Barry Humphries Bio
John Barry Humphries, AO, CBE (age 85 years) is an Australian comedian, actor, satirist, artist, and author. He is best known for writing and playing his on-stage and television alter egos Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson.
|Barry Humphries Quick Biography|
|Born||He was Born on 17 February 1934|
|Spouse||Lizzie Spender (m. 1990), MORE|
|Children||Oscar Humphries, Tessa Humphries, Rupert Humphries, Emily Humphries|
|Books||My Life as Me, MORE|
|Net Worth||Update Soon|
Barry Humphries was born on 17 February 1934 in Kew, Australia. He is the son of Eric Humphries (John Albert Eric Humphries), a construction manager, and his wife Louisa Agnes (Brown).
His grandfather was an immigrant to Australia from Manchester, England. His father was well-to-do and Barry grew up in a “clean, tasteful, and modern home” on Christowel Street, Camberwell, then one of Melbourne’s new “garden suburbs”.
His early home life set the pattern for his eventual stage career; his parents bought him everything he wanted, but his father, in particular, spent little time with him, and Humphries spent hours playing at dressing-up in the back garden.
Disguising myself as different characters and I had a whole box of dressing up clothes … Red Indian, sailor suit, Chinese costume and I was very spoiled in that way … I also found that entertaining people gave me a great feeling of release, making people laugh was a very good way of befriending them. People couldn’t hit you if they were laughing.
His parents nicknamed him “Sunny Sam”, and his early childhood was happy and uneventful. However, in his teens Humphries began to rebel against the strictures of conventional suburban life by becoming “artistic”, much to the dismay of his parents who, despite their affluence, distrusted “art”. A key event took place when he was nine – his mother gave all his books to The Salvation Army, cheerfully explaining: “But you’ve read them, Barry”.
Humphries responded by becoming a voracious reader, a collector of rare books, a painter, a theatre fan and a surrealist. Dressing up in a black cloak, black homburg, and mascaraed eyes, he invented his first sustained character, “Dr. Aaron Azimuth”, agent provocateur, dandy and Dadaist.
Educated firstly at Camberwell Grammar School, Humphries has been awarded his place in the Gallery of Achievement there. As his father’s building business prospered.
Humphries was sent to Melbourne Grammar School where he spurned sport, detested mathematics, shirked cadets “on the basis of conscientious objection” and matriculated with brilliant results in English and Art. Humphries himself described this schooling, in a Who’s Who entry, as “self-educated, attended Melbourne Grammar School”.
Humphries spent two years studying at the University of Melbourne (Queen’s College), where he studied Law, Philosophy and Fine Arts. During this time he became Australia’s leading exponent of the deconstructive and absurdist art movement, Dada.
Since the late 1960s, Humphries has appeared in numerous films, mostly in supporting or cameo roles. His credits include the UK sex comedy Percy’s Progress (1974), David Baker’s The Great Macarthy (1975) and Bruce Beresford’s Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974) in which Edna was made a Dame by then Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
Other film credits include Side by Side (1975) and The Getting of Wisdom (1977). The same year, he had a cameo as Edna in the Robert Stigwood musical film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (which became infamous as one of the biggest film flops of the decade), followed in 1981 by his part as the fake-blind TV-show host Bert Schnick in Shock Treatment, the sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
He was more successful with his featured role as Richard Deane in Dr. Fischer of Geneva (1985); this was followed by Howling III (1987), a cameo as Rupert Murdoch in the miniseries Selling Hitler (1991) with Alexei Sayle, a three-role cameo in Philippe Mora’s horror satire Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills (1995), the role of Count Metternich in Immortal Beloved (1994), as well as roles in The Leading Man (1996), the Spice Girls’ film Spice World, the Australian feature Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), and Nicholas Nickleby (2002), in which he donned female garb to play Nathan Lane’s wife.
Humphries has featured in various roles in comedy performance films including The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball (1982) and A Night of Comic Relief 2 (1989). In 1987, he starred as Les Patterson in one of his own rare flops, the disastrous Les Patterson Saves the World, directed by George T. Miller of Man From Snowy River fame and co-written by Humphries with his third wife, Diane Millstead.
