Ungainly, absentminded and accident-prone – Kevin Lynch didn’t have to look far for inspiration for Len the Loser. Celia Williams remembers an Arrowtown icon.
Like his much-loved alter-ego Len the Loser, Kevin Lynch had a natural way of making people laugh.
But his best off-stage performances were saved for an audience that knew him best – his family and friends.
Lynch, 60, died last Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. His life and career as one of New Zealand’s foremost entertainers was celebrated at a funeral in Arrowtown yesterday.
Close friend Peter Doyle recalls his mate of 23 years being just as “ungainly, absentminded and accident-prone” as the loveable character Len the Loser that Lynch would portray.
“If there was something to run over, he’d run over it … he even confessed himself that he couldn’t bang a nail in straight.”
On one occasion, Doyle says, Lynch was washing an oven tray and just after taking it out of the sink to drain, he sneezed.
“His head went forward and he opened up the top of his head as he whacked it on the top of the oven tray.
Nobody else would do that – but he did.”
Not much of a DIY man, Lynch only mowed the lawns once – and when he did he sent the mower straight over a fallen drainpipe, putting a hole in the pipe.
“He got into trouble for that so he never mowed the lawns again,” Doyle laughs.
However where the character and the actor differed was that while Len was a loser, Lynch was anything but. Says close friend Fred van Brandenburg: “He was deeply motivated and Len the Loser wasn’t – and that was the joke.”
Len the Loser, the bumbling guitar player dressed in a bush shirt, ripped trousers and gumboots, was a character that Lynch dreamed up in the late 1990s.
Performing to the corporate market, Len took Lynch all over NZ and overseas, playing to up to 10,000 people a year.
Before moving to Arrowtown in 1985 with wife Jenny and their four children, Lynch had been a member of popular Dunedin band Expense and later found success in song and jingle-writing.
He gained recognition for composing the music to the internationally acclaimed goldrush show Rush! – arguably NZ’s most successful homegrown musical. It opened in 1998 and has since been performed in England and Wales, and next year heads to Scotland. Arrowtown playwright David John wrote the script.
Lynch instigated his family band The Lynch Mob and was a pivotal figure behind the success of the Arrowtown Autumn Festival – launching History Alive, a step-back-in-time show, as an off-shoot.
“He handled life with humour all the time,” says Van Brandenburg. “Everyday was light-hearted but had a very serious side to it – nothing was flippant.”
Daughter Emma Pullar recalls one instance of his serious-but-silly traits at home: “One year I remember he bought my mother a can of Pledge furniture polish for their wedding anniversary with a card saying, ‘I pledge my love for you’ – he was always doing silly things like this. That was the norm in our household.”
Van Brandenburg says Lynch’s legacy is “immortalised” in his children: “They are phenomenal musicians because he taught them so.”
Doyle: “The Lynch family has always been well respected in Arrowtown and Kevin was the linchpin, to coin a phrase. And he’ll be missed not just by the community and family but by musicians and audiences round the country and further afield, because he was right up there.
“I don’t actually think the people of Arrowtown realised how big he was nationally. He was incredibly popular.”