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Dame Edna's Fond
First Farewell

Dame Edna's Fond
First Farewell


As Dame Edna prepares to bid audiences adieu with her First Farewell Tour (take that, Cher), she sits down with to talk about her maybe gay son, Michelle Obama's dresses, and her plans for matrimony in America.

Move over, Cher and Tina. Dame Edna Everage has given birth to the ultimate "farewell" performance. In her First Last Tour, which opened to rave reviews in San Francisco several weeks ago, the heavily jeweled Australian with wild lilac tresses doled out advice, sang with glee, scrutinized the poorly dressed, and solved some of the world's problems -- all in just two hours.

But Dame Edna's glorious ascent to international stardom actually began decades ago when the Aussie -- spawned by alter ego Barry Humphries -- became a smash on stage and television Down Under in the 1950s and '60s. By the time she flung herself onto American shores a decade ago, the entertainer was so revered for her dry wit and banter, she nabbed a Tony and kept audiences hanging onto her every word. Perched in her suite in San Francisco's illustrious Huntington Hotel, her eyes peering through her diamond-speckled horn-rimmed glasses, Dame Edna indulged with an exclusive interview is your show going?Dame Edna: Why, it seems to be lovely. I just look out at the most beautiful people every night. It's a lovely type of person that comes to see me.

They do adore you. Yes, they do. I think they need me. I think there is a need for vitamin E, for Edna. But San Fran has been so good to me for 10 years, since I made my American debut here in the same little tucked-away theater, the Post Street Theater.

You have a decade worth of celebrating.Oh, yes, Greg. I really want to get to know people. I am here right through January. I don't have an entourage. I travel with my musical director Andrew Ross, a stage manager, of course, and a gynecologist.

That's an important thing. I brought him out of retirement. He's Spanish. He is, in fact, the father of Julio Iglesias. He's a lovely old man, of course ... a very lovely person, and I am giving him a beautiful Christmas present -- a new speculum, which I got from Tiffany's. Pure silver!

He'll treasure that. He will. Dr. Iglesias will be with me, and that's about it. I don't have a bodyguard, so I will be in the streets. But no one has ever attempted to mug me. Even though I am encrusted with jewelry.

Well, you have a lot of gay and lesbian fans seeing you. Isn't that nice? Do you know, in all my years of caring and sharing, I have never actually thought of the sex lives of my audience. Nor do I think it's all that terribly important. I just think of them as people. I did go to the gay men's choir the other night. I was there in a lovely box.

What do you want to tell Americans in this curious time in 2008, when there is so much going on? I just want to remind them that laughter is very, very important as a therapy. And my philosophy is let go of the past, let go of the future, live now.

I like that. And I feel that when I look down on those little faces, not long before that have been glued to CNN -- explosions, rape, horrible evil -- that they are, in a way, being cleansed. When I was in Texas a man offered me a lot of money to become a religion.

The Dame Edna religion, really? Well, yes -- the Church of Edna, as he suggested. And he said there are big bucks to be made out of religion and it was tax-free. But I didn't go along that path.

Imagine if you had. We'd be on our knees. Well, it would be a huge responsibility. It's putting myself in a position I don't want to be in. I want people to feel free. I, admittedly, have worked miracles. I have. I have found, for example -- I don't want to boast about this -- but when the cleaners have gone through the theater after me they find things under the seats.

Do they now? Yes. The other night they found a walker abandoned. And an artificial leg was left. And black glasses and a white stick. And a very hungry dog. They were all found by the cleaning staff, so I may have performed a few miracles without even knowing it.

I think so. What do you love most about what you do? I love communicating with people. But I don't need to do the show, you see. A lot of performers, as I say on the stage, are needy. You see how desperate they are. I am fortunate that I am quite a wealthy woman, and I do this because I really care about people. I love talking to the audience and getting to know them and inviting them onto the stage. Empowering them. That's the key word. I empower these women.

