English language, a lot of words have double meanings you know? So you gotta be switched on to get that. I mean, you’d have to be half-pissed to put up with the crap they were churning out.
It’s an insult to my intelligence, some of the things that went in there. I don’t like being patronised, I like people that take me seriously. Except if we are joking or clowning around you know?
I will say that they did a very good job of writing it – it’s a fine line between the humour and the reality. It confused the hell out of the public, people still come up to me and ask if it was real.
I had my own questions about it. When I first watched it I wasn’t sure if Orlando was your real manager or not.
No, he was an actor. Imagine being my manager and not even tucking your shirt in! I’m a suave sophisticated lounge singer of quality and class – he looked like a clown. Orlando looked nothing like me and knew nothing about music. I mean, I like the guy but he really was clueless. Then it started to click – it’s a piss-take. They wrote all this total nonsense.
How did they get you back for the second season Glory Days?
They promised me that it would be a chance to redeem myself from being the retirement home singer of season one, but I realised quickly that it was more of the same. A few episodes in, I realised it was just Wayne Anderson Piss-Take Volume 2. I went to Japan in Glory Days. It was the worst ten days of my life. Bloody cockroaches in the hotel rooms.
Wow, whereabouts did you go in Japan?
Shibuya, Tokyo. We stayed in a place called The White House. It should have been called The Shit House. It was a broken-down cockroach infested little hovel. This cockroach had an ashtray over it and I was so angry I said “John Rowles wouldn’t put up with this shit.” It wasn’t a holiday.
Do you have a problem with the shows still running on TV?
In the end, it’s basically a good thing. People who get to know me in real life know what I’m like, they know that I look better and I sing better than I do on TV. I’ve actually got quite a bit of work out of it, which I’m thankful for.
I would just like to say that, despite the circumstances, I think your shows are incredible pieces of New Zealand television. And that’s largely thanks to you and your character.
I’m glad you think that but, it’s like Jeremy Kyle says, always remember that these are real people and real lives. People like to see other people fall on their asses. They want people at their worst, which is sick to me. Seeing reality on TV is good, but you should always remember to seek permission.
Are you a fan of other reality TV?
No, I think its an indictment of a truly sick society. I really only like to watch comedies on DVD. Mr Bean, Fawlty Towers, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Em. Some of the New Zealand shows, where everything is an ‘F’ or a ‘C’ are ridiculous. Thats NZ humour. That’s not my humour. But don’t get me wrong, I like Shortland Street, I like Neighbours and Home and Away. All sorts of different things. Jeremy Kyle.
You’re a Shortland Street fan?
Yes, but I can’t stand the kids answering parents back. When I watch Harry Warner answering Chris back… he’s an absolute brat! It encourages a lack of respect for parents. He owes Chris for food in his mouth and a roof over his head. You’re 16, talk to me when you’re 48 or 52 and you’ve done something with your life.
On that note, is there anything you would like to say to people who watch your show?
Watch it and enjoy it. Bear in mind that they are mockumentaries, not documentaries. I sing better now and I look better now. Don’t use them to define me, because I’m better than that. My sense of humour is definitely a lot better than that, as you can probably tell.
Wayne Anderson Singer Of Songs begins on Heartland on Wednesday 21 Jan 2015 at 10pm.
Wayne Anderson Glory Days (follow on series) begins Wednesday 11 Mar 2015 at 10pm.