There is nothing like a Dame (Edna, that is)

Posted on 18 Jun 2009 at 2:41pm
By Arnold Wayne Jones Life+Style Editor

The Aussie gigastar says ‘Hello, possums!’ as she brings her campy comedy back to North Texas for a week of performances at Bass Hall

POSSUM KINGDOM
"Dame Edna: My First Last Tour" Presented by Casa Manana.
Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St.,
Fort Worth. June 23–28. Tuesday–Thursday at 7:20 p.m., Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m., weekend matinees at 2 p.m. $25–$69. 817-212-4280. Basshall.com.

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GLAD ABOUT THE GIRL: Dame Edna Everage brings her sparkling wit to Fort Worth, complete with specially imported gladioluses from Australia and shimmering costumes designed by — ahem — her son Kenny.

There are women, there are ladies, and then there are dames. And Barry Humphries … er, Edna Everage, is the latter.

Dame Edna was a comedy phenomenon long before she graced the shores of the colonies from her native Australia. But for a decade she has been the peacock-hued ambassador of camp in the U.S. Not because she needs the money, she insists — because we need her.

"I am bringing to you what I call my ‘stimulus package.’ America needs me like it never needed me before. Every single year I come to America and share a little bit of my strength. I’m sincerely concerned about the spiritual welfare of my American possums," she clucks.

So why call this production "My First Last Tour"? Dame Edna’s 75 — is she gonna drag this out like Cher?

"I’m not like Cher in that I would not inflict myself on the public for so long," she says. "I hope to retire at the height of my powers. But my wit’s as sharp as ever."
As internationally famous as she has become, Dame Edna says she travels with a very small entourage: a stage manager, a pianist and a gynecologist.

"Yes, my gynecologist is named Iglesias. He’s the father of Julio — he’s very old but he’s a darling and gives me an exploratory before every show. That’s why I generally come on stage with a lovely smile. He’s so old his hand shakes a lot."
This concert will be Dame Edna’s third visit to North Texas, but her first time performing in Fort Worth.

"I started this tour in Austin; I’ve played Houston, too, and the Texans adore me. You know, Texas was joined to Australia during the Jurassic period. In the caves in Australia they have fossils of women that look just like women you’d find at Neiman Marcus," Edna says.

But it took her a while to make it in the U.S. Dame Edna had a successful career in Australia and Britain, as well as much of Europe and the Far East, before even considering a show here. Then an American comedy icon reached out to her.

"I was talking with Joan Rivers — have you heard of her? I think she’s still alive. At first she thought I wanted to buy her jewelry, then we fixed that. She’s the one who told me to come to America. ‘You have an underground following,’ she said.
‘You already have cult status. There’s a little theater in San Francisco — book it for two weeks.’"

She did, and the success of it led to a national tour, then to Broadway and a Tony Award. And she largely has gay men to thank for it all.

"I am told I appeal to them," she says. "I think generally speaking it’s because they are in the arts and theater and respond to art. But I don’t charge them extra. It’s the same price for all!"

Lesbians, however, are another story.

"Mardi Gras in Sydney has gone off a bit, and I suspect it’s the rather tough women on motorbikes who have spoiled it," she sighs. "They invited them in and it was the worst decision they ever made. They lack the fabulous gene — rather humorless and dour, I feel. By the way, what kind of newspaper do you write for?"
I tell her.

"I’m sorry, I had no idea. Have I said rude things about our sisterhood?" She then quickly tries to rebuild her momentum.

"I was on the Leno show the other day and met a funny little creature named Wanda Sykes, and found she was married to a woman! Isn’t that spooky? Although I sometimes wished during my marriage that my husband had been a woman — it would have been much better with respect to the toilet seat."
Alas, her husband is no longer with us.

"I’ve been a widow for some years; I’m very happily bereaved," she says. And despite advances from countless men over the years — Henry Kissinger, Larry Hagman, Eminem and Boy George to name a few — she remains steadfast. "I’m saving myself, goodness knows for what…. It may be for you, if you play your cards right!"

I remind her where I work again.

"You are just passing through a phase," she insists.

But her self-described gigastardom, including her honorary title, hasn’t jaded her one bit.

"Don’t worry about ‘Dame’ — I’m happy just to be called Edna. I’m very approachable; there are a lot of people who wouldn’t have taken this call. But I’m not like that. When I am in Fort Worth or Dallas, I will be popping about in my ordinary clothes. I’m not wearing a bullet-proof vest. Come up, ask me for my autograph!"

Onstage, though, the fabulousness comes out:
"All my clothes are designed by my son Kenny. He’s a brilliant boy. My gladis are flown from Australia. They are organically grown — they are like trees they are so sturdy — you could build furniture out of them."

Hmmm… her son Kenny is a costume designer? Maybe there’s a good reason she’s traveling through the U.S. during National Pride Month. But we’ll keep Kenny’s little secret.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2009.

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