‘Goodbye, Possum’: Barry Humphries/Dame Edna Dies at 89

‘Goodbye, Possum’: Barry Humphries/Dame Edna Dies at 89

Barry Humphries, the transgressive Australian-born performance artist whose stage persona Dame Edna Everage entertained audiences for decades, has died at the age of 89. He had been confined to a Sydney hospital for several days after undergoing hip surgery after a fall last month.

When news of Humphries’ death was announced, tributes began pouring in from around the world, including one from Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese, who mourned the passing of “a great wit, satirist, writer an an absolute one-of-kind” who was “both gifted and a gift.

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Though Humphries left his native Australia for London early in his career, a state funeral is reportedly being considered for him in Victoria.

In announcing his passing, Humphries’ family said that the actor “was completely himself until the very end, never losing his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity of spirit.

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 With over 70 years on the stage, he was an entertainer to his core, touring up until the last year of his life and planning more shows that will sadly never be.”

Humphries had most recently toured Britain last year with his solo show The Man Behind the Mask. Over his long career, the versatile performer had appeared in many films, authored several books that included autobiographies, novels, poetry, and stage plays. His film credits include supporting or cameo roles in such movies as Bedazzled, Nicholas Nickleby, Immortal Beloved, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, among others. On stage, he created several characters that satirized the foibles of the bourgeoisie, including Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone. He was also a gifted landscape painter.

But it was his appearance as the lilac-haired, gaudily-dressed Dame Edna Everage for which he will be best remembered. She initially appeared in the mid-1950s as Mrs. Norm Everage, debuting in a London nightclub as a merciless satire of the cultural wasteland Humphries found  conventional Australian society to be. As he told a reporter, “I put her in a box after a while. And then later, when I took her out again, she seemed to have become a bit brighter. She started to wear diamanté glasses and her hair was an implausible mauve colour.”

The comic actor brought his alter ego to Broadway in later years, winning a Tony Award in 2000 for Dame Edna: The Royal Tour. Humphries is survived by his fourth wife, Lizzie Spender, and four children.

Check out more of Edward’s articles.

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