Sunday, April 02, 2006

Kerre Woodham: Keeping up with the Joneses

Would you pay $10,000 to belong to a club that would help you get to shake hands with the likes of former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and MP John Tamihere?

Not that there's anything wrong with Jenny Shipley and John Tamihere - very nice people in their own special way - but even they would surely agree that a 10 grand price tag for pressing their flesh is a bit steep.

But apparently Phil and Corrina Jones are batting away would-be members with sticks after they announced the establishment of the Presidential Inner Circle last month. The most enticing aspect of belonging to the Presidential Inner Circle appears to be the opportunity to meet and be photographed with the aforementioned Jenny and John, Gary McCormick, Eric Rush and Ric Salizzo - although to be fair, members also got to meet the former leader of the United States, Bill Clinton.

There's no doubt a photo of you hanging off Bill Clinton as he flashed his famous good-ol'-boy grin would be a talking point in your sandwich bar or neighbourhood restaurant. But it's a long time between A list celebs like Clinton in these shaky isles. Would being fobbed-off with a home-grown former politician/television presenter/sportsman really keep members happy enough to continue forking out 10 grand a year, plus GST?

Surely that's one of the charms of living in New Zealand - we may not have high wages and job opportunities aren't as varied or enticing as those in Europe or the US but at least in this country, our stars, such as they are, are close enough to touch. On any given day in Auckland, you can run into a reality TV chick at the hairdressers, the prime minister at the gym, a Warrior and a muso, and a famously pointy headed journo and his luminously lovely former television presenter wife - and that's just in one aisle of the Grey Lynn Foodtown.

One of the most famous adventurers of all time, Sir Ed Hillary, is marvellously accessible and on any given day of the week, you'll find him visiting international sports teams at Les Mills.

Still, that's not all that's offered by the Joneses. Members get 12 days a year unprecedented access to the company of the four amazing and respected Presidential Inner Circle hosts - the Joneses and their friends, Kurek and Marie Ashley. Wow! If only I knew who they were, I'm sure I'd be amazed and respectful but I have no idea who these people are.

I googled Kurek and found that he was a motivational speaker, a former stuntman and helicopter crash survivor, and he holds the record for the world's longest firewalk.

And as for the Joneses, Phil's invested in property and written a book, and Corrina is blonde with big boobs, which, you would have to say, doesn't make her anything special in this town.

I'm sure they'd be great people to sit next to on a long plane flight but would you really pay 10 grand a year plus GST for the privilege of being their friends and getting to drive their his-and-hers Ferraris?

Having spent years working on Fair Go, I know that there is no shortage of fools and their money out there, desperate to be parted, and if the punters are happy with the deal, then good-on the Joneses for spotting a niche market and capitalising on it.

I do feel honour bound to point out to prospective members, though, that before they hand over the dosh, in this country it is very, very easy to keep up with the Joneses.


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