End of an era
Kim Hill is leaving Radio NZ and as far as Hera Lindsay Bird is concerned, there’s no further use for Saturday mornings.
By Hera Lindsay Bird
Since the announcement, the tributes have been piling up, with the floral stink of a premature obituary, and the phrase “national treasure” is once again making the rounds. Not that Kim Hill isn’t a national treasure. But if she is, she’s like one of those obsidian knives once used for human sacrifices, which, despite their pride of place in the museum archives, are still sharp enough to slit a human’s throat. It’s one of my general convictions there’s no such thing as a celebrity in New Zealand, only people who are periodically invited to draw the meat raffle at their local village fete. But if there is such a thing, Kim Hill is surely top of the list. But she’s one of those rare national icons whose popularity is impossible to explain to outsiders. Unless you’re in wartime Britain, there’s something incongruous about the idea of a radio celebrity. And yet half an hour with Kim Hill on the Saturday Morning programme is better publicity than holding up a service station at gunpoint and being featured on the six o’clock news.
She puts me in mind of a beloved and ferocious classics teacher, who, in true Donna Tartt style, would not only have you up till midnight, feverishly memorising the various Caesars, but could also inspire you to commit ritualistic murder.
We have a strange and persistent love for radio in this country, but I can’t help feeling that Kim Hill deserves some personal credit for the endurance of the medium. When I was growing up, her voice was as familiar as Saturday-morning lawnmowers, and the neighbour’s kid, grudgingly practising his trumpet. The one time I ever bagged a spot on her show, I immediately got a text from everyone I knew over the age of 40, despite not having tipped anyone off, confirming her ubiquity.
There are so many things to love about Kim Hill. Her voice, like an evil, chain-smoking mermaid in an underwater dive bar. Her iconic and apparently self-cut hair, like a stylish lesbian Jeremy Paxman at Paris Fashion Week. Her iconic 90s cookbook, Sounds Delicious. Her general Shakespearean bearing, which commands the same drama as Charlotte Rampling playing Lady Macbeth. Her weekly recitations of reader feedback, infinitely funnier than any homegrown stand-up comedy. Most of all, she puts me in mind of a beloved and ferocious classics teacher, who, in true Donna Tartt style, would not only have you up till midnight, feverishly memorising the various Caesars, but could also inspire you to commit ritualistic murder. I think I have a relatively strong moral code, but there’s a non-zero chance I’d kill someone if Kim Hill asked me to. It’s just as well she decided to become a broadcaster, and not a cult leader or oil magnate. I guess there’s a name for what she has, and it’s charisma.