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The good, the bad, and the vain

The television crew here for Top Town made the most of their time and filmed another event that was happening at the same time. MARK PACEY of the Wairarapa Archive recalls when Masterton played It’s in the Bag.

While the crowds packed into Memorial Park to see the antics of the Top Town contenders, a different group of people were making their way to the Masterton Town Hall for an entirely different game.

On 16 February 1987, 560 people who were either happy to be a spectator or wanted a chance to play, filed into the Town Hall for the first of two nights of gameshow fun.

Hosted by John Hawkesby and Hillary Timmins, the game started with a crowd of people on stage, all vying for a chance to compete. The selection process was described by Hawkesby. “If someone is splenetic, are they good-tempered, bad-tempered or vain”. According to the report at the time, it was the bad-tempered hopefuls that won through as the crowd on the stage was whittled down to just 10.

Hawkesby had taken over from Selwyn Toogood, who had hosted the show since 1954 when it started out as a radio show. Some had criticised Hawkesby for appearing to give clues and hints to contestants when they got stuck.

“I try to give them help on only one question. If it’s a question that is either right or wrong, there’s nothing I can do to help them, but if they are on the right track and obviously know the answer but are a bit nervous because of the surrounding, I’ll give them a clue. After all, the programme is about them getting through and bidding for a bag – without that, there is no show”.

The show had been on the road for a while and continued after it left Masterton. “The two programmes shot in Masterton are numbers seven and eight. We have just done two in Taupō and our next stop is Nelson and then Westport. It’s a bit like being on the road with a rock group but without having a hit single” Hawkesby said.

The Masterton crowd had a great time and there were some real opportunities to grab some prizes. Kay Simmonds won a writing desk and Donald McGregor won an antique phone. There were some precarious moments where the question “the money or the bag” was seriously debated by contestants. Money is great to have, but the intrigue of what could be in the bag was very enticing.

Carterton man Chris Trotman was put in that exact position. The money or the bag? What could be in that bag? A valuable and interesting item, or is it one of the booby prizes? In the end Trotman decided to take the money, and it was a good thing he did. What was in the bag? A pair of scissors.

Over the course of the two days, both “super bags”, prizes containing the big money rewards, were won. The locals had a great time competing and watching, waiting to see what was in the mysterious bags.

The television crew also had an enjoyable experience in Masterton. Between Top Town and Its in the Bag, they spent several days here and saw quite a bit of what the town had to offer. Hawkesby found filming in the smaller towns an experience.

“Coming into the provincial areas of New Zealand is really great – like coming to New Zealand as it was eight or ten years ago. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, the provinces are the backbone of this country, the heartland”.

Aside from the entertainment values and the prizes won by the contestants, the shows were also of great benefit to the community. Over $7,000 was also raised for the Wairarapa Outdoor Recreation Trust.

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