Have you ever seen a performance by Dame Edna Everage? It’s like nothing you have ever seen before.
Forget AC/DC or The Bee Gees or INXS or Keith Urban or Iggy Azalea or any other Australian entertainers you may love, because Damn Edna is clearly Australia’s Greatest Entertainer, Living or Dead.
It’s very difficult to explain Dame Edna to someone who’s never seen her. I found out very early in our relationship that Jamie had some interest in Australia, so I bought tickets to a Dame Edna performance. She had no idea who the Dame was so I attempted to explain.
“He’s a man, but he dresses as a woman.”
“So we’re going to some kind of transvestite show?”
“No. He’s not a transvestite. He just pretends to be a woman.”
“Isn’t that what a transvestite is?”
“Well, yes. But he’s not a transvestite. He just pretends to be a woman as part of his act.”
Needless to say, she still had no idea what kind of act I was taking her to see. But I turned to look at her about five minutes into Dame Edna’s performance and she was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Roll forward about ten years. I read that Dame Edna was once again touring America, but had no appearances scheduled in Southern California. The closest show was in Dallas, so I secretly bought two tickets and then began convincing Jamie that we should take a weekend trip to north Texas.
“What’s in Dallas,” she asked.
“Oh, lots of stuff,” I replied. “We can tour the Texas School Book Depository … and … uhhhh … lots of other stuff.”
I sensed a certain lack of enthusiasm for my weekend excursion, but I was insistent, so she finally gave her approval.
When the special weekend arrived, we flew to Texas. After checking into our hotel, I suggested a walk around the neighborhood. We turned a corner and I saw a huge theater marquee blaring “DAME EDNA. SATURDAY NIGHT ONLY.” Jamie still didn’t know the real reason we had flown to Dallas, so I quickly distracted her and turned in the other direction.
We soon found a little coffee shop, sat down, and I revealed my devious plan. She was overjoyed, thrilled that I had gone to so much trouble, and excited to once again be seeing the one and only Dame Edna.
The next morning, the day of the show, we were having breakfast in our hotel’s coffee shop when its doors burst open and an elegant man entered the room. A very expensive jacket hung loosely over his shoulders, and a very attractive blond woman clung tightly to his arm. And he was wearing an ascot. In Dallas, Texas.
“That has to be Dame Edna,” I said. “No one one else in Texas would dress that way.”
The hostess seated the attractive older couple catty corner across the restaurant from us.
I was now intent on finding out if the mysterious stranger was, in fact, Dame Edna. We had the same waitress, so I asked her if the man had an Australian accent.
“Well, honey” she said with a very broad Texas drawl, “He has some kind of damn accent, but I cain’t tell ya where it’s from.”
We finished breakfast and I said, “Let’s go over and find out if that’s Dame Edna.”
Jamie, of course, was embarrassed and really didn’t want to bother the dignified couple. I, of course, ignored her and walked directly over to their table.
“Excuse me,” I said, “I don’t want to bother you, but are you … uhhh … Barry Humphries?” (I had been trying to think of Dame Edna’s real name ever since he walked through the door but had failed. It was only after I started the sentence that his real name popped into my head.)
“Why, yes I am,” he answered, clearly surprised that anyone in Dallas, Texas has recognized him out of costume.
He was very gracious. He was very friendly. He was very happy to find fans so far from home. And he was especially impressed when he found out that we had flown halfway across the country to just see him.
“Give me your names,” he said. “Come back stage and visit me tonight after the show.”
Yeah, sure. It was a nice invitation, but we assumed it was just his way of getting rid of two strangers who were interrupting his breakfast.
That evening we went to see Dame Edna. Barry once again transformed himself into his iconic Aussie character, as he has done so many times over the last fifty years, and wowed another adoring audience. Once again tears of laughter rolled down Jamie’s cheeks.
Show over, we asked an usher how to find the stage door, and followed his directions around the corner, down the alley, and to the rear of the grand old theater. Much to our surprise there were probably a hundred or more other fans milling around, hoping to get an autograph or a photo or just catch of glimpse of Dame Edna. Just as we got there, the door opened and the stage manager called out our names.
In shock, we approached the door. The man checked our IDs and said, “Barry is waiting to see you.”
We followed him through the darkened corridors of the back stage and there, all of a sudden, was Barry, already stripped of his Dame Edna make-up and back in his elegant street clothes. We chatted for a few moments, his manager took some photos of us embracing each other and looking like best friends, and then we said our goodbyes and departed with a much richer Dame Edna experience than either of us had ever expected.
We flew home to California.
At that point in her career, Jamie worked part time for an Aussie real estate developer who had moved to California about ten years earlier. He and I had become buddies. I stopped at his office on Monday morning just to say hello.
“What did you guys do this weekend,” Hamish asked.
“We flew to Dallas just to see Dame Edna,” I responded.
“Oh, you should have told me,” he said. “Barry’s an old family friend. My dad did surgery on his knee.”
Small world, huh?
We flew to Melbourne today to see Dame Edna’s “I Was Just Kidding About Retirement” show. She was just as fabulous as ever, just as hilarious as ever.
By the way, we have now lived in the Dallas area for nearly six years and still have not visited the Kennedy assassination museum in the Texas School Book Depository.