"Cheese has always been good to me."
Jim Friteuse

Monday, August 27, 2012


Everard Hinchcliffe was born in New Haven, Connecticut on 17th June 1931 and was once the most notorious impersonator of one of American television’s foremost composers, Dominic Fontiere, who was responsible for the music for such memorable programmes as The Outer Limits, Branded and The Fugitive as well as the soundtracks for the films Hang ‘Em High, Brannigan and The Stuntman

Everard Hinchcliffe impersonating Dominic Frontiere in 1975

In 1975 Hinchcliffe started appearing in public claiming to be the composer. For six months he charged wealthy Americans a fortune for what he called An Evening With Dominic, making half a million dollars in all, of which he failed to report any of it to the Internal Revenue Service.  

Not content with just impersonating Dominic Frontiere, Hinchcliffe branched out and passed himself off at various charity functions as (in alphabetical order) Aaron Copland, Bernard Hermann, Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner and Dimitri Tiomkin, all of which paid him considerable sums of money thinking they were getting the genuine article. 

By 1976 he was beginning to overstretch himself but greed got the better of him and he made a terrible error of judgement that would cost him his freedom. During that year's annual Film & Television Composers Symposium in Los Angeles he discovered to his horror that he had not only double-booked himself as both Dominic Frontiere and Elmer Bernstein but Elmer Bernstein himself was actually in the audience.

The game was up for Hinchcliffe and he was arrested by Officer George Krupke of the LAPD later that evening.

Throughout the short trial Hinchcliffe pleaded guilty to several charges of fraud and impersonating a Hollywood film composer. He was sentenced to a year and one day in prison and fined $15,000 by the LAPD for failing to impersonate John Barry at their Children's Christmas Party after Henry Mancini cancelled at short notice.

It was during his time in prison that Hinchcliffe developed an interest in cheese and its associated dairy products and he was determined to go straight after his release from prison in 1977. He used the half million dollars he had made from An Evening With Dominic to make a new life for himself in New Zealand and also to set up his own dairy company, which he called, unsurprisingly, Frontiere.

It was a huge success from the start as no-one in New Zealand had even thought to set up a dairy company, relying instead on milk maids from different farms delivering dairy products such as milk, cheese, orange juice and digestive biscuits direct from the cows’ udders to people’s houses.

Within a year Frontiere was the only dairy company in the whole of New Zealand, employing more than a five thousand staff, of which at least a quarter were involved in research and development. 

Six years later, two major events occurred that would change the fortunes of Frontiere and which would make the company and its shareholders richer than they would ever have imagined.

The first was giving evidence in the separate trials of Emil Sidebottom and Jan Vandergraaf. This, in itself, was not enough to change the company’s fortunes. It was what it led to that made the company what it is today. During the trial evidence was given against Vandergraaf by the last man he had interviewed before he was arrested.

Everard Hinchcliffe was present in the courtroom that day, as was his head of Research & Development, the highly experienced dairy farmer, Liam Schiffrin. At the end of the day’s events Schiffrin took his boss to one side and said, “I’ve got something that you really need to see.”

They drove back to Frontiere’s headquarters and Schiffrin led Hinchcliffe into his office, where he turned on the television, fished out a video tape from the drawer underneath it and rammed it into the VCR.

They watched a grainy video of a long-forgotten television show called New Zealand’s Got Talent.

“It took me a long time to get this and it cost me a lot of money, but being the head of R&D I felt that it was a necessary purchase.”

“Goddammit, Liam,” snapped Hinchcliffe, “what the hell am I watching? The music is terrible. Who composed this shit?”

“Never mind the music boss. I’ve been trying to track down someone since I started working for you and I believe I’ve just found him. You see that eleven year old kid there. That is Jim Friteuse. That is the guy who gave evidence today.”

“I don’t care how you do it, Liam,” said Hinchcliffe, “but I want to see him in my office tomorrow morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Liam Schiffrin as he quickly left the room.