I see. I resent critics -- ignorant hacks -- who accuse me of patronizing and being cruel to audience members. If they could see the gratitude on the faces of audience members when I empower them ... I call my audience possums because that is a term of endearment. My mother used to say, "Good night, possums," or "Eat your dinner, possums!" Possums in Australia are loveable cuddly creatures, not the savage, feral, and often rabid creatures you have here ...

That's good to know. But I am not leaving this tour until some of the little [political] problems are ironed out. I am not prepared to divulge them, except it has something to do with matrimony, and when you come to the show I will reveal to you my plan. And it is a grand plan, and it is an obvious one. I use tough love sometimes. I believe in tough love.

That's helpful. And it's nice that you are able to dispense wisdom about love and relationships. Well, they're very important. They are the key to our happiness, aren't they?

They are. But we must have a good relationship with ourselves first, don't you think? I am lucky in that I love myself. I have a very high regard for me. And I think that's become infectious.

True. Now, many people have high regard for you. I had written this lovely song [about my son], "Friends of Kenny." Well, I wrote it for San Francisco, and it would be a lovely song for the gay men's chorus to sing. Perhaps I can come next year and I can lead them in it?

Now, when did Kenny come out to you? I don't know what you mean?

I assumed he was gay. Well, everyone thinks everyone is darling, but until Kenny mentions it, I am still hoping he finds Miss Right. I do have a dysfunctional daughter, Valmai. And another son that is a bit of a loser. Isn't that sad? I am a highly successful actress and a failure as a mother -- I blame my children for that.

Maybe they got in the way? Well, I made a decision many years ago to put my family last. And I have never regretted it. You know, your magazine, I've seen it. It's beautifully produced. Nice paper.

You've read through The Advocate? Well, I've skimmed through it actually. I didn't see very many recipes or knitting patterns.

No. I think they were discontinued. Oh, that's a pity.

I think so too. I am doing a program soon where I am cooking a meal. One of my signature dishes is pineapple and sausage surprise.

Pineapple and sausage? Tell me about it. Well, it's a simple dish. It's the way it's presented. You buy a can of pineapple rings and then you have a pile of mashed potato and you stud it with the ring, and then you put the sausages in the rings so they are standing up. It looks a bit like a porcupine.

Rises to the occasion, I would think. Do you ever worry you may outdo Martha Stewart? Well, I could do a program like Martha Stewart, and I hate to say this, but I think it would be more popular.

Why is that? Because I am more attractive. She's a bit cold, don't you think?

A bit below freezing, maybe. [Laughs] Poor woman. I don't think she's recovered from her experience behind bars.

She may need your advice. Well, I would just tell her ... I don't think she's adventurous enough. There's no humor in her taste and suggestions. They are all a little bit too safe. I am "cutting-edge."

You so are. Any thoughts about where America is heading in 2009? Well, I am hoping that it will all work out. I feel very sorry for Mr. Obama because he has inherited such a mess. He has actually been made captain of a sinking ship. That's a vivid description, isn't it? It's as if the Titanic were about to go down and they said, "Oh, you can take over now."

You're worldly. Any advice? Well, I have been asked by his wife for ideas for the White House.

And? Well, I am hoping to provide them. I did get calls from little Sarah Palin when she thought she was moving in. And she loved the idea of the Capitol because it looks like an igloo. Reminded her of her native land, and she was thinking of shooting a lot of polar bears and making bearskin couches and chairs and rugs. Moose heads all over the walls. Luckily, she did not get in.

Luckily. Oh, yes, I know. She wears those glasses -- there are no lenses in them. She wears them to make herself look more interesting ... but it is amazing. I've had calls already from little Michelle Obama. She wants advice on dresses, and my son Kenny is a dress designer -- and the logical successor to Yves Saint Laurent. And he is sending her some lovely ideas.

Do you like the way Michelle Obama dresses? I do. It's simple. No one will be happy, but people will criticize her clothes because people are so superficial. They need to see through the real woman. Now, I am wearing at the moment -- you can't see this, readers -- but I am probably in my oldest dress. I am only wearing it out of consideration to readers who are probably wearing their oldest dresses as well.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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