When legends collide

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John Dix, that living repository of all things on the Kiwi street and in the music world, has penned an entertaining memoir of one of the real characters of this country. 

Peter Ralph, known to one and all as Scruff, died in August.

In the latest issue of the Phantom Billstickers Café Reader, Dix recounts the time he agreed to be campaign manager for one of Scruff’s ventures, a foray into local politics, when he joined a number of candidates running for the mayoralty of Auckland.

Scruff’s appearance was just one factor Dix had to deal with. He describes his client’s look as ‘biblical – sandals, robes and a shepherd’s crook; dangling around his neck a collection of gold and silver chains, crystal, pounamu, sea shells and shark’s teeth, enough stuff to keep away the most determined evil spirits. You could hear Scruff’s approach from 10 meters.’

Dix came up with a campaign slogan: A Vote for Scruff is a Vote of No Confidence. That seemed to set the tone, along with unrealised ideas of a donkey for transport, transvestites for ‘security’, and poodles as guard dogs.

That was just the beginning. His client (not that there was any money involved) was notoriously shy, a big problem when it came to public meetings. He also had a taste for booze and drugs. His usual explanation for why he was running was that he needed a job. He would give a fair chunk of the mayoral salary to the City Mission and Women’s Refuge, keeping a ‘slush fund’ for concerts and parties.

Dix did his best with his troublesome charge, but lost the plot once or twice, including when Scruff sacked him over one of their many disagreements.

Thirty years as a music journalist and event organiser gave Dix a pretty solid background for all this, but he admits being tested to his limits, as Scruff demanded vegetarian food and refused to appear anywhere without alcohol.

For the record, Scruff finished ninth out of 14 candidates.

Read the full story in the Café Reader, available free from central Auckland venues, notably the Ponsonby Snooker Club.

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