Host of RNZ’s All Night programme for the last 13 years, Lloyd Scott talks New Zealand through the night for the last time this evening. Simon Day joined him for a shift to discuss his 53-year career at the public broadcaster, his mate Barry Crump and changes at RNZ.
Three times a week my wife’s alarm goes off at 3.30am. She’s a florist and the flower auction starts at 5.30. As she climbs into her truck and flicks on 756AM the kind, smooth voice of Lloyd Scott confirms it’s another market day. She feels like she’s got to personally know Lloyd over the half hour they spend together from 4.30 to 5am. She’s not the only night owl who calls Lloyd – who is on a first-name basis with New Zealand as a whole – a friend.
Lloyd, 75, has built a deeply intimate audience over the 13 years he’s been hosting the All Night Programme. Truck drivers, farmers, snow groomers on Coronet Peak, insomniacs, a man named Alan delivering the morning paper, new mothers up feeding, Kiwis on the other side of the world – thousands are comforted and kept company by Lloyd, his familiar warmth, and soothing voice.
“The All Nighter is special,” he says. “Midnight to six is an amazing time. People at this time listen for different reasons than when the sun is up. You can form relationships with people, you do that by talking. Radio, and especially this time of the morning has a way of getting into people’s heads. It’s just companionship as much as anything. If you hang around long enough I think you will mean a lot to people.”
Just after 11pm Lloyd greets me like an old friend at Radio New Zealand House on The Terrace in woolly grey socks, black trackpants, and a black t-shirt. Each night he keeps to a strict routine, arriving at 7pm, usually on his bike although the slip on Ngaio Gorge has got in his way, and starts to run through the evening’s programme and collect unusual stories to share throughout the night. Tonight Lloyd has found a group of seven Roman Catholic priests refused service in a pub because they were mistaken as a stag party in fancy dress.
Around 9pm he has a power nap in the first aid room for about an hour, an essential move that gives him energy through the 4am period. And from 10pm to midnight he starts logging the show’s different pieces into the computer. His first news bulletin arrives just before midnight, and he sharpens a pencil to edit the script and make notes on pronunciation and intonation.
Throughout the night he communicates privately with a dedicated group of regular listeners who email news tips, grammar corrections, and notes about their lives, and he has built a close relationship with the group of nocturnal animals who share Lloyd’s parallel universe. He knows about the intricate details of their lives and personalities. After one listener who had regularly sparred with Lloyd through the early hours stopped emailing, Lloyd knew something must have gone wrong.
“I didn’t hear from him for a while, and thought something must have happened. He had his leg amputated. He’s gotten through this leg amputation thing very well, based on his emails to me. He likes to go and soak in his bath and listen to the all night show. He has this machine that lowers him into the bath. I know he listens every night. He’s an amazing guy. A real know it all. He’s very pedantic. He really used to piss me off sometimes. I’ve never met him.”
An experienced actor as well as a broadcaster, Lloyd’s theory to how he created this engagement is a technique in which he imagines he is having a one on one conversation with whoever might be listening.
“As I have learned from all these messages, you get to one person at a time. I am always talking to one person. I don’t know who that is but I am always only talking to one person. It turns out I am talking to a lot more than that.”
He’s formed genuine relationships with his listeners, and they are going to deeply miss him. He’s received a huge number of cards, emails and texts wishing him well, but sharing a sense of deep loss that he will no longer be on the air to keep them company during the loneliest hours. On the RNZ text machine, on email, on Facebook, and in cards that are piling up on his desk the messages keep rolling in.
“Lloyd – thank you for keeping me company on my sleepless nights.”
“Adjusting to your retirement is harder than my own! Love from Dannevirke, Cindy.”
“We will miss you terribly.”
“I have found immense comfort listening to Radio National all night … it would be selfish to want you to stay forever.”
“Thanks for your company over a decade … Have a wonder filled retirement. Actually I prefer to call it a retread. But be warned, tread carefully, it’s a jungle out there.
“Hello Lloyd, I couldn’t let this time go by without a brief note. You have been part of my life on the All Nighter. Would listen during down times on night shift as a mental health nurse, and also those nights of when sleep eluded me.”
“I love your lightness of tone, it makes one feel there is nothing to worry about even in the wee dark hours of the night.”
“Lloyd – I am going to miss you so much on those long nights when I can’t sleep. Your voice, your quirky sense of humour, your great rapport with us listeners, your anecdotes…please write a book about your life – and sign me a copy! Thank you so much and may the next chapter in your life be the BEST,” Bernie Stasiewicz wrote on RNZ’s Facebook page.
Lloyd first started at what was then the NZBC 53 years ago as a technician. The modern metamorphosis of the public broadcaster over the last four years largely missed Lloyd, quarantined in his studio during the deep of the night. They don’t even survey the All Night Programme to measure audience numbers. Morning Report doesn’t even bother promoting its show in the lead up to 6am any more. Lloyd and his benevolent stroll through the night have been largely left to own those six hours untouched.
“All of that has sort of passed us by. I’ve been hidden from the changes. That is one of the reasons I’ve loved being on the All Nighter. I’ve never been involved in the politics of the place. That has suited me just fine.”
But Lloyd eventually got caught by RNZ’s evolution, and his departure is part of the ongoing rebranding where the Auckland office forms a much more important part of the organisation. The All Night programme is shared between two presenters, each doing four nights on four nights off. The new host will be based in Auckland, supporting existing presenter Vicki McKay in Wellington, a move to ensure the resilience of the broadcaster to Wellington’s earthquakes.
