Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, happy birthday, Barry Humphries

1934 Barry Humphries, AO, Australian comedian, artist, author and poet, best known for his characters, Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson.

Dame Edna Everage and her creator,
Barry Humphries
Humphries is a supreme parodist, satirist and ironist. His various comedic characters such as Dame Edna and Sir Les are often loathsome, and obviously deliberately so. Unfortunately not everyone is blessed with the irony gene:
In February 2003, Vanity Fair published a satirical column written by Dame Edna:
"Forget Spanish," Dame Edna advised. "There's nothing worth reading except Don Quixote.
"As for everyone speaking it, what twaddle. Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The home help?
"Study French or German, where there are at least a few books worth reading, or, if you're American, try English."
Humphries's humour drew much criticism.
Barry Humphries at ABC (some audio and transcripts)
Barry Humphries

Serious name-drop and sincere fawning greetings
[I'm going to do a serious name-drop here. I spent half an hour with Barry Humphries in Sydney once. We discussed poetry and Oscar Wilde (Humphries, a fine poet, is a Wilde freak) and BH excitedly retrieved from his room a photocopy of an original letter that he had just bought at auction in London. It was a typically vitriolic correspondence by The Beast, Aleister Crowley, who didn't like Wilde one bit and said so in the letter. I remember that Crowley's letter referred to Wilde as a "sodomite" – by coincidence, just last night I finished Lawrence Sutin's wonderful biography of The Beast, Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, and if there was ever a man who shouldn't dare to call another a bugger, it was the detestable fraud, Crowley.
I must add that the brief chat I had with Mr Humphries I count as one of the greatest privileges of my life. I hold no artist from history in higher esteem, given his genius and prolific oeuvre. I had met him once or twice (he will not remember those meetings) and expected him to be fearsome. People often expect him to be so, probably because Dame Edna can be so harsh on latecomers to her shows. He is not harsh at all. A warmer and more friendly man I have never met. As Edna would say, it was spooky!

Many Ozzies agree that Barry Humphries is Australia's greatest living treasure and I wish him a very, very happy birthday (and many more) and hope that I meet him and his delightful wife Lizzie again. I trust my simpering obeisance will be noted by the Great Man.]
My own fascinating encounters with Humphries took place in the 1990s when I was caretaker of a mansion at Palm Beach, Sydney, in about 1987. More at my Memoirs.


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