He’s the epitome of the self-contained southern man, yet grew up in Auckland, where he also started his broadcasting career in the 90s on student radio.
These days, the RadioLIVE breakfast host Marcus Lush divides his time between the tiny town of Bluff and Auckland’s wild west coast – often commuting between the North and South Islands to fulfil his highly-respected, early-morning radio gig.
In essence, this charismatic, articulate and refreshingly honest bloke has never really done what – in the eyes of many – is considered “normal”, nor expected.
That is part of his charm. The man who captured the hearts and imaginations of many New Zealanders with his TV shows Off The Rails, Ice, South and North is comfortable in his own skin. And now, at the age of 48, he’s about to become a dad for the first time.
He and his partner, teacher Vanessa Underwood, are expecting their first child just before Christmas – and no, of course they don’t know the sex, laughs Marcus.
“I feel unbelievably calm about fatherhood. It just feels so right to me,” says Marcus. “It’s something that I never obsessed about. I never thought, ‘OK, if I leave it too long, I’ll miss out.’ I’ve always been incredibly relaxed about it. And now for it to come along, in such an easy and right way – it feels really, really good.”
It’s three years since he and Vanessa met in an Auckland restaurant – and the couple have been inseparable since.
Their relationship is comfortable, compatible and calm, he says. He’s not yet ready to introduce Vanessa to the trappings of his public life just yet, but it’s clear he’s besotted.
“The words I could choose to describe Vanessa would not be strong enough. She’s beyond kind, genuine, and has an incredible generosity of spirit. She has empathy and an absence of self-obsession. There’s quite simply something extraordinary about her. Through everything there is an ‘anchoredness’ there. She’ll be an extraordinary mother.”
“We’ve been quite tight from very early, so I guess it’s not surprising the way our relationship has played out.”
For a man who rarely speaks about his private life, Marcus accepts, given the intimate relationship a radio host has with his audience, there will be interest in the arrival of his and Vanessa’s baby.
He volunteers that their pregnancy happened almost immediately, and given that many couples struggle with fertility, he admits they are indeed blessed. That was part of the reason he and Vanessa kept the news under wraps for so long.
“That, and the never-ending advice,” he laughs.
“I’m mindful that I work on the radio each morning and talk, yet don’t really volunteer much of myself, but then I can’t really tell my listeners that I’m off on paternity leave without explaining the reason!”
He’s certainly not one for coffee groups. His account of attending the Baby Show in Auckland recently is comedy gold. The mere thought of this reluctant, yet talented media personality lining up for brochures and tips on raising kids made us laugh out loud.
“I honestly thought it would be an interesting insight into what my world was becoming. It quickly became apparent that this is not what my world is going to become. People have commoditised the whole parenting process. It was unbelievable. I got shell shock!
“Vanessa queued for a couple of coffees. I sat down and drank those swiftly and we ran out of there, through the storm in the car park, and that was that. I recommend no-one goes, because there was this madness in people’s eyes. I don’t know if it was because there was a nappy special on, or maybe those there were running too, but it wasn’t for me. I can’t stand having to buy stuff you don’t need. I’m not one for clutter. From what I understand, babies didn’t seem to need so much in Victorian times!”
Old fashioned values aside, the Lush-Underwood baby will be born in hospital, and the couple are registered for antenatal classes. “It’s nice some things haven’t been replaced by the internet,” says Marcus.
Come Christmas, the trio plan to drive from Auckland to Marcus’ sacred Bluff, the place in which he found solace 12 years ago when the demands of frenetic city life called enough. Parental leave will coincide with his RadioLIVE summer break, so the timing is perfect.
Marcus says he’s made peace with his past, and attributes Vanessa’s influence and serenity to helping him become centred.
“Yeah, it’s pretty much all to do with her. Children will be an exciting thing to happen to us. You know it has been a pretty good life… and I don’t feel this is the last-go round. I still hope to have grandchildren.”
Waking early won’t be a problem. The couple get up at 4am to start work in the city, or if he’s in Bluff, the place he “loves to pieces”, to prepare for his show.
“I always see the kids rambling along the road in Bluff, where they all go to the same school, the one that is the focus of the community . And it just seems really simple and easy, just as it should be for children.”
“In Auckland, people get hung up about how much their house is worth, what schools their kids go to, or what daycare they’re enrolled in. There’s a beautiful simplicity about the south. It’s nice to get back there, where people sell houses for less than they paid for them – because that’s the way it is, and it’s fine.”
As for fatherhood, Marcus has no fixed expectations, other than he’s really ready for it.
“All sorts of people think this is going to change them and they’re going to become quite different when the baby arrives.”
“I just hope I will be relaxed and, as a father, accepting and loving and present. I hope I’m not deceiving myself, but I also can’t help but think a certain amount of common sense and endless enthusiasm will go a fair bit of the way.”
Pictures: Todd Eyre • Styling: Natasha Guttenbeil •Marcus wears route66.co.nz., Jeanswest shirt and route66.co.nz.Wesc cardy, route66.co.nz pants and Tee. with thanks to Eden Villa bed & breakfast.