Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 18. July 30, 1969
The Ringmaster and his team in the — Greatest Show On Earth
The Ringmaster and his team in the
Greatest Show On Earth
"Mr. President and Fellow Freedom Fighters!"
(Said seriously). The Greatest Show on Earth, the most unique display in New Zealand political history. On stage the ring-master and stage impressario extraordinary. Together with his motley collection of lapdogs and animals of in-fi-ni-te variety!
The ringmaster stands on the stage; his elevator shoes forgotten so trousers are bugged down over his shoes. He looks tired, saggy-eyed standing before the footlights and the steaming arc-lamps. Beaming, ready like an addict fur the big event. Prancing. Ovation. Cheer. Behind him no Union Jack this year. Three New Zealand (lags—first time ever. (Three for luck?) Sign of nationalism? National—for a nation on the move.
"You may call me Keith."
"You may call me Kiwi."
"Or you may call me Kiwi Keith!"
The rally members tiller. There's an air or expectancy, as if they're gathered for a birthday party or a visit to the circus. The powdered pampered perfumed matrons daubing bloodsticks on their whore-like lips, fat licking tongues like rolling flesh off a napalmed Vietcong, the intake of a cigarette, the blood on the end, the gasp of air, Like a fish. The looking, the waving, the diamante studded glasses, the twist in recognition of a rheumy pudgy ringcovered hand. "The delegation shall comprise four people, one of whom shall be a woman." Their smoke wafts us towards the arc-lights, but there aren't the Democrat type fights below. No. Just rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of black suits. Black suits. They too are there to be noticed. Not for the remits or ideas but for the socialising the shoulder rubbing with 'our team'. The black arms go up like little boys awaiting permission to visit the toilet. Up and down. Up down. Jerk, jerk jerk. Impatient to be noticed eagerly expectantly trying to catch the ringmaster's eye, seeking approval. To ask a question.
"Fellow Freedom Fighters every one of you is a commander in the coming election ... we must start the crusade now— get our people on the roll, go out on to the highways, the streets, the byways, the cities, the hills, and the valleys and tell the people ... we have to make our visions come true."
The ringmaster has been reading Churchill and Dulles.
"I want to present my team to you tonight ... I'm not ashamed of my team." Piggy Muldoon is on the far right. The first question. The ringmaster cuts in "I didn't hear that question properly. Repeat it." "That's enough Peter, you've had your sixty seconds!" (In other words sit down, this is my show and nobody's going to steal it from me). The Transport Minister jumps back to his scat on the whiplike command. False hilarity, but underneath all the grim seriousness of a high quality Public Relations presentation.
The lumbering gorilla now lurches forward on a barked command. Redfaced, slurring words ... The National Roads Board oh yes ...
Next the preening little possum to purr about the Broadcasting Authority, giving a sermon on caution like the lay-preacher he is.
Then sweet little fieldmouse Seath sidling shyly sideways to front up to the lights, smirking and quirking about something or other. Dinner jacket, pursed mouth I bet he has a nice loving mother. Slipping sideways again back to his scat to the clapping of two people. (His mother and one other no doubt).
Lionlike Shand: Bold blunt and aggressive no words wasted. He roars with that feline voice of his. Not a person dares reply and even the ringmaster refrains from butting in as he's want to do with his more junior animals.
The Pig comes next and tries to act the same. The twitching face and automatic jerking of his left hand give him away. Just trying to put on a good show, folks.
Cheetah Marshall. Sleek white hair, wily and smart and ever so clever. Slow and calculating but really so fast, but oh remember in 1965 at this same conference when you nearly got a knife between the blades from the ringmaster, Jack. Oh Jack.
All the time, up and down, there is a little man with little feet and a little microphone. He scuttles up and down the aisle like a Geisha, proffering his treasure obsequiously like a prophylactic. Rex Rat (yes, real name) hovers behind a curtain waiting to pounce with thousands of copies of the ringmasters latest pronouncements. A Big Time National Party official now Res Rat you . . . (Sylvia Plath, remember her daddy?) But remember the times of spouting Marx and CP (just like me and my NP past).
The white-haired, smoked-brown glasses ladies seam up, pop peppermints in ever-rising ecstacy, minks and foxfurs sweating.
"36 questions in 50 minutes. Not bad eh boys?"
"Fellow Freedom Fighters . . . faith . . . spur . . . you on . . . (gasp) . . . this country . . . I'm not ashamed of my team."