HELLO possums! Australian housewife, mother and gigastar Dame Edna Everage astonished Evening News staff yesterday when she paid a whirlwind visit to oversee the daily news conference.
Arriving at the paper’s Holyrood Road office in a sleek black stretch limo, Dame Edna revealed: “Edin is an old form of Edna and so Edinburgh is really Edna’s town. Spooky?”
The legendary entertainer then breezed through the building, greeting staff before joining editor Frank O’Donnell and his team to offer her take on the day’s news.
First on the agenda of the briefly rebranded Ednaburgh News was the city’s ongoing trams saga. And Edna, whose farewell tour comes to the Capital later this year, had this advice for operators.
“I am very much looking forward to my first tram ride,” she said. “We have trams in Melbourne and it works, possums.
“The secret is to avoid signage. Don’t let them put advertisements all over your trams. That’s the mistake they made in Melbourne where they’re all gaudy and horrible. Make them dignified ... a lovely tartan perhaps – I’d say Black Watch. Imagine the international publicity Edinburgh would have with tartan trams – they could be made to resemble shortbread tins.”
Dame Edna bids a fond farewell to the Capital in November when, after 58 years in show business, her last ever tour – Eat, Pray, Laugh! – comes to the Festival Theatre.
Looking ahead, the larger-than-life creation of comedian Barry Humphries said: “This will be the first time I’ve done one of my lovely shows in Edinburgh for at least 15 years.
“I’ve always felt there was a little bit of Scotland in me, you know of my love of gladioli, well, they are Australia’s equivalent of the thistle.
“So instead of throwing gladioli into the audience at my Edinburgh shows, I’ll be throwing thistles. Perhaps you should wear fencing masks or protective clothing during my famous finale.”
Admitting the attraction of buying a holiday home in the Capital, Dame Edna did, however, have a reprimand for city planners: “I’m very pleased to see Edinburgh looking as lovely as ever – the city in Europe that wasn’t bombed. The only damage was done by the council after the war when they tried to ruin Princes Street.
“Whenever you see a new building in Edinburgh, you know they have pulled down a better one. However, it’s still a dream city and I’m here to give it another little cultural injection, a transplant from Down Under if you like.”
Thankfully, the tour won’t be the last we see of the illustrious Melbourne housewife who made her debut in 1955, as plain old Mrs Norm Everage.
“I’m not ever retiring,” she insists, “I’m just not touring anymore. I’m sick of touring. Sick of waking up not knowing where I am. I’m no longer a young woman but I do still have my drives and juices. So, in preparation for my visit I saw my gynaecologist. He said: ‘Why do you give as much as you do?’ Now, that’s a funny thing for a gynaecologist to say.
“He’s a lovely old man, Spanish . . . he’s Julio Iglesias’ father. He’s so old his handshakes – and that’s not always a disadvantage,” she laughs.
The old ones are the best.
• Dame Edna Everage, Festival Theatre, 5-9 November, £15-£47.50, 0131-529 6000
The life and times of Edna Everage
1955: Australian actor and comedian Barry Humphries introduces his latest creation, Mrs Norm Everage, a Melbourne housewife with a love of gladdies and a signature greeting, “Hello Possums!”
1960s: While performing in London, Mrs Norm Everage discovers a love of ever more outrageous costumes and her popularity builds.
1970s: After appearing in the 1972 film The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, as Aunt Edna, the character returns for the sequel in which Australian prime minister of the day, Gough Whitlam, made a cameo, appearance, conferring on Edna the title of Dame at the close of the film.
1980s: The housewife and superstar launches a primetime TV show, The Dame Edna Experience.
1990s: Dame Edna returns to TV screens with Edna’s Neighbourhood Watch.
2012: Barry Humphries announces Dame Edna is to be retired at the end of the current tour.