Gossip Week: Hospitality is driven by gossip, but, says this anonymous Auckland bar owner, there are strict rules.
All week, The Spinoff is taking a look at the role of gossip in Aotearoa’s past, present and future – read more Gossip Week content here.
Gossip is the currency of hospitality, isn’t it? Because you’ve got to connect with people, and you can’t talk about the white shirt you’ve got on all the time, or, ‘How’s your mother?’ You’ve got to, at some stage, be a bit more diverse in subjects of conversation, and everybody has an appetite for gossip, despite what they say. They just don’t like being the recipient or the subject of gossip. They like to be talking about their colleagues or their friends.
Do I check the veracity of it all? I’d like to think that I don’t trivialise gossip. I do take into account who’s passing it on. A crown prosecutor working on a particular case takes you into a domain where you feel like that is verifiable – it’s almost certainly absolutely true. So you can repeat that in some authenticity. If someone comes in and says, ‘There’s old matey over there. He’s having an affair with his blah blah,’ then I don’t take that too seriously.
I have some pretty good sources. I’m always quite tight with the legal community, I’m quite tight with the VIPs. I’m very tight with a lot of politicians. I don’t even mind a wee bit of connection with the gangs. I think the thing about my venue that makes us different is that we have no compunction about connecting through the top layer of Auckland’s society all the way to the bottom.
One thing I never gossip about is infidelity – it’s a no-go zone. But I have plenty of disgruntled partners connecting with me demanding to know who someone was with at my establishment. It doesn’t bother me. I mean, I couldn’t care who gets into bed with who as long as there’s no victim. If it’s adultery there’s always a victim, so I feel sorry for the victim in that. But generally speaking, people’s sexual impropriety doesn’t bother me.
Some industries generate more gossip than others. Property developers are notorious for inappropriate behaviour. So I guess if you’re looking for a bit of something to oil the gossip wheels with you’d be looking at property or the law fraternity. They are the two key offenders in my view.
I get a lot of tip-offs about crimes. A lot of tip-offs about political machinations. Things that might be unfolding. Who’s getting into bed with who. I get a lot of tip-offs from rich-listers about various bits and pieces going on and not going on, deals around town. But you’ve got to learn to soak it up and forget it. There are groups where the very fact of them being together is gossip-worthy. Would I ever gossip about that? No. I’ve learnt to not see things.
During the heyday of the gossip columnists, Rachel Glucina and Bridget Saunders, I saw them all the time. I quite like Saunders. I mean, I felt sorry for her. She seemed to be a little bit of a lonely sort of a person to me, but she just did her job. But the gossip columnists were incredibly nasty to me because I am a lightning rod for extreme criticism and for polarisation of people. Everybody has a view about me. I hated them. I was frightened to read them.
I’ve learnt over the years that you become immune to that sort of stuff. It really does you no harm. If you’re a lightning rod for criticism, like I am, you have to accept that’s part of the deal. It’s just your brand, so you just have to learn to roll with it.