Angela D'Audney has been called New Zealand's “first lady of broadcasting”. She became an iconic figure in local television and radio over the course of a career spanning nearly 40 years.
D’Audney was born Angela Cerdan on 26 August 1944, in a London hospital under a German bomb attack. She was the daughter of a Spanish civil war veteran and an American Jew. Her family migrated from Britain to Brazil when she was an infant, where her early childhood was spent living in Rio de Janero, Bahia and Sao Paolo before eventually settling in Auckland at age 12.
D'Audney took an early interest in drama, acting in “radio plays” over her school's PA system, and later in high school dramas at Epsom Girl's Grammar. As a 17-year-old tertiary student she auditioned for the NZ Broadcasting Service. The minimum age for presenters was then 21, but Auckland's head announcer Bob Irvine considered it the best audition he'd ever heard and persuaded management to hire her. Irvine talks about meeting Angela in this 2002 tribute to her.
Starting in live radio, D'Audney soon transitioned to making continuity announcements on television. She met fellow broadcaster Haddo D'Audney on the job, and they married when she was 21. Television was then in its infancy, having started transmission only two years before. D’Audney later recalled that it wasn't until her wedding day — when to her surprise police were needed to clear a path to the church through a crowd of onlookers — that she realised she'd become famous.
The couple moved to Sydney, where D'Audney worked in talkback radio and began acting in television dramas. Returning to New Zealand in 1970, she hosted her own talkback show on 1ZB, featuring David Lange and Bruce Slane as regular guests, before appearing on screen once more as a reporter for afternoon women's programme On Camera. Her marriage ended amicably during this time, and she continued to use Haddo's surname throughout her later life. She never remarried.
D'Audney caused a furore in 1973 when she was asked to step in as a last minute replacement to read the television news. In the aftermath of this broadcast, media commentators debated whether women were suitable for the task. Radio personality Sharon Crosbie lent her voice to the more conservative spectrum, claiming in The Herald it was inappropriate to “have a continuity girl in a cocktail dress and hairdo saying that a typhoon has just killed 50 people”.
D'Audney's career broke new ground for women broadcasters as she progressed to announcing regional news programme Look North, and eventually became a household name presenting a range of nation-wide current affairs and arts programmes in the 70s and 80s.
She was known for her remarkable professionalism and distinctive appearance, which included dark curls inherited from her father and an iconic gap between her front teeth which she jokingly described as her “trademark”. Consistently pushing against the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable of women broadcasters, she was often the subject of controversy. As D’Audney wrote in her autobiography, viewers wrote in to complain about her hairstyles (“too long”, or “untidy”), her outfits (“too revealing”), and even in later years her decision to wear spectacles on air.
Her career was punctuated by a number of setbacks, as roles or programmes were frequently axed on short notice; D'Audney faced these challenges with a resilience that would come to be seen as characteristic, bouncing back again and again — as a newsreader on South Pacific Television, and later on TV One News in Auckland; as host of arts programme Kaleidoscope (including a memorable interview with Sylvia Ashton-Warner); as a presenter of feature stories on Top Half, and of news bulletins for TV2; and eventually replacing Karen Sims as co-host of Eyewitness News, beside Lindsay Perigo.
Her greatest brush with controversy occurred in 1982, when she appeared in the television drama The Venus Touch, a role which required her to go briefly topless. Afterwards, amidst an “endless stream” of complaints D'Audney defended the choice, saying that the scene — in which the frustrated wife of a sexologist tries to attract his attention by undressing — was crucial to the story and couldn't have been delivered “in a woollen nightie”. The stigma arising from this would follow her for many years, though D'Audney seemed unconcerned.
In her later career, D'Audney held a regular position as weekend presenter of TV One news alongside Tom Bradley, was host of Good Morning, and started a media consultancy through which she helped develop the broadcasting skills of many of the next generation of TVNZ presenters. She appeared as a guest on an eclectic variety of programmes, and held a three week role portraying an investigative journalist on Shortland Street. Flamboyant and vivacious, her passions included dancing, international travel and collecting classic sportscars.
In 2001 D'Audney was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She described the story of her battle with cancer in autobiography Angela: A Wonderful Life, which she co-wrote with Nicky Pellegrino. After a final, emotional interview with Susan Wood on Today Live, she retired from media appearances. She passed away on 5 February 2002, aged 57.
In 2012, on the tenth anniversary of her death, the Angela D'Audney Trust fulfilled one of her dying wishes by contributing $45,000 towards the establishment of New Zealand's first Stereotactic Radiotherapy programme.
Profile written by Chris Gilman
Originally published on 1 June 2010; last updated on 22 January 2019
Angela D'Audney and Nicky Pellegrino. Angela: A Wonderful Life. (Auckland: Penguin Books (NZ), 2001)
Today Live - Angela D'Audney (Television Programme). NZ On Screen website. Accessed 30 September 2015
Louisa Cleave, 'Obituary: Angela D’Audney' - The NZ Herald, 6 February 2002
Morgan Johnston, 'TVNZ weather presenter honours dying wish’ - The NZ Woman's Weekly, 22 February 2012