Portrait of a Lady: Dame Edna Everage and her gladioli
Portrait of a Lady: Dame Edna Everage and her gladioli

Our Grandest Dame

Wasn't it Frank Sinatra who once said, "A dame's work is never done?" The perennially politically incorrect crooner most likely was referring to dames the same way he would talk about other women he didn't respect: as broads, babes, or chicks. When we say dames, we mean Dames with an uppercase D. Like distinguished British actresses Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith. One need not be a master thespian to be granted damehood, however. Sometimes the royal imprimatur is earned by sheer personality. A prime example: perhaps the most famous Dame of them all, Dame Edna Everage.

Australian housewife, television talk show host, megastar, inspirational icon, founder of the charity Friends of the Prostate, author of the autobiography My Gorgeous Life, she of the all-natural wisteria hair, who boasts an eye-popping eyeglass collection and wardrobe of sparkling creations rivaling that of Elton John, Edna Everage became dame nonpareil for her dedicated service to the British Empire and her steadfast devotion to her fans, the little people she lovingly calls "possums." What extra ingredient does this force of nature possess that differentiates her from the internationally famous? In contrast to all the others, Everage strives to stay accessible. She wants you to know her, the Everage family, and her friends too, however twisted they may be.

Although he's long dead from cancer of the prostate, husband Norm still looms large in her life. She uses his dentures as a paperweight and carries a hologram of his prostate with her at all times. Unmarried son Kenny, a former flight attendant for Qantas airlines, is the genius behind her fabulous frocks. Other son Bruce's specialty is feng shui. And daughter Valmai, well, they don't talk often, since the girl moved to Queens to breed pit bulls with her partner, a onetime tennis star from Eastern Europe.


Dame Edna: The Royal Tour

The Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8th St, Fort Lauderdale

8:00 p.m. Tuesday, January 2. The show runs through Sunday, January 21. Tickets range from $47 to $53. Call 954-761-5374.

Watchers of her countless TV appearances can attest that Everage also is fiercely loyal to her true friends. Unlike other supercelebrities (Madonna), who chose someone they barely knew (Gwyneth Paltrow) as maid of honor in their splashy highly publicized nuptials, Everage's own wedding-party member, the stoic Madge Allsop, is a long-time part of her posse. In fact Allsop spent several years by Everage's side on her many chat shows, serving as a sort of silent Ed McMahon. "She's my New Zealand bridesmaid, and I support her emotionally and financially," Everage bragged about Madge to the New York Post last year. "In return she does the cleaning and rough work around the house."

A delicate flower, Everage favors the hearty gladioli. She'll be tossing them into the adoring crowd when she invites us, the lowly public, into her majestic confines with her latest stage spectacle, Dame Edna: The Royal Tour. Fresh from a long stint on Broadway, the production features a surfeit of costume changes and plenty of opportunities for audience participation. (She likes to prod her possums ever so gently.) Also guaranteed: moments when you too can truly connect with your idol. As she recently explained in Time Out: New York: "I love my audiences.... I invite them onstage, and I squash them in my arms. No other show does this." All in a day's work, for a Dame.


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