Entertainer’s send-off full of laughter
By Roger Moroney
Napier’s Alec Wishart, one of the sparks of the great Hogsnort Rupert band, was farewelled in style yesterday – and as it was during his long career as an entertainer it was a full house at the St John Waiapu Cathedral for the celebration of his life.
Mr Wishart died last Friday, at Hawke’s Bay Hospital while surrounded by family, at the age of 76 after battling illness for several months.
Yesterday his family, his many friends and his musical colleagues gathered and he was remembered and cherished in fine style.
And the band played for Alec, after each told their own colourful stories of a man they loved and admired – a man the co-creator of Hogsnort, Dave Luther, said was friendly, funny and filled with charisma.
“It was no surprise he became so well liked,” Mr Luther said before finishing with the simple but emotionally-soaked words “you were my best friend – rest in peace”.
Band-mate Neil Warboys said his memories were of fun and laughter.
“He had such a positive attitude to everything – the glass was always half full with Alec.
“He never had a bad word for anyone,” drummer Dean Ruscoe said.
“He was simply just a lovely, lovely guy.”
There was plenty of laughter as he talked about some of the characters Mr Wishart portrayed on stage.
Like the character Larry Persil who wore a silly wig, green trousers and had a terrible stutter – which made it impossible for him to get even the first words of Blueberry Hill out. At one concert, a member of the audience, not recognising it was Mr Wishart, admonished the rest of the band who had jokingly told him to get his act together.
“This chap yelled at us to ‘give him a fair go’.”
And the time when Mr Wishart had been pulled over for speeding by a police officer while on tour – but all the officer ended up doing was getting his autograph for his daughter – he forgot all about the ticket.
Mr Wishart’s son Dean described his father as “a great man and great dad” and said the family were blessed – “through your humour, your voice and your love”.
Daughter Gina said she had two amazing parents which gave her the strength to follow her hopes and dreams.
“I am sure you are singing and jamming in some great company.”
Wife Kaye said she and her husband had partaken in “the most wonderful journey together – I was always honoured to be by your side – to be your wife and the mother of your children”.
The band then gathered and paid their own musical tributes – singing the song Hogsnort Rupert always opened with – San Francisco Bay and then, to the delight of the packed house, Aunty Alice Bought Us This.
“He had such a positive attitude to everything – the glass was always half full with Alec. He never had a bad word for anyone.”
The clapping began and the singalong for the chorus filled the cathedral.
It was a service of tears, laughter, song and applause.
It was the best of send-offs to one of New Zealand’s finest entertainers, and a devoted family man through and through.
Photo caption – FINE VOICE: Alec Wishart (second from left) with (from left) Dave Luther, Neil Worboys, Kevin Findlater and Dean Ruscoe, during a reunion of the seventies band Hogsnort Rupert, in Taradale in 2009. PHOTO/FILE