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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 13:26 GMT
Dame Edna pays tribute to Madge
Comic Barry Humphries gave actress Emily Perry her big break when he hired her to play Dame Edna Everage's long-suffering bridesmaid, Madge Allsop.

The pair toured the world, appearing side-by-side on stage and Dame Edna's chat shows.

Humphries paid tribute to Perry, who died aged 100.

Barry Humphries
Humphries has played Dame Edna since the 1950s
I met Emily when she was aged 75 and I was auditioning people to play the part of Edna's rather brow-beaten bridesmaid, Madge Allsop.

I had seen a lot of actresses. Some of them sang songs, some did "bits", but they were all being very camp and very arch and, well, wrong.

Emily had been sent to me by mistake and she had never heard of Dame Edna.

She hadn't the faintest idea who I was and she didn't really know what she was meant to do.

All I knew about her was that she had been in a lot of touring productions going back to when she entertained troops during the war.

Subsequently she had been nursing her mother for about 25 years, and later started a small kids' ballet school in Crystal Palace, south London.

She came along completely unprepared but, as soon as I saw her, I knew she was exactly right.

Royalty

She became incredibly popular very quickly. People who are fans of Edna always ask me: "How's Madge?"

Within six months of working with me on television in England, she had met most members of the Royal family and done a fashion spread for a Sunday supplement.

Pat Perry, Ozzy Osbourne and Dame Edna Everage
Perry's character was often the butt of Dame Edna's jokes
And, because the character was supposed to be from New Zealand, when she came to the country on tour she was treated like royalty. They even named a tank after her!

On quite a few occasions we were alone and touring, and she was the most amusing company - a very intelligent and very interesting woman.

She was also a confirmed spinster who loved men. Particularly young, tanned beach boys.

Once, we were in Los Angeles to do some TV shows and we stayed in the same hotel.

I was very concerned she would find herself in alien territory, but I looked out of my window down to the swimming pool, and there I saw a figure in a pink leisure suit, holding a drink with many umbrellas, reading an autobiography of Errol Flynn.

Of course, it was Emily!

Upstaged

Although the character was mostly mute, she did get a word or two to say on occasion.

But I remember one time when she came down the staircase in a dress designed by Vivienne Westwood.

The audience loved it. She completely upstaged Edna.

In one of our last TV appearances, she was discovered by Edna in bed with Ozzy Osbourne.

Later, she said to me: "Who was that funny man? He seemed very nervous."

She didn't know who he was, she just knew that he trembled a bit!

Retirement

Dame Edna
Madge first appeared on ITV's Dame Edna Experience in 1987
She lived alone in the Crystal Palace area - she always had a poodle. The first was called Madame, and the last was called Star.

She was, at the end of her life, obliged to live in a retirement home in Croydon.

I went to see her and she was with a lot of other old ladies, many in stages of dementia, being - I thought - carelessly looked after.

She was lined up against the wall with these ladies, turned towards a TV screen with the sound off.

I went up close to her and she said: "I'm in hell".

We used all our powers to relocate her in a comfortable home for retired theatrical folk.

It was a wonderful place and, thanks to her later agent, Phil Dale, we got her in there.

She was in the Frankie Vaughan memorial suite in this lovely place and that was where she spent her last days.

I was unfortunately touring at the time of her 100th birthday. She received my greeting long distance, and she got her greeting from the Queen, too.

I'm very saddened to hear of her passing. She is absolutely irreplaceable.

But it is wonderful to think that, in last 25 years of her life, she became a star.

I think if Dame Edna was to pay tribute, she'd say: "I wish I'd been nicer to her."


SEE ALSO
Edna's sidekick Emily Perry dies
20 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
The show goes on for retired stars
01 Mar 07 |  Entertainment

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