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Broadcaster Ryan Bridge ‘I’m free to be me’

The presenter has moved on from an embarrassing TV moment to accomplish his family dream
Jae Frew

It’s not often that Magic Talk’s drive show host Ryan Bridge finds himself lost for words. But when The AM Show fill-in host had just been accidentally outed by co-host Mark Richardson – who joked that Ryan collected “ex-boyfriends” – he knew he only had a few seconds to make a split decision about how to respond on live TV.

“I thought, ‘Well, there’s no getting around that one. People are going to be wondering and I’m going to have to acknowledge it,” says Ryan, recalling how he burst into tears as soon as they went to an ad break.

Ryan’s new pup Fanny

“I was overwhelmed. It was shock, but also looking back on it, it was relief,” explains the 33-year-old.

“I had been on telly and radio for five years and never once mentioned I was gay. Everyone in the newsroom and all my family knew.

“It’s not that I had hidden it,” he pauses. “Well, I guess I had in a way by not saying it publicly. It’s just not at the forefront of how I describe myself. I wanted to be known as a good interviewer or a talented broadcaster before being the ‘gay guy from TV’.”

Ryan says he’d always worried that if he did come out, people wouldn’t accept him or find him relatable any more. However, the experience has shown him that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Secrets were unveiled on The AM Show but Ryan had no hard feelings

“I received the most hilarious emails from listeners and viewers in the weeks afterwards. Bruce from Timaru emailed, ‘Me and me mates love watching you and we don’t care who you’re shagging!'” he laughs.

“Middle-aged women told me, ‘Damn it, we thought one day you’d be ours!’ So I felt that in the end, it was all good. Maybe Mark did me a favour. And poor Mark. He was so apologetic and mortified. The last thing I wanted people to think was that he had done it from a nasty place, because it wasn’t. We get along really well and I consider him a mate.”

While radio hosts traditionally mine their personal lives for content, Ryan’s been very careful to keep his romance with his partner of two years private from his Magic Talk drive-time show listeners.

“I’m very much in love and very happy, but my partner isn’t in the media and prefers to stay behind the scenes,” says the political journalist-turned-broadcaster with the trademark man bun.

A chance meeting with Winston

The two were introduced at a bar through mutual friend Sarah Stuart, who is the stylist at TV3.

“It was Halloween, so he was dressed as a zombie and I thought he was very handsome in a non-threatening way!” smiles Ryan. “We had a dance together and swapped numbers, but it was four months later that we got together. He’s absolutely the kindest, caring, most thoughtful guy.

“When I do The AM Show, it means he gets woken up at 2.45am when the alarm goes off. He’ll wake up and say good morning. Then he’s leaving a note for me on the bench or he’s got me the toast out and coffee ready to go when I get back.”

Adds besotted Ryan, “He used to be a professional athlete, so he’s been in some high-pressure situations and I think that his drive was one of the things that really endeared me to him. He wants to succeed and wants to support me to succeed.”

‘It’s nice to now have this other life with someone who I love’

The couple have recently bought a house together, which Ryan describes as a “rickety railway cottage from the early 1900s” that has character and lots of all-day sun.

Once they got the house, they knew they’d get a dog. Enter Fanny, the gorgeous caramel-coloured beagle who turns one next month.

“It’s been really nice to make a home together, you know? Having Fanny has been the icing on the cake. She’s this cute, tiny thing, but she’s got this big howl on her that can be quite jarring!”

While he’s tackled triathalons and the Taupo Iron Man (with friend and TV3 newsreader Mike McRoberts) in recent years, Ryan is a little daunted at undertaking his first “talk marathon” next week.

From 6am on Thursday, July 15 to 6pm on Friday, the talk-back host will stay on-air non-stop for 36 hours – broadcasting from a big glass box outside Auckland’s Sky City – to raise money for the Child Cancer Foundation.

He doesn’t have the luxury of playing music when he wants to have a break, but is calling in all the favours he can get from people like John Key, Richie Mo’unga, the Black Caps, Paddy Gower and chef Annabelle White to come in to chat.

