As a teenager in the 80s I read all of Bob’s books and loved them. His “Letters” are a priceless read. I have only met him once – in 2007.
I was asked to come over to his office to join a discussion over the Electoral Finance Bill, and ways he could contribute to a campaign against it. I went over at 3 pm, expecting to be back at my desk by 5 pm. I staggered out of Sir Bob’s office, along with John Ansell, at around 4 am. During that 13 hours we drank many bottles of superb wine, and the only food we had was potato chips. I really could barely walk.
Anyway back to the profile:
“I had two MPs in my office last night but, unusually, we didn’t drink much because they left early. So-and-so and what’s-his-name? The duck?”
“Yes, Mallard. Only one glass each.”
Certainly, there has been a vigour about his family life. Last month he told M2 Magazine: “I have vast numbers of children ranging from 4 to 40 years of age. All have been produced by diverse women without my consent, my participation having been fleeting.”
His correspondence with their various schools is one of the best parts of his Letters books.
Then there are some who painfully remember Jones’ own pugilism, including the time television reporter Rod Vaughan, determined to get an answer from Jones about the future of his New Zealand Party, flew by helicopter to Jones’ trout fishing patch at Turangi. Jones moved like lightning out of the undergrowth and punched Vaughan on the nose.
When fined $1000 in court, Jones asked the judge if he paid $2000, could he please do it again?
Never had a country been so united behind one man. I recall even the Governor-General was over-heard saying how much he approved of what Jones did. The video of the assault was wonderful theatre.
But the charmer also loves to shock. A few months ago he invited me to join him for lunch with Wellington lawyer Mai Chen. When Jones was informed by Chen that she doesn’t drink alcohol he claimed to be horrified: “You poor bastard. Tom Scott’s coming along. Deborah’s got no pants on (not true). There’ll be an orgy later (also untrue). I feel sorry for you.”
Jones also has a thing about dark glasses, especially when worn on the top of the head. As if on cue, this bete noire popped up near the end of lunch.
As we filed out of the Arbitrageur restaurant Jones spied a woman sporting a flash pair of sunnies atop her blonde mane, and started muttering about people wearing sunglasses on their heads. I recognised the wearer as Wellington blogger “Busted Blonde”, and guessed, correctly, that Jones would be repaid the next day on her Roar Prawn blogsite.
The blog post is here.
But Jones enjoys fomenting mischief and critics should ignore him. He’s been insulting me for nearly 20 years and I’m not particularly thick-skinned. When he decided I should meet Colin Carruthers, I was instructed to not “dress like a whore, none of that paint smeared on your face, just lipgloss”.
When the progressing relationship pleased him, this unlikely Dorothy Dix offered more advice: “Don’t let him take you away to an island resort. At your age, you can’t be seen prancing around in a bikini. Get him to take you skiing so your body’s well covered.”
So how, my feminist friends ask, can you remain close to someone so obviously sexist? The Listener’s Jane Clifton, who has been his good mate since she was a “baby journalist”, gets the same queries and laughs them off.
“Way back before I even knew him well, someone wrote something spiteful and gutless about me and Bob wrote me this letter which was not just of comfort but which said, ‘the problem as I see it is that **** is a conspicuously hideous beast and you are not’. It was bloody useful and restorative to be told that. Bob saw an injustice, and was extraordinarily nice about it.
I love the story of how he paid his receptionist to change her name by deed poll.