It was to be the New Zealand broadcasting great’s final on-air performance. Less than 24 hours before Kevin Black’s sudden death, his voice could still be heard across the nation.
But instead of the prank calls which were his trademark during the years he worked as a DJ at Radio Hauraki in the 1970s and 80s, it was a Sky TV interview with Kevin that aired the night before he passed away.
Kevin, who was fondly known as Blackie, will be remembered for his larger-than-life personality and the sense of humour that he kept until his sudden death from a suspected heart aneurysm.
The 69-year-old was found by his wife Kristin (50) and youngest daughter Kandace (15) in his Remuera home, Auckland, just days before his 70th birthday. Kristin is thankful Kevin was in a good place in the weeks leading up to his death – they were both looking forward to celebrating her 50th birthday in Paris.
“He had lots of good things happening. He was full of the joys of life,” says Kristin.
“His new Lexus was arriving, we were looking forward to the trip and he was incredibly well – or so we thought. He’d never had any major issues.”
They had enjoyed a Sunday roast dinner with friends at home, and Kristin thought nothing of it when Kevin complained of heartburn the following evening before she left the house.
“He wasn’t feeling well,” says Kristin. “I think we have to take heart that his death was instant.”
The couple first met each other in March 1987 at The Esplanade Hotel in Devonport, Auckland.
“I met him in a bar and I recognised him,” Kristin tells the Weekly, as she wipes gentle tears from her cheeks.
Kristin had told him she worked at The Regent Hotel, and two days later Kevin rang looking for her.
It was a case of opposites attract. “Throughout our relationship I was always the support person in the background. He was a larger-than-life personality,” she says of the radio star.
They were married in Fiji in 1996, asking a couple they met on the plane to act as witnesses to their ceremony. The tapa cloth from their wedding, which reads “Kevin Kristin Black”, has pride of place on the wall in their family home.
“He always told me how much he loved me, how much I meant to him,” says Kristin. “He would constantly tell me that I was the best thing that happened to him.”
Their daughter Kandace was born the following year in 1997. Her good nature and sense of humour is a credit to her father, who has two adult children, Xavier (27) and Kyran (30), from a previous relationship.
As Kandace grew up, she and her father became a double act, playing tricks on family and friends.
“Dad taught me the boundaries of jokes. He knew when enough was enough and whether it was appropriate or not to mention certain things,” she says.
During his heyday, when Blackie’s prank calls on Radio Hauraki became a favourite with listeners, he was careful not go too far – unlike the Australian announcers who rang the British hospital where Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for morning sickness, leading to the suicide of one of the nurses who was duped.
“He said the numbers at the front of the phone book were taboo – you could never use those,” Kristin explains.
It was the Wellingtonian’s early career in the merchant navy in Britain that led to his first job on the airwaves, working on Britain’s pirate radio ship, Radio Caroline.
When he returned home, Kevin was in the same broadcasting school intake as Paul Holmes in 1972, and the pair remained friendly throughout their lives. The friends’ deaths occurred just weeks apart.
Kevin reigned as the country’s top DJ at Radio Hauraki. He later went on to work at 89FM, Classic Hits and Solid Gold. When he retired in 2009, Kevin would pick up Kristin from her job as a business travel agent in Newmarket every day in his car “Lucy the Lexus”.
The Blacks moved to Remuera eight years ago, where Kandace attends Baradene College of the Sacred Heart. They were sorry to say goodbye to the 1882 Victorian villa in Onehunga that they’d dubbed “Clyde Villa”.
Kristin says there was never a dull moment living with the party lover, who had a talent for retaining facts.
“You could ask him a question on any subject, and if he didn’t know the answer he’d spin you such a good yarn that it was totally believable,” she recalls with a smile.
He was also skilled at mimicking voices and could imitate everyone from Thomas the Tank Engine to Prince Charles. But there was another side to Kevin that many didn’t see.
“There’s Kevin who’s the radio persona and there’s Kevin who’s the home person,” says Kristin.
“He really valued his Catholic upbringing. I wouldn’t say he was the most focused Catholic, but he believed in the value of the Church and was really thrilled that Kandace was going to a Catholic school and that she was baptised.”
One of Kevin’s favourite sayings was, “in adversity lie the seeds of success”, and always tried to stay upbeat – even joking about his heartburn before he collapsed.
Friends and family are still shocked the robust DJ is no longer with them.
“He used to jokingly say that I would miss him so much when he died. We used to laugh and say Kevin would outlive us,” says Kristin.
Kristin and Kandace have had strong support from relatives for the past few months. Instead of celebrating her birthday in Paris, Kristin took a break in Fiji with Kandace, treasuring the memories of their husband and father.
“Kevin never wanted to be a sick old man,” says Kristin. “He just went too soon, but he never suffered. And we hang onto that.”
KEVIN’S RADIO PRANKS
• Blackie called the Auckland Harbour Bridge control office and told the receptionist he was going to hang a mural on the side of the bridge.
• Kevin called the Ministry of Mines to report digging for uranium in his backyard. An overwhelmed official muttered “My God” and asked if he had any professional qualifications to do such a thing. “No, but I have an uncle who was a coal miner down in Westport,” Blackie said.
• He told a woman in South Auckland her garage remote was suspected of interfering with planes flying over her home, and told her to point it at the plane above her, “Oh no, I don’t want to do that,” she insisted.
• He called a rental car company, requesting modifications on his rental so he could race it.
Photography: Caren Davis. Hair and make-up Luisa Petch. Styling: Emma Aubin