GRAHAM CYRIL KENNEDY AO (15 February 1934 – 25 May 2005) was an
Australian entertainer and variety performer, as well as a personality
and star of radio, theatre, television and film. He was often called
"Gra Gra" (pronounced "gray-gray"). Honoured as an Officer of the
Order of Australia
* 1 Early life
* 1.1 Childhood * 1.2 Education * 1.3 After school
* 2 Radio career
* 3 Television career
* 3.1 In
* 3.2 Comedic style
* 3.2.1 Advertisements
* 3.10 Graham Kennedy\'s News Show
* 3.10.1 Coast to Coast
* 3.11 Harry M. Miller * 3.12 Graham Kennedy\'s Funniest Home Videos * 3.13 35 Years of Television * 3.14 Last television appearance * 3.15 Logie awards
* 4 Film career * 5 Personal life * 6 Retirement
* 7 Ill-health
* 7.1 Benefactor
* 8 Decline
* 9 Death
* 10 Legacy
* 10.1 Telemovie The King
* 11 References * 12 Further reading * 13 External links
Kennedy was born in Camden Street, Balaclava to Cyril William Kennedy
and Mary Austen Kennedy (née Scott). Kennedy's mother, who was 18
years old at the time of his birth, was employed at a local picture
theatre. His father worked variously as an engineer and handyman,
mowed lawns and washed cars. In 1939 he joined the RAAF as an air
gunner . Kennedy's first home was a "small, crowded duplex" at 32
Nelson Street, Balaclava. A 20 cm diameter plaque was placed on the
property by the
City of Port Phillip
When Kennedy was two years old, his parents moved to Carlisle Street, St Kilda , for two years. His parents divorced shortly before World War II and Kennedy was largely raised by his grandparents, "Pop" Kennedy (who had been an electrician at Melbourne's Tivoli, Royal and Bijou theatres) and "Grandma Scott", to whom he remained particularly close until her death. Kennedy later said that he had:
often wished his mother and father had never married. 'I wasn't enamoured of either of them they betrayed me divorce is not too much fun for a little nine-year-old
... he would sometimes talk about the violent arguments between his parents, how he gravitated to his grandmother's bosom, his two uncles ("one fought the Germans, the other fought the Japs") and how one of them took liberties with the boy. Graham never resented him, claiming he equated it with affection.
Kennedy was educated firstly at Euston College (which no longer
exists) on the corner of Chapel and Carlisle streets, secondly at
Caulfield North Central School (now Caulfield Junior College) and
In 1977, Kennedy chaired a project to raise funds for improvements at
During a school break in 1949, Kennedy worked in his uncle's hairdressing shop at 475 Collins Street, where he met clients who worked in the same building for the Radio Australia shortwave service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission . He was offered, and accepted, a job as a news runner from Collins Street to the ABC studios in Lonsdale Street. Shortly thereafter he joined radio station 3UZ , working in the station's record library.
3UZ AND "NICKY"
Melbourne's most popular commercial radio personality was arguably Clifford "Nicky" Nicholls Whitta . A radio performer since 1932, he presented a popular housewives' programme, as well as "Chatterbox Corner" with his wife Nancy Lee (Kathleen Lindgren).
In an era when Australian radio announcers routinely adopted false British accents and a "hard sell" approach to advertisements, Whitta's authentic Australian voice and irreverent attitude towards his sponsors made him the idol of his audience. By the early 1950s a newspaper survey found that more than 70 per cent of Melbourne housewives tuned into his show.
In his foreword to Nancy Lee's book Being a Chum Was Fun (1979) Kennedy wrote:
About 40 years ago, when I was a snow haired six year old, I can remember being totally captivated by a grown man pretending to be a naughty little boy on 3AW 's children session called "Chatterbox Corner". His name was Clifford Whitta, and he was to become the most important man in my life. Years later I was even more fascinated with this man when he conducted a breakfast program and let the boy who played his records ACTUALLY TALK ON THE AIR WITH HIM.
Nicholls moved from 3KZ to 3UZ (where Kennedy was working), bringing with him his teenage panel operators Alf "Alfie Boy" Thesinger and Russell Archer. However, eighteen-year-olds, Thesinger and Archer were "called up" (conscripted) for National Service. Nancy Lee's book records:
I asked Nicky, "Have you decided on anyone to help you in the session yet?" When I heard the chosen one was to be young Graham, I was surprised. "Oh, no, not Graham! he's a nice boy, but he can't talk." Nick said, "Mum, leave him to me."
Nicky became father-figure, personal friend and mentor to Kennedy, and the two built an extraordinary on-air rapport. Kennedy wrote:
Being straight man to one of the greatest entertainers of our time was not all that easy. We were not always chums. He would spend weeks not talking to me (except on air) for something I had unknowingly said or done. Once he even suspended me from the programme for some trivial matter. I worked with him until his sudden death in 1956. I never stopped being a fan. I did not realise then that I had been prepared for another career on another electrical medium: the most potent communication device of the century.
Nicky died on 8 September 1956.
By May 1957, Kennedy was appearing on television, but also presented
3AK morning radio programme with
In 1970 he worked at
3XY ; from June to December 1975 he appeared on
3LO drivetime program with Richard Combe; from September to November
1976 was on 3DB with Denis Scanlan; in 1977 he returned to DB to cover
Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II
Kennedy recorded eight thirty-minute radio comedies for the ABC under the title Graham Kennedy\'s RS Playhouse . Written by Gary Reilly and Tony Sattler (who together wrote the television programs Kingswood Country and The Naked Vicar Show ), the shows were broadcast between 11 August and 23 September 1979.
