I arrived at the Ferry Terminal Building at 10:45am. There were no instructions for where I was supposed to meet everybody, so I wandered around for a couple of minutes until I found a small group of fashion media and designers – all of whom were distinctly bemused. There was no sign of Pearl Going. They directed me to a mini stall where I could pick up my tickets. A thirty-something year old man held a handwritten list on a yellow piece of paper. I said my name, got my tickets, and rejoined the group.
Even before any of us got on board we began chattering nervously about what on earth we were doing there. Some likened it to a reality TV show, others to an Agatha Christie novel, one was just downright frightened. We got on the ferry (quite coincidentally, Karl Urban was also onboard). I sat down with two other media and one designer. It took us about three minutes before we started fact checking what we knew or didn’t know. We swapped our Pearl Going stories but none of us knew anything about the Waiheke trip. One of the media didn’t even know it was Pearl Going’s event – she’d only dealt with Aimee Ryan. The suspense was killing me.
Then things took a downward turn.
A young woman and a man holding a camera approached our table and asked the blonde sitting opposite me if she was Pearl Going. Weird. Turned out they were a reporter/photographer team from the Herald on Sunday. We told her we were on our way to the event but knew as little as her about it. The nervous chatter began again – this time we all expressed concern about the tabloids being there.
About three minutes later we saw the Herald on Sunday duo walk over to some of the designers from our party and take their picture. She approached our table and asked to do the same thing. We enquired about the usage of the photos. She said that it was going to be a social slash news type story. We pressed her for more information. Turned out the angle was much more news, much less social. They hadn’t been invited to the party, but were coming to cover it for a larger story about Pearl Going and her fashion event that came out in today’s paper. At this point two of our party decided not to come to the event.
I must admit, this all made it much more exciting for me. I’d just been watching the Bourne trilogy the day before and the whole thing reeked of cloak and dagger.
Two people down, we arrived in Waiheke to be greeted by a tour bus driver holding a sign that read ‘S DEX AWARD’. That’s right, not FedEx, but S DEX. Due to the shoddily worded sign we just about lost two more of our party – they almost decided they wanted nothing to do with the event, but the team rallied around them and they gave in. We got onto his bus. There was a middle aged woman already on board with three small children.
Everybody started talking excitedly about what on earth was going on, and asking questions like – are we going to die? who is Pearl Going? are Pearl Going and Aimee Ryan the same person? is FedEx even involved? At which point the lady with the small children piped up and told us that she was the FedEx representative but couldn’t tell us anything – because she didn’t know anything.
The bus began driving us to what we’d been told was a NZD$5,000,000 mansion owned by Pearl Going’s family. But on the way to the house, the driver informed us that the venue had been changed just that morning. We were driven to a private road about five minute’s drive from the ferry terminal. Every house was stunning. The bus stopped at the top of a steep driveway. There was no sign-posting, no welcoming committee, still no sign of Pearl Going.
As we walked down the driveway, the Herald on Sunday photographer ran forward, snapping photos like a man possessed. I was one of the last to reach the house, by which time the door had opened and people were going in. Pearl greeted me at the door, holding a clipboard.
I walked downstairs to join the party. A table laden with Crocs shoes stood in one corner. All around were FedEx boxes, flags and promotional displays. A bar was set up with a French lady serving cocktails. There were about four women already in the room, including a local photographer.
Nobody took charge or told us what we were doing there. We were still flying blind. This left us to wander around the house, speculating wildly and talking apprehensively among ourselves.
Pearl noticed the Herald on Sunday team. I stood by and watched as she approached them and asked who they were and which publication they represented. An awkward conversation began as the HOS team told Pearl that they were there to do a news story on the event. Pearl requested to talk to them upstairs.
This was too good to miss, so I pretended to receive a phone call and followed them outside. Pearl told the reporter and photographer that they were not on the guest list and that they hadn’t been invited. They were trespassing on private property so could they please leave. The reporter asked a few questions about the day, about the award and about the fashion event planned for March. Pearl declined to comment to any of the questions, saying the information was “strictly embargoed”. The Herald on Sunday team agreed to leave.
Pearl walked back downstairs.
To be continued.