‘Too bloody busy to grow old’
Livewire Napier frontman Brian Cotter remembered
Former Napier city councillor Brian Cotter, who spent more than a decade fronting the promotion of Napier as the city’s public relations officer and started what were possibly the first Art Deco walks, died in Napier on Friday, aged 91.
Born in Matamata and raised on a dairy farm, he was appointed PRO. in 1974 and served 12 years in the position.
After that he was elected to one term on the council, resigning a few months ahead of the 1989 election to move with wife Mavis to Mount Maunganui.
He had been back in Napier just eight weeks, reviewing where he was at during the Covid-19 lockdown and – with Mavis having passed in 2013 – deciding to return to Hawke’s Bay to be closer to daughters Denise and Michelle.
There are two other daughters, Cherryl, who lives in Wellington and Paula (Auckland), and the couple had two sons – John, who died soon after being born, and Kelvin, who lives in Brisbane.
True to the entrepreneurial passion that consumed him – which dates back to teenage years when he fell into the role of MC when his mum was playing the piano in Matamata – he took up a voluntary broadcasting role just three years ago with Mt Maunganui community station Village Radio.
He also published Brian Cotter’s Life Story – Too bloody busy to grow old. Legendary guitarist Gray Bartlett recalls, in the introduction, the Teenarama dances around Waikato in the mid-1960s, for which he was booked by Cotter.
Bartlett also notes that “Brian is still singing, compering and arranging key events from his home in Mount Maunganui, despite entering his 90s”.
Cotter kept going with the radio till deciding earlier this year that the narrow staircase up to the studio was getting to be a bit much.
However it didn’t stop him broadcasting, as he was amplifying his selection from Spotify to the masses around Bayswater Retirement Village during lockdown.
At first look, his book is 250 pages of amaze, launched at his 90th birthday celebration last year, part of a series of celebrations which he said, in the book, were started a year earlier to raise funds for his own “after-match function”.
By the time Cotter arrived in Napier in the 1970s, after spotting an advertisement placed by the Napier Development Association and going through an interview with former MP and erstwhile mayor Peter Tait, three councillors and three senior businessmen, he was already well-experienced in community Public Relations.
At 18 he had become secretary and treasurer of Matamata’s Sports Queen Committee, had been secretary of the local A and P Association and therefore its show manager, been understudy to the PRO in Matamata, been an announcer for Radio Waikato, and perhaps most importantly a member of the local Lions club, all the while developing his profile from that of a one-time talent quest Danny Kaye impersonator to that of a recognised compere.
Based in the old Napier Borough Council building on the comer of Marine Parade and Tennyson St — and which was moved in 2011 to make way for the MTG development – it was after witnessing the occasional demolition and showing visiting journalists and others around town, reading what they then wrote, that he and his wife started Sunday afternoon Art Deco walks.
Ultimately it was the words of an American fiddler that spoke loudest.
“I can’t get over the great Art Deco buildings you have here,” the fiddler told him, and revealed a town in Florida had proclaimed itself “Art Deco Capital of the World.”
That was a red rag to a bull and Art Deco activity joined the long list of events run from Cotter’s office, such as parades and other regular festivities of the city, attracting major events and visitors.
Son Kelvin, recalls four of the Harlem Globetrotters being squeezed into the family Hillman Hunter for a visit to the Cotter home and a tour of city sights and places.
There were, often after being asked for ideas to help turn a dream into reality, such events as air shows, Soundshell events, the start of the Hawke’s Bay Wine Trial, and the offshore power boat race, to name a few.
They were all so many some couldn’t find a place in the book.
Some more may find a place when his funeral is held in Mount Maunganui next Monday.
Photo caption – Brian Cotter in Mount Maunganui three years ago. He died in Napier on Friday, aged 91