Farewell: The man who was Dame Edna: Barry Humphries is dead

Purple hair, butterfly glasses, lots of glitter and a very big mouth: Dame Edna has had a career spanning decades.

Farewell: The man who was Dame Edna: Barry Humphries is dead

Purple hair, butterfly glasses, lots of glitter and a very big mouth: Dame Edna has had a career spanning decades. The Melbourne suburban housewife was one of Australia's biggest stars on stage, from London's West End to Broadway to television talk, where she interviewed Sean Connery and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

The audience greeted them with "Hello, possums", "Hello, possums". Behind Dame Edna Everage was actor, artist and author Barry Humphries, a distinguished man with a pocket square and a gentleman's parting. Edna was by far his most famous role. Humphries has now died at the age of 89.

He died at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney on Saturday evening (local time), a hospital spokesman confirmed to the PA news agency. The entertainer had been treated there after complications resulting from a hip operation. According to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper and other Australian media, his family wrote in a statement that Humphries had remained true to himself to the end. He never lost his brilliant mind and unique wit.

For Australia his death is a loss like for Germany when Loriot died. Dame Edna is a national icon. A square in Melbourne was named after her while she was still alive, and she ended up on a postage stamp from the Australian Post Office on her 50th birthday. She was allowed to say anything. Why are Australians so good at sports? "Good food and nutrition, living in the fresh air, juicy steaks, sunshine - and the total absence of intellectual distraction". She was shrill and impudent, but the Australians liked that. And the English too: there are pictures of Prince Charles standing next to Edna, very enraptured.

When Humphries first played the female role in 1955, many didn't yet know what travesty was, let alone "drag". Edna later appeared in films such as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", and she was spontaneously given the title "Dame" in the 1970s by the Australian Prime Minister at the time, Gough Whitlam. She had her first internationally successful stage show in London in 1976 with "Housewife, Superstar!". In Germany, too, the audience scrambled, for example in the 90s in the Hamburger Schauspielhaus: "Today I'm wearing my oldest dress. As I see, you too." Back then, stand-up shows were still something new, gags like that were popular.

Four marriages - four children

Dame Edna called Barry Humphries a liar when he claimed she was his creation. He's just an "entrepreneur" and her manager. Humphries lived a long life as a dry alcoholic, he was married four times, like Edna he had four children. Edna's offspring had adventurous lives: one daughter was kidnapped and went to a monastery, one became a leather lesbian, both sons were gay, which the mother didn't want to believe. Humphries was inspired for the role by his own mother.

Sometimes he also made himself unpopular, for example with statements about transgender people or about learning Spanish. The latter, according to Dame Edna, is actually only needed to talk to the staff. This annoyed Salma Hayek. Dame Edna replied that the actress was just jealous because Edna was originally supposed to get the role of Frida Kahlo - Hayek was only a second choice.

In 2012, Humphries announced the retirement of the lady with the purple hair. But there were still a few more performances. In an interview with ABC television, Humphries described his golden rule of entertaining the audience as follows: "I've always thought that if I'm amused, then others will be amused too."

Barry Humphries entertained people with "a galaxy of personalities," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Twitter. However, the brightest star in this galaxy was always Humphries himself. Australian actor Jason Donovan tweeted, "Australia has lost one of its greatest!"

Portrait Dame Edna ABC talk show with Barry Humphries Britannica on Barry Humphries Albanese on Twitter Sydney Morning Herald 9News Donovan on Twitter