City Council to Consider New Zealand Activist Twins for a Rare Berkeley Honor

By Gar Smith
Wednesday June 08, 2011 - 03:45:00 PM
Kriss, Marty Spense and the Topp Twins taken at the post-screening party in the Shattuck Cinema's Lot 68 Lounge.
Gar Smith
Kriss, Marty Spense and the Topp Twins taken at the post-screening party in the Shattuck Cinema's Lot 68 Lounge.

The Topp Twins, New Zealand’s beloved yodeling, comic, lesbian activists came to Berkeley on May 22 and won the hearts of a sold-out crowd that packed the Landmark Cinema to see the new documentary that celebrates the remarkable lives of these two “Untouchable Girls.” (Read the May 20, Planet review here.

For the past three decades, these farm-raised, naturally born entertainers have been in the forefront of activist campaigns for Indigenous rights, sexual tolerance and to make their New Zealand home nuclear-free. Along the way, they’ve racked up a dozen hit albums, won a slew of the country’s top awards and created a couple of smash TV shows. 

After the screening, Lynda and Jools Topp joked and fielded questions from the audience. The exchange provides some lovely insights into the lives and minds of these two fun-loving Kiwi divas. 

Speaking of the majority of straight New Zealanders, Lynda observed: “They would never say the word ‘gay,’ but they’ll give you the shirt off their back.” Besides, she added, “After you’ve helped someone load 500 pounds of hay, they don’t really care if you’re a lesbian or not.” 

And Jools had a bit of well-schooled advice: “If you want to get by in the world, meet your neighbor.” 

The twins admitted they are working on another movie but, this time “it’s not a documentary.” 

Lynda was asked about how her character of Ken Moller, a Wairarapa sheep farmer was created and how he became pals with Jools’ character, Ken Smythe, a would-be townie sportscaster. And Lynda recalled how her character, Ken, has become smitten with one of her other characters, Camp Mother. 

“It’s sick and wrong!” Jools ad-libbed with a cringe and a hoot. 

This unrequited longing gave rise to Ken’s catchphrase: “She’s bloody gorgeous!” (which became such a popular chant in New Zealand that it now appears embroidered on the camo caps that the Topp Twins sell alongside their CDs when they are on tour.) 

After the Q and A, Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington joined the Topps and comedienne Marga Gomez at the stage below the big screen for a special announcement. Worthington praised the Topps for their activism and their “unique cross-over appeal. They are equally at home performing in front of a gay/lesbian audience or in a rugby stadium as opening match entertainment.” 

“I am now presenting the Official City of Berkeley Proclamation to officially welcome you to our wonderful city,” Worthington began. “It’s got a couple of “whereases” and then a really great “therefore.” 

The proclamation will be considered for a vote at this Thursday’s City Council meeting. It reads as follows: 

WHEREAS, the Topps Twins are an internationally renowned singing and performing sensation, now receiving acclaim through “The Topp Twins, Untouchable Girls” film; and 

WHEREAS, New Zealand’s cultural icons were welcomed to Berkeley by our own American cultural icon, Marga Gomez; and 

WHEREAS, these two sisters together have conquered boredom, commercial feasibility, cancer; and 

WHEREAS, the Topp Twins simply and profoundly speak out for peace, Indigenous land rights and LGBT rights; and 

WHEREAS, they intertwine all of that within their country songs, yodeling, comic sketches, 

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Berkeley City Council does hereby officially recognize and proclaim Lynda and Jools Topp to be Honorary Citizens of the City of Berkeley. 

An eruption of applause greeted Worthington’s announcement. 

Jools stepped forward to announce that it was time to leave the theater and “get down for a mingle.” But before repairing to Lot 68 Lounger for beers and hugs with a mob of local fans, friends and a number of old fly-fishing buddies, Jools strapped on a guitar and the twins marched through the screening room and out the door, leading the packed crowd in a rousing, clapping, stomping, singing rendition of “Untouchable Girls.”