When Steve met Gilda
Steve Braunias meets the first contestant to leave Dancing With The Stars: Gilda Kirkpatrick, NZ’s own Lady with the Lamp
There it was, the culprit, the unforgiveable sin, the great big piece of expensive junk that did for Gilda Kirkpatrick: the lamp. There was no missing it. It was bigger than God. I was left alone with it on Thursday morning when I arrived at her lemon-coloured manor up high in Auckland’s eastern suburbs overlooking the Waitemata¯ harbour.
The thought occurred I’d be doing her a favour if I picked it up and threw it though one of the six lovely arched windows, but there was only one problem. I couldn’t lift it. No one man could. A crane, maybe.
Gilda became the first contestant to be voted off the latest series of Dancing with the Stars this week and my theory, my careful analysis of this serious and pressing matter, is that the public took against her when they saw the lamp.
She was filmed at her house in the shadow of what is surely the world’s biggest lamp. The rich are different than you and I — they have more conspicuous light fixtures. The lamp sent a message. It read: DON’T VOTE FOR THE WEALTHY WOMAN WHO OWNS THIS LAMP.
Maybe. Who knows? Certainly we all care, because the show rates through the roof and the elimination process satisfies the ancient lust for a public hanging. Crazy, though, to feel sorry for Gilda. She’ll manage. There’s an instructive line in the great movie The Edge, in which Anthony Hopkins plays a millionaire, and says: “Never feel sorry for a man who owns a plane.” Gilda descended a fabulous staircase beneath a gorgeous chandelier and stepped into the lounge to meet her shabby interviewer.
I said, “You have a beautiful home.” “Thank you,” she said.
“The floor,” I said. “Is it marble?” “Onyx.” “Onyx, yes,” I said, as though I was the sort of person who knew everything there was to know about onyx floors.
“A soft marble,” she said.
I was about to say: “Yes, it feels soft underfoot.” But this wouldn’t have made a lick of sense and I stopped myself in time.
It was good of her to have me over. Gilda had angrily responded on the Twitter machine last week when I wrote in the Herald that the stars of Dancing With the Stars were perhaps complete nobodies.
We sat on a long, low, grey couch and
The photographer could be heard arriving at the mansion entrance. “Door!”, yelled Gilda, to a woman who worked for her. “Door!”
discussed the nature of existence. She said, “I felt that you basically discredited every single person on the show. They are useful members of society. They’re somebody. Everybody is somebody.”
I said, “But nobody else responded. Only you.” “Yes,” she said. “So? Everybody was very hurt. Everyone was talking about that article. I felt it was unfair.”
And so she took to Twitter, and spoke her mind. She was frank, too, when we discussed her exit from Dancing with the Stars.
“Knowing what the show is, the likelihood of me winning was really not very high,” she said. “So it was a waste of time for me to be there.”
I said, “What?”
“I don’t have the heart of the New Zealand public,” she said. “They liked the other ones better because they know the other ones better.
“You know, if you’re reading the news” — she meant Samantha Hayes, the Newshub presenter who is one of the dance contestants — “everybody is seeing you every single day and not in a critical way but in a nice way, and people get used to you and they develop a relationship with you. And you have the channel and all the PR behind you, and there’s nothing you can do to battle that. “And Suzy Cato was the nation’s mummy for 20 years or whatever. How can you even think of competing with her? I’d vote for her! And then you get someone like Jess. She has a . . . you know . . . she has a spring as a leg.” She meant Jess Quinn, who has a blade as a leg.
Gilda said, “I personally feel embarrassed to compete with her.” I said, “Because of her disability?”
“Yes,” she said. “And because she’s an amazing dancer, and a strong, amazing human being.” The photographer could be heard arriving at the mansion entrance. “Door!”, yelled Gilda, to a woman who worked for her. “Door!”
Door. Onyx. Lamp, $5675 from ECC, suppliers of expensive junk. It was another world, but then everything about Gilda had an otherness to it.
I said, “Do you think perhaps the viewers couldn’t relate to you?”
She said, “I think when I spend time with somebody and we have a conversation then I’m probably relatable with most people.
“I come from the Middle East. I’ve lived through revolution, through war, I’ve been a migrant, I’ve worked really hard, I’ve studied, my ex-husband is one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever come across in my life . . . I can relate to most people. However, that won’t happen if people are not in front of me and don’t know me personally.”
And if they only see the goddamned lamp. She gave her appearance fee (“It’s not huge, but it’s not little, either”) to Starship. The show has lost one of its strangest and most fascinating contestants.
“It’s embarrassing I’m the first one,” she said. “But somebody has to go.”
The rich are different. They have more conspicuous light fixtures.
Gilda Kirkpatrick with her DWTS partner, Shae.