He’s watching and he’s listening. And so are the evil sons of bitches at Google and Twitter and Amazon and Roku and all the rest.
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.
Jamie and I cry like babies every time we see this commercial. It’s almost as if the Australian Tourism Commission wrote it just for us.
We love Australia. We love South Australia. We love the Barossa Valley. We love Angaston. And, of course, we love all those crazy Australians.
It feels so good to be back.
We had a fourteen hour layover in Auckland, New Zealand. This is the sign that greeted us the next morning when we went back to catch our flight to Adelaide. Almost unimaginable if you’ve ever worked your way through American customs and security.
We were at the Muri Night Market. I walked over to the Snow Boys Ice Cream truck and ordered two cones. The owner heard my accent, asked where I was from, and upon hearing the answer asked, “How did you hear about this place?”
The answer? Our friends Doreen and Russell told us about the Cook Islands. They’ve been here several times and raved about it.
The odd thing about the Snow Boys Ice Cream truck is that it seems to be the in place for wedding parties. Do a Google image search and you will find hundreds of photos of wedding parties “dining” here. Some traditions are just inexplicable, aren’t they?
The internet has driven thousands of small newspapers out of business and that’s truly a pity. They were the only source of local news for a lot of people. And they were also the source of news that was often unintentionally very funny.
Consider this brief article in the local Cook Islands newspaper. Check out the convicted criminal’s name:
Turuariki Staycool Club Manuela.
The only way to top that name would be if he had been a “Junior.”
My sincerest apologies. This post has absolutely nothing to do with travel unless you consider it a trip in time, a trip designed to right wrongs and to bring truth and justice back to journalism.
I was born and raised in San Bernardino, California, a city that was recently libeled and maligned by the hacks at Business Insider.
That yellow rag had the temerity to rank San Bernardino as the 42nd Most Miserable City in America.
This is clearly complete nonsense and I demand that Business Insider immediately issue a retraction and correction. As anyone who has ever lived in the Inland Empire can attest, or as anyone who has feared for their life as they’ve driven through town as fast as possible without slowing down will willingly swear, there couldn’t possibly be forty-one cities in America more miserable than this horrid burg.
Far from being the forty-second most miserable city in America, it is clearly number one.
In compiling its rankings, Business Insider said it used U.S. Census information to analyze 1,000 U.S. cities on metrics such as crime, drug addiction, population changes, job opportunities, commute times, household incomes, abandoned homes and effects from problems such as natural disasters…
The 10 California cities and their rankings were: Bell Gardens (14); Compton (41); El Monte (22); Hemet (44); Huntington Park (10); Lancaster (50); Lynwood (21); Montebello (40); Palmdale; and San Bernardino (42).
I lived in the San Bernardino area for the first twenty-one years of my life, and I still own property there. I believe that gives me special standing to tell you that Business Insider’s rankings are vile propaganda of the very worst sort. It is complete farce. It is, as they say, fake news. I do not believe it for a minute. I know in my heart that there is no way those other cities are worse than San Bernardino.
Have any of those other cities suffered through one of the largest municipal bankruptcies in American history? In a word, no.
Do any of those other cities have thicker smog to hide their horizons and poison their children? Highly unlikely.
Do any of those other cities have violent crime rates higher than San Bernardino’s? I doubt it.
Do any of those other cities have more corrupt politicians now serving time in state and federal penitentiaries? Who do you think you’re kidding?
Are the streets of any of those other cities flooded with more methamphetimines than San Bernardino’s? Populated by more street gangs per capita? Have they suffered through more fatal terrorist attacks? Are they overwhelmed by more illegal aliens? Don’t make me laugh.
In view of these facts, I’m sure you will agree with me that Business Insider’s rankings are a complete misrepresentation of the facts. And I call for all San Bernardinians to take a stand.
Please join with me to demand that Business Insider immediately retract and correct the vicious lie that San Bernardino is America’s 42nd Most Miserable City.
We must vow — each and every one of us — not to rest until we are able to join together in a city-wide chant that echoes across the Inland Empire:
“We’re number one. We’re number one. We’re number one.”
Why the hell is this gorgeous woman married to me? I always tell her it’s proof that she ain’t right in the head.
Ever since I drunkenly (druggedly?) announced to Jamie that I wanted to move to Ushuaia, Argentina and start a foundation for homeless dogs, we’ve jokingly tried to figure out what foundation is needed wherever we visit.
Here in the Cook Islands we’ve agreed that it should be the Jim & Jamie Foundation for Dogs with Fewer than Four Legs. Why? Because the streets are full of them, three-legged dogs everywhere you look.
We mentioned this idea to the manager of our hotel and she nixed it. “No way,” she said, “You’ll be inundated.”
Apparently this is the place to be if you like tripod dogs.
Jamie loves markets. Especially the ones with lots of exotic food to sample. So she absolutely loved the Muri Night Market. (Oddly enough, it takes place entirely during daylight hours.)