Gossip Week: It’s been over 10 years since Metro’s iconic gossip columnist Felicity Ferret got the chop. We revisited some of her greatest gossip from the celeb scene of the early 2000s.
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.
From 1982 until 2002, and then again briefly in 2009, Felicity Ferret was Metro’s furry eyes and ears in the most debaucherous corners of high society Auckland. Created by founding editor Warwick Roger and penned by a range of writers – most prominently Rogers himself, Judith Baragwanath and Stephen Stratford – Felicity was a snaggle-toothed savage unlike the local media had ever seen. Nobody was safe from her wrath as she unearthed the bad and bizarre behaviour of “wasted youthettes”, “Ponsonby pissoirs” and the catch-all “old farts”.
“You’ve heard of Sleepless in Seattle; now read about Pissed As A Parrot In Ponsonby. A star who appears regularly on the the 34cm moving wallpaper but (deep sigh) unfortunately must not be named, was observed by just about anyone who was passing, spread-eagled and snoring off the effects of a big gargle down the boozer.”
So it went on. Women in TV news were “hackettes”, models were “clotheshorses” and Parnell was renamed Parn-hell. Felicity even referred to herself as “your favourite old slapper”, happy to drag her own name as much as she would anyone else who dared set foot on a Night Out in the City of Sails. Felicity Ferret was axed at the start of Simon Wilson’s reign as Metro editor in 2010. Her parting words to readers ended with a macabre description of her own death and these words: “The bottles are empty…This town would have been nothing without me. Nothing.”
“And what is it I am most proud of? That I did it all without ever going on the fucking Panel. Adieu.”
Not content to say “adieu” forever to New Zealand’s most iconic gossiping mustelid, The Spinoff spent an afternoon at Metro’s offices, gleefully digging through her dirty laundry. Much of it is completely unpublishable now, for myriad reasons including, but not limited to, defamation, sexism, racism, slut-shaming, ableism, Robbie Williams sexploits and the repeated use of the phrase “titty monster”. But we did find some, particularly from the early 2000s, that tickled our fancy. Without further ado, here are some of Felicity Ferret’s greatest Y2K celebrity sightings.
Russell Crowe is not entertained
In June, 2000, Kiwi-born Hollywood mega-star Russell Crowe returned to the motherland to put on an extra special private screening of Gladiator for his sick uncle. Although surely a touching and poignant event for the whole Crowe family, Felicity Ferret chose to focus on another part of the visit. Because Crowe had travelled by way of Universal Studios’ corporate jet, and allegedly “began to fret” as sniffer dogs romped through the plane.
“Plod and his canine sidekicks searched for hours, the dogs highly excited and seemingly on track of something, but no happy baccy or Bolivian marching powder was ever found. Only later did the truth emerge. One of the reasons why the animals (the four-legged ones) were so hard to extract from under the plane’s seats was Crowe’s fondness for the great Australasian meat pie. He had left large hunks of steak and kidney all over Universal’s flying carpet.”
A L’Estrange obsession
Felicity Ferret had a real knack for spotting World designer Denise L’Estrange-Corbet out and about in the City of Sails. In March, 2000, she clocked L’Estrange-Corbet and partner Frances Hooper in a certain New World supermarket, home to a number of Ferret sightings. She said the couple looked as though they had fled a burning building, and that “The Very Strange One” was engulfed “neck to shop floor in a very large pleated sack.”
Another instance we unearthed occurred in June 2001, when L’Estrange-Corbet was spotted by the Ferret in Ponsonby. “Sprung! In the early hours of a weekday morning, the fashionista Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, adored pooch on her lap as she sat behind the wheel of… not her pert shiny and new little Daihatsu shopping basket but a rusty old Mazda which looked unlikely to pass its next WOF inspection.”
Dick Frizzell chokes on steak
Gossip about visual artists is classy – it has an air of superiority about it. You imagine people sucking on cigarette holders, their tightly coiffed hair sitting under black berets. Gossip about visual artists choking on small bits of steak is perhaps less classy, but definitely more fun. Felicity Ferret gave us the best of both worlds in this thrilling 2001 item: “Scoop! Scoop! Extra! Read all about it! Dick Frizzell Has Brush With Death! Our greatest living artist almost became a famous dead one during a night of revelry at a flash High Street chop shop.
“It happened after a gallery opening when he, full of the joys of boxed chardonnay and surrounded by the usual gang of grovelling sycophants, was in the middle of a fascinating dissertation on the wonders of abstract expressionism when suddenly he went from a noisy know-it-all to a (smirk) hoarse whisperer. He was then rendered mute. Lodged in his throat was a half chewed cube of boeuf bourguignon. He began, according to a source, to turn a shade of green so remarkable that it has up until now only ever been replicated in a Bill Hammond painting”
David Arquette X Dickies collab
Does anything say 2001 more than the phrases “David Arquette” and “Dickies”? How about this entry from the Grey Lynn festival in 2001? “American actor David Arquette, temporarily resident in Aotearoa to film episodes of Hercules, was spotted lounging among the crowd lounging among the crowd of arty tattoo-bearing, Dickies-wearing 20-somethings, listening to Nice n’ Urlich and the raving Chris Knox.”
Helen Clark’s snooze-gate
Before she signed a painting, before she didn’t realise how fast her car was going, Helen Clark featured in a Felicity Ferret scandal that anybody could forgive her for: she was spied nodding off during a play. “Was it? Could it be? The hero of struggling artists, champion of ballerines, toast of opera aficionados?”, the Ferret breathlessly spat. “Our very own Prime Minister HELEN CLARK, snoozing her way through an Auckland Theatre Company Play, $80 million Arts budget forgotten.”
Morpheus gets Tim Tam slammed
In another observation from the aisles of “moi own supermarket”, the Ferret was entranced by the sight of Matrix star Lawrence Fishburne perusing the produce one rainy September day in 2000. Her concerns? Not with the red pill, blue pill dilemma, nor how the hell his tiny Morpehus glasses stay on his face, but with his shopping list. “If his trolley is anything to go by, the man just isn’t getting a balanced diet. What did these furry eyes find rolling about in his trolley? Nothing but a whole lot of booze and a packet of TimTams.”
The Watsons & Matthew Ridge get the cold(play) shoulder
The year is 2001. Matthew Ridge and Eric and Nicky Watson are plastered all over Auckland’s social pages. A British band named Coldplay have achieved worldwide fame with the release of the song ‘Yellow’ and are set to perform in Auckland’s historic St James theatre. Felicity Ferret is there, watching, waiting, to put someone in their place.
“Isn’t it pathetic when ragged-arsed rock n’ roll groupies try to wangle an entree when they don’t have a ticket?” she began. “Take it from moi, it’s even worse when the upgrade seeking wannabes are as filthy rich as Eric and Nicky Watson and Matthew Ridge. The wealthy trio weren’t content with their free passes to Britpopsters Coldplay at the St James a few weeks back. Once inside, they were witnessed trying to talk their way into a special, reserved, $65-a-head, upstairs section of the theatre.”