Graswich Unleased: Much Ado About Kitty

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It’s no surprise to see Kitty O’Neal win the Best of Sacramento award in Sacramento magazine year after year. Kitty wins as best afternoon radio personality. As long as Kitty is on the radio, she will win.

Since last May, I’ve had the job of working with Kitty on her radio program at KFBK. I’m considered a co-host, but the word co is an embellishment. The show belongs to Kitty.

My radio days have been an educational whirlwind. I’ve learned radio work is far more complicated than it sounds. There are tosses and teases and resets and something called formatics&emdash;this apparently means saying KFBK every chance you get.

The act of reading a 22-word English sentence aloud on the radio is an art form. Each vowel is a trap to be sprung, each word potential quicksand. If you think about it while you’re reading it, you’ll never make it.

Then there’s Kitty. Sentences don’t bother her. There are no traps or quicksand. She has been reading aloud on the radio for two decades in Sacramento and is close to perfect.

Kitty won’t like reading this. Her ego operates in minimalist ways, evaporating as praise rises. The kindest thing she ever said to me was, There isn’t a mistake you can make in a radio studio that I haven’t made 1,000 times. Her ego works in the shadows.

People ask me what it’s like to work with Kitty. I tell them it’s a pleasure. She is generous and helpful and patient and professional. She is stuck with an amateur (me), but isn’t resentful or bored or cynical. She finds ways to play to my strengths, no matter how obscure.

People ask what Kitty is really like. I should know, locked in a studio with her four hours a day, five days a week since last May. Yet I don’t know. I think Kitty is exactly as she seems on the radio.

It’s hard to believe. She seems too sincere, too quick to empathize, too nice. But that’s how she really is.

Here’s what I know about Kitty: She has a high-profile marriage to Sacramento celebrity chef Kurt Spataro. After two decades together, they are remarkably domestic and in love. He often cooks for her. She donates time and money to charities and museums. She is close to her parents and considers her mother her muse. She doesn’t drink or smoke or use drugs. She doesn’t swear. She was raised on Air Force bases. She sang in a rock band. She takes friendship very seriously. She enjoys the company of cats. She bakes cakes for people on their birthdays. She can sew her own clothing. She is well-read and asks good questions. She keeps her politics private. She has many handbags&emdash;more than might be practical.

I asked people who have known Kitty for years to point out her flaws. They hesitated and eventually said the same thing. They said, You know Kitty. She’s way too nice with people.

One time, Kitty wasn’t exactly nice. She was up for a television job. The station wanted her to change her name, give it a Southwestern flair. Kitty was insulted. She said not on your life. She walked out&emdash;very unKittylike.

R.E. Graswich writes a twice-weekly blog for sacmag.com. He co-hosts the afternoon news with Kitty O’Neal on NewsTalk 1530 KFBK AM radio and reports nightly for CBS 13.