Before there was Survivor, there was New Zealand’s own reality juggernaut Treasure Island. Calum Henderson revisits the first episode of 2001’s Celebrity Treasure Island and finds out what the contestants are doing with themselves now.
There were nine whole seasons of Treasure Island and all anyone remembers is the time Lana Coc-Kroft nearly died from stepping on a bit of coral.
The brainchild of New Zealand’s reality television evil genius Julie Christie, Treasure Island flourished in the darkness before the technological dawn of everything being documented forever on the internet. As a result, footage of the show has long been as rare as hens’ teeth.
Recently, however, online television archive NZ On Screen have managed to prise open the vault. Now we can finally watch the full first episode of 2001’s inaugural edition of Celebrity Treasure Island.
The series took 14 New Zealand celebrities and plonked them on a remote Fijian island to fend for themselves. Unlike Survivor, which busies its contestants with endless games and challenges and intense strategy, Treasure Island was more into documenting the tedium of being on a desert island with nothing to eat. The one challenge in the episode sent the two teams on a frantic search to find a piece of the puzzle which, when complete, would form the clue required for the final two contestants to find the buried treasure.
These Kiwi celebs were competing for $20,000 in treasure which the winner would donate to a charity of his or her choice. They were split into two camps, blue and red, and made to build their own shelters. Luckily each team was blessed with a celebrity builder – My House My Castle’s Cocksy on the blue team and Changing Rooms’ Handy Andy on the red.
Host Pieta Keating (the runner-up on the first Treasure Island in 1997) presented the two teams their clues for the episode. The show was sponsored by Telecom and something called ‘djuice’ (not an actual juice) so the clues were written in a nascent form of text-speak which the contestants had to decipher. This was a piece of cake for the blue team’s youngest member, a plucky lad called Dominic Bowden.
By the end of the episode, Danny Morrison had wrung a chicken’s neck and Anthony Ray Parker had uttered the phrase “too many chiefs not enough Indians” several times. Talk about tension, and there was drama too, when Keating forced the blue team to reveal the contents of their bags and discovered smuggled items of contraband.
While some of the show’s stars, like Bowden, have gone on bigger and arguably better things, others have faded from view. Where did they come from, and where did they go?
There are a lot of snazzy sunglasses on the first episode of Celebrity Treasure Island but Frank Bunce takes the cake with this lethal pair of lenses. Surprisingly, the 55-cap All Blacks centre was the only rugby player on Celebrity Treasure Island. These days Bunce runs a tyre shop in Thames and does a bit of public speaking and rugby punditry on the side.
The model formerly known as Nicky Watson could well be the most well-known New Zealander without a Wikipedia entry. Now living in Australia under her maiden name Nicola Robinson, she remains in the public consciousness as a result of her relationship with controversial celebrity chef ‘Paleo’ Pete Evans.
John ‘Cocksy’ Cocks
Celebrity builder John ‘Cocksy’ Cocks rose to fame in the late 90s as the unlikely star of TV2 renovation show My House My Castle. Just how a humble tradesman could become one of the most well-known and beloved figures in the country remains one of New Zealand’s greatest and most delightful mysteries. The eventual winner of the inaugural Celebrity Treasure Island, these days Cocksy is unfortunately very ill.
If Buncey had the best sunnies on the island then Katrina Hobbs had the best (or at least most quintessentially ‘2001’) hat: a white towelling Paul Frank bucket hat. As an actor, Hobbs holds the rare distinction of having held major roles on both Home and Away and Shortland Street during her long trans-Tasman television career. Now her main focus is running Hobbs & Co, a homeware business which has a truly wonderful raccoon logo.
Of all the Celebrity Treasure Island contestants Dominic Bowden is the one whose celebrity star has risen the highest since appearing on the show. Now he’s the host of almost every reality show in New Zealand, but back in 2001 he was just a fresh-faced youth in a wicked Ferrari cap.
A former New Zealand Commonwealth Games athlete, in 2001 Jayne Kiely was one of the most recognisable faces on television as the host of feel-good renovation series Mitre 10 Dream Home. Nowadays she is a real estate agent with Ray White Remuera.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Trent Bray was nominated by the blue team as their spokesman for crucial trade negotiations with the red team’s ‘Handy’ Andy Dye in the first episode of Celebrity Treasure Island. Handy Andy called his bluff and he came away empty-handed. These days the swimming adonis runs the Trent Bray Swim School at Kowhai Intermediate in Kingsland.
Another Celebrity Treasure Island contestant plucked from one of New Zealand’s many, many home renovation shows. In 2001, Sally Ridge was an interior designer on Changing Rooms, although her defining television moment would come years later alongside her daughter Jaime and a tame mouse in The Ridges. She has recently started working as a real estate agent with Bayleys Ponsonby.
New Zealand’s most gaffe-prone cricket commentator introduced himself to Celebrity Treasure Island viewers by saying his biggest fear on the island was getting no sleep “because you know what women are like… they talk all night!” Later in the episode, he killed a chicken and got caught with a contraband muesli bar. These days Morrison is a globe-trotting cricket commentator for hire, specialising in domestic T20 competitions.
A ZM radio host, sort of like the 2001 equivalent of ‘PJ’ from ‘Jase & PJ’, Sunderland provided the most shocking moment of Celebrity Treasure Island’s first episode when she was caught with a dirty old dart in her luggage. The discovery of the cigarette, along with Danny’s muesli bar, meant the red team had to give the blue team a fish hook as punishment. Nicki Sunderland is now a wedding celebrant and MC.
Anthony Ray Parker
Best known as Suzanne Paul’s limousine driver in the now-scarcely-believable series Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, US expat Anthony Ray Parker would have been one of the first names on the Celebrity Treasure Island casting wishlist. Parker’s celebrity status has diminished somewhat since those halcyon days for New Zealand television. In 2013, he fronted an ad for bizarre internet scheme ‘RealStew’.
The popular host of TV2’s Mai Time circa 2001, Stacey Daniels (now Morrison) was the eventual runner up of Celebrity Treasure Island, narrowly losing to Cocksy in an epic race to find the treasure in the final episode. Morrison remains on television, currently hosting Whanau Living on TVNZ 1.
‘Handy’ Andy Dye
With about 17 different home renovation shows being made in New Zealand in 2001 there was room for more than one celebrity builder on Celebrity Treasure Island. Changing Rooms craftsman ‘Handy’ Andy Dye was hot on Cocksy’s heels for the title of New Zealand’s favourite tradie and you can sense his burning desperation to get one over his bitter rival in this episode. Like fellow contestants Jayne Kiely and Sally Ridge, Handy Andy is now a real estate agent with Barfoot & Thompson.
The former TrueBliss singer was working as the host of the Coke RTR Top 20 when she answered the call of Celebrity Treasure Island in 2001. Takacs now has arguably the most enviable job of all the contestants, working alongside her husband as a stunt coordinator on movies around the world.
Survivor New Zealand begins on TVNZ 2 at 7pm Sunday, watch the full episode on Celebrity Treasure Island here on NZ On Screen.
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