Saturday, June 16, 2007

Emily Perry

Darlings, please forgive me for a basically serious flogging today, but I want to discuss someone that actually means something to me. The sweet senior citizen in the picture above is a delightful, charming, now-retired British actress named Emily Perry.

One of my most glamorous show business friends is Australia's First Lady, Dame Edna Everage. Readers of my award-adjacent autobiography,
My Lush Life, will have noted the complimentary blurb she was kind enough to provide, which sits on the back cover of every copy. You can read the blurb to the right of this column, at the head of my "Fan Worship" blurbs on this page.

Fans of Dame Edna will remember her bridesmaid and constant traveling companion Madge Allsop on all her TV shows over the last 20 years, excepting only her most recent British series,
The Dame Edna Treatment, which aired in England two months ago.

At the risk of destroying the illusion of television for you, I have to tell you that the Madge Allsop you saw on TV was not the real Madge Allsop at allsop. Edna wisely understood that putting the real Madge on TV would only spoil her dreadfully. Furthermore, the real Madge tends to depress people who have the misfortune to meet her. So instead, Edna entrusted her manager, the brilliant Australian comedian Barry Humphries, with the task of casting an actress to play Madge in Edna's TV and stage shows.

(Speaking of Little Barry Humphries, The Queen's Birthday Honors List was announced yesterday, and Little Barry has had a CBE - Commander of the British Empire - conferred upon him. Congratulations Barry. But Dame Edna still outranks you.)

The woman Barry cast was the then-80 year old Emily Perry. Emily was an inspired choice, and made herself internationally beloved with her hilarious portrayal of Dame Edna's sad sack sidekick (And for once the term "Sidekick" makes literal sense, since Edna was not at all above giving her a sideways kick from time to time.), though Emily glamorized the role tremendously, being vastly prettier than Madge ever was, even on the best day of her life.

Little Douglas met Emily a couple times, in 1992 and '93, as seen in this photograph:

Fear not for Emily's safety with Douglas's notoriously randy roaming hands on her. Female flesh does nothing for Little Dougie, and he's far too self-involved to notice how much better she looks than he. As for her sour expression in the shot; it's the same look you'd have if Little Dougie were groping you.

In any event, Little Douglas was utterly charmed by the gracious, smart, and funny Emily Perry.

Emily was born on June 28, 1907, in Torquay, a gorgeous seaside resort in Devonshire, England, that is also the birthplace of Dame Agatha Christie, but is now best known as the setting for Fawlty Towers, the greatest sit-com of all time. Torquay is also nestled up against Dartmoor National Park, the setting for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's beloved novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, the book my own sweet Great Dane doggie Baskerville takes his name from. (Incidentally, the breed "Great Dane" was named for the late comedian Victor Borge, a tremendously Great Dane.)

Emily began her stage career at the age of four, at the Theater Royal, Birmingham. She toured as a dancer and singer in Music Halls and concerts. She played the role of Susan in The Desert Song for 12 years, and went on to many other notable stage roles as well, including Sister Kitty in The Belle of New York, as well as performing in English pantos, which would have well prepared her for a late-in-life career with a gent-in-a-frock. During World War II, Emily performed in concerts for ENSA (The Entertainment of the National Services Association), entertaining allied troops the world round.

After the war, Emily decided to share her knowledge with upcoming generations, and opened The Patricia Perry Academy of Dancing in South London (Barry Humphries writes that she used "Patricia" because she thought it "Sounded more euphonious than 'Emily'."), where she taught children to dance for 25 years. Good gracious, those children were slow learners!

Most people, slackers that they are, would have retired after all that. Not our Little Emily. (Trust me, she is a tiny little thing.) Instead, she chose, at 80, to become an internationally beloved star as Madge Allsop.

In his second volume of memoirs, My Life as Me, Barry Humphries describes the unique ability that made her so memorable as Madge: "Miss Perry had the rare gift of being able to do nothing in the face of overwhelming provocation." Barry also describes her offstage persona as "Talkative, informed and amusing," and her long life (The attentive will note she's a scant ten years younger than myself.) can be attributed to her remaining healthy, active and strong. Barry describes her, as recently as five years ago, as doing 25 one-handed press-ups each morning! I have taken perhaps the opposite approach to longevity, remaining as dissolute and hedonistic as possible. I can do one-handed press-ups also, but it has to be someone else's hand!

The passage of Time however, takes it's toll on everyone besides myself, and Emily retired. Now here's a sad and shocking fact; not all retired show business legends live as well as I do. I had the foresight to marry a billionaire a few decades back, my darling Al Bronze, the CEO of Whoopsi-Cola, and his death (An accident I tell you, an ACCIDENT!) not long after our wedding, following an unexpected midnight encounter with the Headless Indian Brave, left me a woman so rich, even I can't drink up all the money. And that's on top of the pre-income tax fortune I made in the movies. (The poor Headless Indian Brave felt just terrible about it. He was beside himself. How the hell does he do that?)

However, Emily did not have the wisdom to be the widow of a billionaire, and a short while back Barry found her living in what Edna always calls a "Maximum Security Twilight Home," where she was neglected, and treated even less well than Edna used to treat Madge, as in these pictures.

Barry arranged for her to move into the Brinsworth House, a place not unlike our own Motion Picture Actors Home, where elderly retired show business performers live in the kind of comfort and care they deserve, or in the cases of Republicans, tenors, and mimes, better than they deserve.

Now, here's why I bring this up. Coming up in less than two weeks is Emily's 100th Birthday. What I would really, really like is for everyone who reads this column, and I mean EVERYONE (Yes, I mean YOU!), even if you simply stumbled onto this flog through some inscrutable Google search (You would not believe some of the things my Flog Counter tells me people have found me by Googling. Whoever you are who Googled "Betty Hutton naked breasts," what the hell were you looking for?), I want all of you to please drop Emily a line, write her a note, convey a card, send her some kind of greeting for her 100th birthday, which, for those of you too lazy to scroll up to her birthdate above, will be on June 28. Send her a birthday card, and tell her how much you have enjoyed her hilarious performances.

Her address is:

Emily Perry

C/o Brinsworth House
72 Staines Road,
Twickenham, Middlesex

Let's bring a smile to Madge/Emily's face. She's so charming when she smiles. My trademark salutation is "Cheers". Let's send her some cheer.


Cheers darlings.

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