With her lilac tinted hair and cat eye glasses, with appearances in movies, on television, Broadway, off-Broadway, London’s West End and uncountable interview and talk shows, somehow Dame Edna Everage escaped my attention until today. Had I seen or heard the name it would have meant nothing to me. Maybe I’ve lived with my head inside a brown paper bag all this time. Granted, for many years television never really captured my attention, and from what I can find, Dame Edna has a small following in Japan, my hideout for a number of years. Reading a few items on CNN’s international news website this morning I noticed a link to a video showing a woman with purple hair and the words: “I’m a teeny little bit bored,” so I clicked on it and have been laughing all day over what I saw there and on two or three YouTube videos later.
Dame Edna Everage is a character created by Australian comedian Barry Humphries back in the 1950s and one that has continued to evolve since her first appearance as Mrs Norm Everage, “average Australian housewife” from Moonee Ponds, a Melbourne suburb. A repertory actor on tour, Humphries invented the character as a kind of entertainment on bus commutes between towns. Over time Edna developed a falsetto voice in imitation of the women’s association representatives who welcomed the actors to each town. In her earliest characterization the character had none of the flamboyance of the contemporary Dame Edna. What we see today is the full-blown Dame Edna, housewife and superstar with her own autobiography, My Gorgeous Life.
According to her autobiography, Dame Edna (née Edna May Beazley) has three adult children, Bruce, Kenny, and Valmai. While still an infant her first daughter was tragically abducted by a rogue koala during a family camp-out in the outback. She takes great pride in her two sons. Her youngest, Kenneth designs all of her dresses. Dame Edna often speaks of Kenny and his partner, Clifford Smale, both of whom Edna believes are searching for “Miss Right” although she admits they are looking “in some very strange places.” Her husband, Sir Norman Everage died in 1988 after many years in hospitals suffering from prostate problems and a “testicular murmur.” Edna founded the non-profit “Friends of the Prostate” in his honor.
In spite of the humor and guffaws Dame Edna’s comments often arouse, Humphries has been controversial with some of his remarks as Dame Edna. In a 2003 Vanity Fair satirical advice column Dame Edna replied to a question about learning Spanish this way: “Forget Spanish. There’s nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that…Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?” That answer drew numerous complaints from the Hispanic community. The magazine received death threats and had to publish a full-page apology.
Maybe it’s just me but one video of this ‘woman’ has had me laughing all day long.
The CNN interview with Dame Edna about the Royal Wedding is here.
Those interested in a Dame Edna costume kit, look here.