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Newcastle hairdresser’s brush with Barry Humphries

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Gai Hudson was a shy 21-year-old hairdresser from Newcastle when she met Barry Humphries and his alias Dame Edna Everage.

She was working at Beaumont Salon in Hamilton when she was asked to groom a wig for the famous Australian comedian. 

Barry was visiting the steel city to film a commercial promoting his upcoming show at the Civic Theatre. 

In a small dressing room at the NBN Studio at Mosbri Crescent, Gai witnessed first-hand the transformation that became one of Australia’s greatest drag artists. 

“It was around 1978 and my boss at the time asked me to come to NBN and help Barry get ready for a commercial,” Gai recalls. 

“It was to help promote his show at the Civic Theatre, but I guess because the TV cameras would be so close that they wanted the wig to look spot on. 

“It was a hoot to do. 

“I don’t remember too much about that day, that was before children, but I would guess I was probably pretty nervous. 

“The one thing I can remember was thinking that what I’d seen was a metamorphosis. 

“This lovely man started as Barry and as soon as the wig went on, he’d become this whole other person, it really was that instant.

“And, with the wig came the sarcasm and the wit. 

“It was an amazing transformation.” 

The pair’s meeting was thanks to Gai’s boss at the time Mavis Liggins. 

Mavis took a photo of Gai and Edna at the time and encouraged her to display it at her salons. 

“She said it would be a great conversation starter and after all these years it really has been,” Gai told the Newcastle Weekly

Gai and her boss were lucky enough to get tickets to Barry Humphries’ show where he signed a salon brochure and gave Gai a badge that had Dame Edna’s iconic face on it. 

“I still have it, and yes I’ve had a look at it again this week.” 

Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) signed brochure and badge.

Barry Humphries died at the age of 89 last week, 22 April 2023. 

The Victorian, best known for writing and playing his stage and television characters Dame Edna Everage and Sir Les Patterson, will be remembered for his humour that later became known world-wide. 

Humphries performed in Newcastle several times throughout his life. 

In May 2018 he chose to launch his national tour Barry Humphries: The Man Behind the Mask from Newcastle’s Civic Theatre. 

In this show he revealed personal issues he had endured over the decades, who else was concerned, and how they were resolved.  

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