Barry Humphries, a.k.a. Dame Edna, Is Dead at 89
But while he worked steadily in the 60s, he also suffered from alcoholism. He later said that being in a psychiatric hospital did him no good.
His lowest point came in 1970 when he woke up in a Melbourne gutter and was arrested.
With the help of doctors, Mr. Humphries was sober shortly afterward. He didn’t drink his drink for the rest of his life. He dusted off Mrs. Edna and, bit by bit, dedodified her. By the late ’70s, she gave him international fame and constant employment as celebrity culture was in full swing.
Edna didn’t seduce all critics. In her first New York stage her show, off her Broadway production “Housewife! Superstar!!”, in The New York Times in 1977, Richard Eder called it “terrible.”
Also, Edna’s steadfast lack of political correctness has not always been to her or Mr. Humphries’ advantage. In February 2003, when Vanity wrote her column as Edna Her Advice for Vanity Her Fair magazine, he answered readers’ questions about whether or not he should learn Spanish.
“Who says what you really want to say?” I read Dame Edna’s characteristic stern reaction. “Help? Your leaf blower? Learn French or German, which has at least a few books worth reading, or try English if you’re American.”
A public outrage ensued, led by Mexican-born actress Salma Hayek, who appeared on the cover of the magazine that month.
In a 2004 interview with The Times, Mr. Humphries was unrepentant.
“I’m afraid the people I offended were minorities who didn’t have a sense of humor,” he said. “When you have to explain the nature of satire to someone, you are fighting a losing battle.”