Billy T. James (born William James Rehu, 4 February 1948 – 15 August 1991) was a popular New Zealand comedian, actor, musician and television presenter.
Billy was born in the small town of Wairoa in the North Island of New Zealand. His parents, Parehuia Rehu and William Rehu were of Ngati Porou descent. His father was a builder and his mother a singer. Billy had four siblings, two sisters and two brothers.
Billy was a natural entertainer and was often the centre of attention at school. He developed an interest in music at an early age, playing the guitar and entertaining friends and family.
In 1967, Billy moved to Auckland to pursue his musical dreams, and soon found work as a musician and entertainer. He began performing his own brand of comedy, often based on his Maori heritage, and quickly developed a cult following. He then began appearing on television and radio, and in 1975 he won the New Zealand Entertainer of the Year award.
Billy went on to become a household name in New Zealand, with his television show "Billy T James". His comedy was quirky, often involving outrageous costumes and characters. He also acted in numerous television shows and films, most notably "Pork Pie", in which he played a biker.
In the 1980s, Billy became more involved in music. He released several albums and singles, and even toured the United States. He was also a regular on the New Zealand music scene, often performing at festivals.
Billy's career was cut tragically short when he died of a heart attack at the age of 43. He is widely remembered as one of New Zealand's most beloved entertainers, and his influence can still be seen in the careers of many of New Zealand's contemporary comedians.
Billy's legacy lives on through the Billy T James Foundation, which was established in his honour to provide financial assistance for the study of performing arts.
Billy T James was a talented entertainer who made a lasting impact on the New Zealand entertainment landscape. His humour, talent and passion for performance will continue to be remembered for generations to come.