Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam once wrote a gushing letter of reference to Barry Humphries saying he was so loved by Australians that many feel he should be placed under an ‘export ban’.
Following the comedy legend’s death at the age of 89 on Saturday, the loving note written by Mr Whitlam on January 31, 1973 – just over a month after he became the country’s 21st Prime Minister – has resurfaced online.
In the letter, written from the Prime Minister’s office in Canberra, the newspaper, addressed to “whom it may concern,” described Humphries as someone of “excellent character” with “deep inner resources.”
“Barry Humphries, Esq., is personally known to me as a person of the most excellent character in any of the many he chooses to present himself with,” said Mr. Whitlam.
Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret Whitlam are pictured at a Melbourne Cup luncheon in 2001
The 21st Australian Prime Minister wrote a letter of reference for Humphries in January 1973
“His solid family background and first-class education have provided him with deep inner resources from which he has always been able to draw unfailingly.”
Whitlam said Humphries had become a cultural icon, putting pressure on his government.
“He has become so much part of the Australian way of doing things that my government is under strong pressure to institutionalize him,” he continued.
“Many Australians believe that, like the kangaroo, it should be placed under an export ban.”
Born in Kew, Melbourne, Humphries spent much of his life in the United Kingdom, taking up residence in London’s West Hampstead.
On signing off, Mr Whitlam said Humphries was a ‘fine young person who will go a long way’ and would be ‘deeply grateful’ for any help readers might give him.
While the details of Mr Whitlam and Humphries’ first meeting remain unclear, the pair shared a deep mutual respect that spanned several decades.
In fact, the former prime minister is partly responsible for catapulting the career of Humphrie’s most famous character, Dame Edna Everage.
In 1974, Mr Whitlam appeared in the film ‘Barry McKenzie Holds His Own’, in which Humphries played the role of Barry’s aunt, Edna.
The plot revolves around Edna being kidnapped after being mistaken for the Queen of England and held hostage in France before being rescued by her cousin and associates.
Once she is rescued and lands in Australia in front of a cheering crowd, Mr. Whitlam bestows Edna with Damehood.
Critics have argued that Mr. Whitlam’s momentous decision to appear in the film and Knight Humphries’ alter ego played a major role in her becoming a cultural icon.
Legendary comedian Barry Humphries passed away in Sydney on Saturday at the age of 89 after complications following hip surgery
Mr Whitlam turned Humphries’ most famous character Edna Everage (pictured) into a famous lady in the 1974 film Barry McKenzie Holds His Own
At Christmas of that year, Humphries told Punch Magazine that he had met Mr Whitlam and was so impressed that he would vote non-partisan in the next election.
More than 20 years later, Humphries continued to show his support for the Labor Leader.
In a segment of his 1999 ABC TV series Barry Humphries Flashbacks, the comedian described Gough Whitlam as a “socialist King Arthur” during a skit about the politician’s extraordinary rise from a “lawyer from Cabramatta” to Prime Minister.
“I am proud to say that I, Les Patterson, was an integral part of the Whitlam Camelot,” says Sir Patterson.
“If you think of Gough as King Arthur at a round table with old Margaret there as Queen Gen-a.. Gen-a..Gon.. Gono-rhea… Gonavere.. I was Merl – the think tank, the idea guy.
Sir Patterson said Mr Whitlam was once extremely benevolent when he approached the then Prime Minister for financial help to launch a project.
“I came up to him and I said one day, and he locked the door, and he said, ‘What’s up this time Les’.
“I said I need money and phone numbers Gough because this is for a special project – it’s the disabled black lesbian doll workshop.
He looked a little strange when I said that. He said, “Do you need big bickeys for that Lesson?” – I said yes.
And he started writing the check and said “who is this for anyway?” I said, “Gosh, it’s for me… I’m going to piss it against the wall!”
“He said, ‘Les, you’re an honest man. I’ll double it.’”
Meanwhile, Australian politicians from both sides of parliament are among those pouring in the deluge of tributes for Humphries after he died in hospital on Saturday.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Humphries had entertained audiences throughout his life through a “system of personas, from Dame Edna to Sandy Stone.”
Sir Les Patterson, Barry Humphries’ character, spoke of his encounters with the former prime minister on his TV series in 1999
“But the brightest star in that galaxy was always Barry,” Mr. Albanese said.
A great wit, satirist, writer and an absolute one-of-kind, he was both gifted and gifted. May he rest in peace.’
Australia’s opposition leader Peter Dutton has lost its “greatest cultural storyteller, its most brilliant satirist and its greatest cultural comedian.”
NSW Premier Chris Minns said Humphries and Dame Edna “set the world’s stages and screens on fire.”
‘The most successful solo theatrical performer of all time, anywhere in the world – Barry was a legend. The definition of Australian creativity and performance for generations.
“Val Barry Humphries.”
Barry Humphries given glowing reference letter by Gough Whitlam
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