Barry Humphries Wife, Children, Personal Life
Humphries has been married four times. His first marriage, to Brenda Wright, took place when he was 21 and lasted less than two years. He has two daughters, Tessa and Emily, and two sons, Oscar and Rupert, from his second and third marriages, to Rosalind Tong and Diane Millstead respectively.
His elder son Oscar is editor of the art magazine Apollo and a contributing editor at The Spectator. His fourth wife (from 1990), Lizzie Spender, is the daughter of British poet Sir Stephen Spender. They live in a terraced town house in West Hampstead, his home for forty years.
In the 1960s, throughout his sojourn in London, Humphries became increasingly dependent on alcohol and by the last years of the decade his friends and family began to fear that his addiction might cost him his career or even his life.
His status as ‘a dissolute, guilt-ridden, self-pitying boozer’ was undoubtedly one of the main reasons for the failure of his first marriage and was a contributing factor to the collapse of the second.
Humphries’ alcoholism reached a crisis point during a visit home to Australia in the early 1970s. His parents finally had him admitted to a private hospital to ‘dry out’ when, after a particularly heavy binge, he was found bashed and unconscious in a gutter.
Since then he has abstained from alcohol completely and still regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. He was one of the many friends who tried in vain to help Peter Cook, who himself eventually died from alcohol-related illnesses.
Humphries was a good friend of the English poet John Betjeman until Betjeman’s death in 1984. Their friendship began in 1960 after Betjeman, while visiting Australia, heard some of Humphries’ early recordings and wrote very favourably of them in an Australian newspaper.
Their friendship was, in part, based around numerous shared interests, including Victorian architecture, Cornwall and the music hall.
Humphries appears in the 2013 documentary Chalky about his longtime friend and colleague Michael White, who produced many of Humphries’ first Dame Edna shows in the UK.
Other notable friends of Humphries include the Australian painter Arthur Boyd, the author and former politician Jeffrey Archer, whom Humphries visited during Archer’s stay in prison, and the Irish comedian Spike Milligan.
Humphries has spent much of his life immersed in music, literature and the arts. A self-proclaimed ‘bibliomaniac’, his house in West Hampstead, London supposedly contains some 25,000 books, many of them first editions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Some of the more arcane and rare items in this collection include the telephone book of Oscar Wilde, Memoirs of a Public Baby by Philip O’Connor, an autographed copy of Humdrum by Harold Acton, the complete works of Wilfred Childe and several volumes of the pre-war surrealist poetry of Herbert Read.
He is a prominent art collector who has, as a result of his three divorces, bought many of his favourite paintings four times. He at one time had the largest private collection of the paintings of Charles Conder in the world and he is a notorious fan of the Flemish symbolist painter Jan Frans De Boever, relishing his role as ‘President for Life’ of the De Boever Society.
He himself is a landscape painter and his pictures are in private and public collections both in his homeland and abroad. Humphries has also been the subject of numerous portraits by artist friends, including Clifton Pugh (1958, National Portrait Gallery) and John Brack (in the character of Edna Everage, 1969, Art Gallery of New South Wales).
He is a lover of avant-garde music and a patron of, among others, the French composer Jean-Michel Damase and the Melba Foundation in Australia.
Humphries is a patron and active supporter of the Tait Memorial Trust in London, a charity to support young Australian performing artists in the UK.
When Humphries was on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs radio programme in 2009, he made the following choices: “Mir ist der Ehre widerfahren” from Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier; Gershwin’s “Things are Looking Up” sung by Fred Astaire; “Love Song” composed by Josef Suk; “On Mother Kelly’s Doorstep” sung by Randolph Sutton; “Der Leiermann” from Schubert’s Winterreise song cycle; the 2nd movement of Poulenc’s Flute Sonata; Mischa Spoliansky’s “Auf Wiedersehen”; and “They are not long the weeping and the laughter” from Delius’ Songs of Sunset.
Cultural historian Tony Moore, author of The Barry McKenzie Movies, writes of Humphries’ personal politics thus: “A conservative contrarian while many in his generation were moving left, Humphries nevertheless retained a bohemian delight in transgression that makes him a radical”.