With The AM Show co-stars Mark and Amanda

“I imagine I can have an interview with John Key, go to the bathroom when the news is on and he can take over for 10 minutes.”

Does the former Prime Minister know about this?

“No, he doesn’t! I’ve never done a 36 hours on-air before, so it will be a challenge. But what better charity could you try and help anyway you can?” he muses.

“In the last few months, I’ve been speaking a lot to families and survivors of childhood cancer. And when it happens, who is there for the parents who often have to give up work?

“The Child Cancer Foundation currently supports 1400 families through different stages of their childhood cancer journey. But every year, they need six million dollars in order to do so. They organise counselling, food parcels and some financial support. It’s the little things, too – paying for piano or swimming lessons, so if the child’s able to continue doing these things, they can.”

Although he has no personal connection to cancer, Ryan can relate to the stress that childhood illnesses put on a family.

‘I’m very much in love, but my partner prefers to stay behind the scenes’

Growing up in Waikanae, his two brothers were in and out of hospital due to an immune deficiency, which required them to be treated with a blood plasma infusion every three weeks.

“They were very sick, often getting pneumonia,” he recalls. “I saw the pressure that put on Mum especially, who battled to get a diagnosis and juggle full-time work to be there for her boys when they needed her in hospital with them.”

As a teenager, Ryan would often go and stay with his much-loved Grandma Pam on the weekends, and it’s her passion for politics that he credits for igniting his own career path into political journalism.

“She’s a staunch National supporter who always had Parliament TV on and isn’t far from a rant about either the Labour Party or Muldoon,” he tells. “We’ve always been really close and would stay up late into the night by the fire with a cup of tea talking politics. We’d have these great debates and arguments, but at the end, we’d hug and kiss and go to bed.

“They were really healthy, constructive arguments, which were really helpful for enjoying robust discussions now on talk-back radio.”

With gran Pam, who sparked Ryan’s interest in politics

He admits to secretly taking a digital recorder to Pam’s house for brunch one Sunday morning and, unbeknownst to the 83-year-old, recording the conversation for a political radio show he was hosting.

“I told her, ‘Granny, I recorded that, can I put it on air?’ She replied, ‘You didn’t!’ Followed by, ‘Oh, go on then.’ We had lots of people calling in saying how hilarious and entertaining she was.”

Since joining the Press Gallery at 22 – a dream come true for the youngest reporter there at the time – his astuteness, determination to work hard and set goals has seen him blitzing it on multiple radio and TV shows.

“My goal was always to be the drive host of Magic Talk,” he tells. “Paul Henry, Duncan Garner and Ali Mau had this show before me. I was 29 when I got the job, but I worked really hard to absorb as much as I could to work on myself as a broadcaster.”

Always in the back of his mind, though, is that “everyone has an expiry date”, so he wants to keep on doing what he loves for as long as he can.

“I spent my twenties really career-driven with not much time for anything else. It’s a busy life and it’s one I enjoy, but it’s really nice to now have this other kind of life with someone who I love and adore, and create memories together.”

Quick fire

Describe an awkward encounter with a politician:

One Saturday morning, I popped into a mall to buy some running shorts. I went to the toilets and came out of the stall at the exact same time as the door next to me opened – and it was Winston Peters. He had a

go at me about an interview we had done two months prior, and told me I was wrong, and I told him, no, he was wrong. Anyway, we had a laugh about it, went outside and took a selfie!

What do you do for stress relief?

Swimming. I liken it to meditation in the water because of the slow breathing. By the 40th lap, you’re trance-like and don’t know what time it is.

How did you get your dog Fanny?

We were outside a restaurant waiting for a takeaway and saw this beagle, who looked so cute. We started chatting to the owner, who said, “Well, he’s just fathered a litter. Here’s the number to ring if you want to take a look at one.” And we were able to secure Fanny. So her dad lives 200m up the hill from us now.

Show your support for the Child Cancer Foundation by texting CHILD to 3457 to make an instant $3 donation, or donate more at talkathon.raisely.com

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