Those New Yorkers old enough to remember when newspapers used to be relevant, may remember Kay Gardella, the television critic for the Daily News from 1981 through 1993, known for her no-nonsense reviews. Strangely, in my memory she was writing about television or movies years before that, which is possible as she started with the News in the 1930’s.
I wasn’t a big reader of the Daily News. Growing up, my parents bought the Times in the mornings and the pre-Murdoch liberal New York Post in the afternoon. Maybe it was after the Post became a joke that the News would occasionally appear in my childhood home. Fixed in my memory is the fuzzy-photo of Miss Gardella’s face. (I’m certain it was Miss and not Ms.) She looked like a typical Italian matron from Bay Ridge. It was easy to imagine the body I couldn’t see – fat and short, and that she was waring a bathrobe, watching television while the ash of her cigarette grew precariously. The Kay of my fantasies had a gravel voice that twenty years earlier might have been throaty and sexy, and she never left her house. She did all of her work from on an E-Z chair, maybe with a manual typewriter on a television snack table in front of her. But when she wasn’t typing, the table was cleared. Then she’d lean back with the chair in recliner mode, so she could rest her somewhat swollen legs. Sometimes she’d yell for her husband Anthony, sounding like the mother in the classic Prince spaghetti commercial, and she’d ask him to bring her something – donuts, coffee, whiskey.
There was a small round table on her left, on which rested her ash-tray, lighter, cigarettes, phone, and of course the clicker.
I can’t find any of her columns, but she is remembered as being, “blunt” but also “fair,” and had a love for old Hollywood and a nostalgia for its “graciousness.” The real Kay, per her obit, did not work from home. She ran her department, and always showed up “attired in a dress or business suit and heels, plus a fresh hairdo, full makeup and jewelry.”
But to me she’ll always be Kay in the bathrobe working from a comfy chair.
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more like Kay, and I shall begin by writing a series of posts about what I’m watching on televisions – or rather what television shows I’m watching online – as my better-half will not permit a television machine in his home. I will also take up smoking and order a recliner.