“Paul Thompson [the CEO of RNZ] came in one morning especially to talk to me about it. We had a good conversation. And I said, if I take redundancy does Vicki keep her job? He said she does. So that made me a lot happier about it all. I am not bitter about it at all. I’ve had a bloody good run. In some ways it is like other parts of my life where you might have been in a play, and at the end of the play you come out of the end of the play and you go into temporary retirement until something else comes along.”
Apart from two people working on the bulletin, the newsroom is almost empty until the Morning Report team starts to arrive around 4am. But he’s so busy he doesn’t get a chance to get lonely. He did once fall asleep while broadcasting. For five minutes dead air ran across the radio, before an engineer banged on the window of Lloyd’s studio to wake him up. These days he occasionally allows himself the luxury of closing his eyes, but he knows it’s dangerous.
Lloyd originally thought he was going to be a doctor. But after two years at university, he realised that was never going to happen. So radio became the love of his life. And he found a special place on the graveyard shift.
“I’ve always loved it, the mistakes you make are your own. And your timing is in your own head as well,” he says. “If you believed in fate – I don’t really, I believe in circumstance – you would believe that I was meant to do this job, it suits me. It is different. It is special. This is probably my forte. I love it. I really do love it.
“I have no partner, I have no children. Someone like me who is a night person is ideal for this … Radio has been the absolute backbone of my career. It has always been there, if I didn’t have work in theatre I was always able to get work in radio. I just think it is a wonderful thing radio.”
Lloyd is best known for his role as Scotty, alongside Barry Crump on Toyota’s now famous advertisements for the Hilux through the 80s and 90s. For 12 years the pair sat side by side in the truck’s cab in what became legendary contributions to New Zealand’s cultural canon. But Lloyd nearly missed the opportunity, and if it wasn’t for a last-minute cancellation of a play rehearsal, the ad would never have happened.
“I got a call from [ad agency] Colenso. They said, ‘are you sure you don’t want to do this commercial? It’s been written for you and Barry Crump.’ I said: ‘Me and Barry Crump? I’ve never met Barry Crump.’
“We went out and spent this day filming at Rallywood, just north of Wellington, it was a really muddy rally track. We spent the day getting in the truck riding up and down. And I thought nothing more of it. Then the ad came out, and it was OK, I don’t think it did any big business, and that was it.”
About a year later the agency came back with a proposal for a second set of ads, one where Crumpy scared the shit out of Scotty driving him around the farm, the second where Lloyd scared the shit out of Crump driving him around town. Despite, the second ad getting banned after public complaints and fears of copycat driving around New Zealand’s cities, from then on Scotty and Crumpy became mythical Kiwi characters.
“When those two commercials came out, they just caught on. That was the start of the real run for them. It ended up being 1981 to 1995, we did about 10 commercials in that time. Two of them scared me. But by and large they were fun.”
Although distinctly different men, Crump the hard drinking, womanising, sometimes violent man of the land; Lloyd a gentle, thespian, they developed an intimate bond. Although they almost only spent time together while working Crump came to look at Lloyd like a son, and they had a close friendship which Crump shared with few people. Lloyd remembers a Toyota exec being in shock when Lloyd and Crump embraced, the first time he had seen the hard man of the bush embrace another male. When the details of Crump’s violence became public Lloyd was shocked. He had never seen that side of Crump and had known his wives.
“It was lovely meeting Barry and his wife Robin, wife of the time. We got along well. We enjoyed working together, I knew him through to Maggie, his last wife … When all that stuff came out about the other side of his life, I was very sad. But it didn’t change the way I felt about him, because I remember him from the times I worked with him, and that side of him. He was great to work with.
“Then it all came out about his childhood and his life, and it was bloody awful really.”
Around his radio career Lloyd was a passionate and prolific actor and performer. He’s toured New Zealand and Australia in plays and musicals. Recently he had a small role in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi’s adaptation of Crump’s book Wild Pork and Watercress. In his radio retirement he might start acting again, he might not. He’s really not sure what he will do without the regularity of the All Night programme.
“I still have an agent in Auckland, she has been very kind to keep me on her books. I haven’t made much money for her recently. I would like to do more [acting]. I might start reading books, go and see a movie or two, and try and not feel guilty about the fact that I can go and do those things. I think it will be great,” he says.
“I don’t know what’s ahead for me. There might be voice things, there might be other things. There might not be anything. I love working on my house, I love my garden. I play golf with people. Geoff Robinson who used to do Morning Report. There are four of us who play golf. Rick Young who is the head announcer at Concert. Eric Frykberg who is a journalist. And Nicola Wright who read the news on morning report. And we play at a little golf course called Ōhāriu Valley. A little country course but it is lovely. It is uphill and down dale so we get a lot of exercise for nine holes which is all we do.”
As 6am approaches and the news room starts to fill up, Lloyd asks: why did I want to do this story on him? Because he’s “a bit of a Kiwi legend”, I explain.
“Hahaha. I find that funny, a word like ‘legend’ and me. It’s understandable, after you’ve been around as long as I have that people get to know who you are. When I got those Crumpy and Scotty ads, that was a game changer, because that made me famous really. ‘Fame.’ It’s a funny word. That was the 15 minutes of fame thing in a way.”
It’s lasted a lot longer than 15 minutes.
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