Hinchcliffe was extremely fortunate to have Schiffrin as his head of Research & Development, especially for the task of ensuring that Jim was in his office at 9am. He had selected Schiffrin because he knew that before he became a highly experienced dairy farmer he was the chief enforcer for a notorious family of mobsters, known only as The Possum Gang, that terrorised New Zealand’s South Island for a period of ten years without ever being caught or identified by the authorities. 

This was due to the fact that they actually lived on North Island, where they ran legitimate businesses and were pillars of the community. The head of the family, Ronald Grainer, actually held the office of Lord Mayor of Nikkinakkinori for five consecutive terms, where he dealt severely with any type of criminal activity. If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime was his slogan whenever he ran for office. 

Campaign poster for Ronald Grainer's 1972 mayoral election

Schiffrin was Ronald Grainer’s right hand man, the strong arm of the organisation. His job was to deal swiftly with dissenters in the ranks and anyone outside the family who was considered a potential sqealer. The kidnapping and eventual elimination of these people was his particular speciality.

After ten years of life on the wrong side of the law the Grainer family decided that they had made enough money from various bank robberies and protection rackets to be able to comfortably retire on North Island. Liam Schiffrin bought himself a dairy farm with the proceeds of his ill-gotten gains and made a name for himself as a dairy farmer par excellence, although the skill of his previous life never deserted him, as Jim was soon to discover.

Jan Vandergraaf’s trial had been going on for three weeks when Jim stepped out of the courtroom and into the twilight of a balmy September evening. He was still smarting from being made to look a fool by Vandergraaf and he hoped that he would be sent down for a long time. The addition of a further charge – giving someone a really nasty paper cut – was bound to seal his fate. 

As he walked across the street to the dimly lit car park he was faintly aware that someone was following him, but he cast that thought aside as merely paranoia in light of the high-profile trial he was giving evidence at. It was only when he reached the car park that his fears became reality. As he reached into his pocket for his car keys everything suddenly went dark. Liam Schiffrin had forced a black bag over Jim’s head and he felt the muzzle of a gun pressing into the small of his back.

Jim was understandably terrified and did as he was told. He was bundled into the back seat of a car, which then drove out of the car park at speed.

“What’s happening?” Jim asked. His mouth felt dry as a wave of nausea started to affect his senses.

“Shut up, sport,” said a voice next. “Don’t speak until you’re spoken to.”

He was in the car, hooded and terrified, for what seemed like hours, but was in fact only about five minutes. As the car lurched to a halt Jim was roughly manhandled out of the vehicle, up some steps, through a set of double doors, along a corridor, into a lift that played really bad muzak, along another corridor, through another set of double doors, down a set of steps, over an indoor golf course, through a holo-deck, into another corridor, up a set of steps and finally into carpeted office where he was roughly pushed down into a comfy chair.

The black hood was lifted off him and he sat, blinking nervously, until his eyes became accustomed to his surroundings. He was in the biggest, plushest office he had ever seen. There was a Picasso on the wall to the left of him and a Chagal on the wall to his right. It was what was directly in front of him, though, that caused him to gasp for air. He couldn’t believe his eyes Stood directly in front of his was The Big Cheese himself – Everard Hinchcliffe.

“Sorry about all the cloak and dagger stuff, Jim,” said Hinchcliffe. “Liam here can get carried away sometimes.”

“Yeah, sorry mate,” said Schiffrin.

“No worries, mate,” replied Jim.

“I have a proposal for you, Jim,” said Hinchcliffe. “I want you to come and work for me as my Chief Cheese Sniffer.”

Jim was taken aback. Everard Hinchcliffe had just offered him a job!

“Well, yeah, alright,” said Jim. “When do you want me to start?”

“Tomorrow. We can start your self-defence and weapons training first thing in the morning. The sooner you’re ready, the better.

“Err . . . the what?” asked Jim. “Self-defence and weapons training? What have they got to do with cheese?”

“I know, Jim, it’s crazy, isn’t it – but it’s the perfect cover. Nobody would ever suspect that a hugely successful dairy produce company could be the headquarters of the New Zealand Secret Service!”

“Oh my . . .” spluttered Jim.

“Welcome to the world of espionage,”  Hinchcliffe explained with a grin and a firm handshake.


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