If Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s twirling on Dancing With The Stars a few years back, along with her numerous appearances on the TV WEEK Logie Awards red carpet, have revealed just one thing about the TV icon, it’s that she has great legs.
And she’s needed those strong and powerful legs to keep her moving through many highs and lows of a half-century in TV. It’s no throwaway term when KAK is called a ‘survivor’, because she is. Strong people are survivors.
Which is why I thought it was strange when starting out in my career with TV WEEK in the mid-1980s when the words “bubbly” and “effervescent” were often used to describe her.
When I first met KAK on the set of Good Morning Australia, I could tell those words had missed the mark. Far more accurate are the terms “Strong as steel”, along with, “One of a kind”.
In my 32 years of writing about TV, I have met up with KAK through various chapters and she has demonstrated hers is a talent that has grown and evolved with the times, staying relevant to an ever-changing audience, no matter what fate has delivered.
I first saw this in 1991 when GMA was cancelled, and her dream 11-year run came to an abrupt end. Within weeks, she had moved on, snapped up by radio – as both a presenter and as Chief Executive Officer, no less.
I lost contact with her until 1995, when I was sent to do an interview about her return to TV on an afternoon show called Monday To Friday. As I watched from behind the cameras, I was so impressed that KAK approached this gig – with its small studio and even smaller budget – with the same energy, enthusiasm and passion I had always seen her employ.
There was little surprise when her small show became a big hit, and lead to her landing Midday the following year.
I heard stories of some initial resistance to her by a few of the Midday team, who had survived a revolving door of hosts, but was not surprised when I heard those same people months later singing her praises and calling her, “the hardest working person in TV”. Midday was where KAK shone brightest and she told me one day, “I’m having the time of my life.”
It showed, as KAK turned Midday into one hell of a good party for all.
I never understood why it was cancelled in 1998 when its ratings were so strong, but KAK just kept moving on – first to What’s Cooking, and then the game show Greed, both of which flopped. They were tough times.
It was once said a true star has not achieved that status until they make a second comeback, and in 2002, she was back on Mornings With Kerrie-Anne. Within a year, I was asked to audition as her movie reviewer. That offered a new insight into KAK – she makes working in front of the cameras look like a natural state of being, when it’s actually unbelievably difficult.
I recall making her laugh in my audition when I said the movie S.W.A.T stood for “stupid, witless and terrible” - and the gig was mine.
Filming alongside her for almost a year was a lesson in absolute discipline, effective communication and maintaining a sense of humour.
Rumours swirled in 2011 that she was to be replaced on Mornings, but I figured why would they replace the industry’s best when the show was still working?
But they did, and KAK did what she always does – she kept moving on, this time in sparkly shoes to Dancing With The Stars.
At the same time came the news she was battling breast cancer. I knew that in a fight with the ever-resilient KAK, the cancer did not stand a chance – as she proved when she knocked it out.
The recent years have been times of even more change, with Behind Mansion Walls on Foxtel, Celebrity Apprentice on Nine and Sunday Night on Seven. What they have shown off at this stage of her career is her talent as a storyteller, with so few in her class. And anyone who has seen her loving support of her husband John across the past year has seen that that trademark resilience is still there.
The news KAK is the recipient of this year’s Hall of Fame Logie brought just one response from me: “At last”. But this is another landmark in her career, not the exclamation point, as she already has 100 new plans in mind for the industry she so loves. “I’ve got so much more to do yet!” she said upon learning of her win. And if anyone can make them happen, it’s KAK.
Story by John Burfitt.