Celebrity News

Wallace Chapman’s retro romance

Back Benches host Wallace Chapman shares his old fashioned love story.
Political TV show Back Benches host Wallace Chapman shares his old fashioned love story.

With her alabaster complexion and jet-black bob, and dressed in a hot pink power suit, Tabitha Chapman is captivating. It’s no surprise, then, that her husband, Back Benches host Wallace Chapman (46), can’t take his eyes off her.

“Doesn’t she look beautiful?” he enthuses, as Tabitha smiles back at her husband of two years. Despite their eight years together, in the presence of Tabitha and Wallace, you get the feeling of first love.

“We enjoy being lovey-dovey,” tells Tabitha (31). “We always try to communicate openly and remain responsive to each other’s needs.”

“We had an epiphany on our honeymoon,” begins Wallace. ”We were at a little café in France and there was a couple next to us, both on their phones – they didn’t talk to each other once.”

Adds Tabitha, “We said to each other right then and there, ‘Let’s never be like that.’”

In the modern world, where social media is often the first line of communication, there’s something unique about the couple’s relationship. When they first met in 2007, for example, Tabitha didn’t have a cellphone.

Wallace travels to Wellington each week to film Back Benches.

“I’d been invited to a posh party,” Wallace recalls. “I never normally went to these things, but I thought, ‘I can’t waste this invite.’ I said to my friend Ben, ‘Let’s go for one drink.’ So we did, and three gorgeous women came up to us!”

It was Tabitha with two girlfriends – “They had dragged me to the party,” she explains.

Continues Wallace, “I ended up chatting to Tabitha the whole night and I asked whether I could grab her number. And she said, ‘I don’t have a cellphone.’”

It wasn’t a ploy to let Wallace down easy – Tabitha was going through an “anti-technology phase” as she puts it, ironic considering the national brand manager for Shiseido New Zealand is now attached to her device. Instead, she passed Wallace her email address. From day one, their communication was “a little bit different”, as Tabitha puts it. From flowers on the first date, to a thermos of tea in the park, the couple got to know each other gradually.

Tabitha tells, “These days, people are in love with falling in love, and they try to fast-track their relationships – we have been quite a slow burner.”

Chatting with the couple in their Auckland home, it becomes clear that Wallace counts every day he gets to spend with his wonderful wife as a blessing, because it’s a future he’d never imagined would one day exist. During his twenties, Wallace was diagnosed with Gaucher’s disease, a rare blood disorder in which fatty substances accumulate in cells and organs, and stop blood from circulating correctly. A university student at the time, he quickly went from long-distance runner to being confined to bed.

Wallace and Tabitha first met at a party where the brand manager surprised her future husband by revealing she didn’t own a cellphone.

“One day, I woke up and couldn’t walk to university. I still remember the day the doctor told me, ‘You have a very rare disorder. Your hip is almost worn out and you’ll need to use a walking stick.’ It was intense.”

Fortunately, his mother and other supporters lobbied for years to have a special drug brought in to keep the disease at bay. Once a month, Wallace heads to hospital for an infusion, a process he’s familiar with after 15 years of treatment. While a hip replacement is imminent, Wallace counts himself lucky to have reclaimed his life.

“To be here with my wife seems like a different world compared to my dark basement flat in Dunedin. I thought my life would be spent on the invalid’s benefit, so to sit here today is pretty amazing.”

It’s no wonder then, that on the couple’s first international trip to Tokyo in 2010, he seized the opportunity to propose to Tabitha. Booked in for a Christmas lunch at a lavish restaurant, Wallace pulled out a paper bag and passed it to Tabitha. Inside, he’d been hiding a 1930s Art Deco ring. The couple married in a small Methodist church in 2012. The ceremony was particularly special for Tabitha as her grandmother, who had raised her, was able to be there despite being extremely unwell.

Savouring the moments is a recurring theme for the couple. As well as flying once a week to Wellington to sit on the Back Benches hosting team, Wallace hosts a Radio New Zealand show and is part of the Good Morning Men’s Panel – but Wallace and Tabitha always make sure there is plenty of time with each other.

A 15-year age gap between the pair has never been an issue for either of them and Wallace credits his younger wife for “keeping him fresh”.

“It’s that old cliché, ‘Home is where the heart is’, but it is a magic place to be for us.”

Back Benches, Prime, Wednesdays 10.40pm.

Related stories