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

Weekend Herald - - News -

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.”

Photo / Michael Craig

The rich are dif­fer­ent. They have more con­spic­u­ous light fix­tures.

Gilda Kirk­patrick with her DWTS part­ner, Shae.

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