The episode titles were:
* "The Birthday Boy" * "Because He's My Brother" * "You Only Live Once" * "Sunday Morning Fever" * "The Chocolate Milkman" * "The Prawnbroker" * "Mad Jack's Dentist" * "The Good Morning Show"
Sattler and his wife (actress Noeline Brown ) were two of Kennedy's closest friends.
In 1980 Kennedy became a ten percent shareholder in Sydney radio station 2Day FM and from 24 May 1981 presented a computer-edited, three-hour Sunday morning program of music and comedy.
Kennedy's first television appearance was in March 1957, representing
3UZ on a
IN MELBOURNE TONIGHT
Main article: In
BERT NEWTON: "Hello, I'm Bert Newton. " GRAHAM KENNEDY: "Big deal."
Bednall and Spencer defied both the
GTV-9 boardroom and the first
sponsor (Philips) by choosing Kennedy, who began on a salary of 30
pounds for five one-hour evening shows per week to be called In
Kennedy was not GTV-9's first choice – they had planned to use
3UZ personality John McMahon or 3DB's Dick Cranbourne. Despite
later reports that the programme's name had been intended to be The
Late Show , and that rival station
GTV-9 to the title by
one week, contemporary press reports from several weeks before the
show's debut list the title as "In
Many women write to tell me that although their husbands may not like me, they do. It appears from the mail that the women have the say on what the household is watching. And we do remember that it is the women who do the buying of products that we advertise. Bearing that in mind we try and design our commercials for them.
IMT was devised as a copy of the American 'Tonight Show' format, with
the host presiding over sketches, introducing star artists and reading
advertisements live. His colleague
(Norman) Spencer was the mastermind of IMT; don't let anyone forget
that. Nothing happened on IMT that Norm did not approve personally
Norman Spencer chose
Spencer wielded other influence too. According to Hugh Stuckey, a writer on the show, the producer placed Kennedy with a series of attractive young women to displace rumours of Kennedy's homosexuality.
This was an era in which homosexuality was, well, horrifying. So every now and again Kennedy had to be seen about in case any viewers thought him the other persuasion. It was cleverly manipulated – the station had the media at its disposal. It was all to give Graham a good old hetero image though he always seemed very unsexual.
By July 1959 the program was still popular in Melbourne. Recurring
Joff Ellen and Rosie Sturgess became regulars. Singer
Toni Lamond joined the cast. Attempts were made at this time to launch
Kennedy as a national personality.
The Graham Kennedy Show began in February 1960 but was not popular in Sydney. The program was judged stilted compared to IMT itself; Kennedy seemed much more subdued than usual, was tense, and the comedy was not working. Critics in Sydney and Queensland disliked key components of the show. Judged as a flop, The Graham Kennedy Show in Sydney was dropped by ATN7 after 13 weeks. The program however was immediately picked up by TCN9 – its general manager Ken G. Hall saw potential in the program. After continued bad reviews its popularity increased in Sydney. By July 1960 it had reached its twenty-fifth episode and had the highest ratings in Australia.
Later in 1960 Kennedy faced opposition when Sir Frank Packer bought GTV-9. Unlike the previous owner, Packer interfered directly with the station's activities. GTV-9 executive Colin Bednall reported that Packer hated Kennedy and forcefully articulated his desire to have him removed from the IMT.
Packer had a phobia about homosexuals and he believed Kennedy to be one. He insisted he could pick one a mile off.
Kennedy himself was aware that Packer "loathed" him:
Sir Frank did suspect that I and others were of that persuasion. I mean if everyone in the television industry was fired because of that, there would be few around! I've been accused of everything. I've been accused of being homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual and worst of all asexual, which means you don't do anything. That's cruel.
Packer's arrival prompted the departure of IMT producer Norman Spencer. IMT continued its run. Other regular performers on IMT were Patti Newton and Philip Brady . In 1961 Kennedy described his presentation of the program.
In the whole of the ten years I have been working on radio and television, I have been working to a majority of women. I think women prefer men to be well-mannered, so I always try to watch my manners. They like men to be well dressed, so I do my best to observe this. Others bring to my notice the fact that I sometimes make grammatical errors in my speech; so, because of this, I try to watch my grammar – but at the same time I bear in mind that it's more profitable for me to be entertaining than to be perfect in my use of English.
By March 1961 the national show had been renamed Graham Kennedy's Channel 9 Show and was finding quiet acceptance nationally. Even at this time Kennedy admitted there were problems in the weekly national show.
We clam up and get tense. But I think the national show will improve in the next few weeks. We want to include the best segments of IMT in the national show. IMT is a lot more spontaneous than the national show – we've run up to an hour overtime. We like to get the audience to participate and if we can find someone interesting in the studio audience we throw away our scripts and just adlib.
Kennedy by this stage did not always host IMT.
In January 1962 the national Graham Kennedy's Channel 9 Show was cancelled and replaced by The Channel 9 Show hosted by Bert Newton. Kennedy continued to fine-tune his IMT performances. Kennedy had a strong understanding of key technical elements of television and perfected his comic timing, and watched the lenses on the TV cameras, adjusting his performance depending on whether he was in a wide shot or a close up. Compilation highlight programs of IMT segments were screened in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide in May 1963 under the title The Best of Kennedy. The Best of Kennedy continued until December 1963. On IMT, Noel Ferrier was appointed the new Friday night host. Also in 1963 writer Mike McColl-Jones joined. Kennedy had often disliked having writers on the program, was reluctant for them to be publicly acknowledged, and often ignored all their material. In the case of McColl-Jones, Kennedy seemed to like him and his comedy material, which was apparently the key requirement by which Kennedy would use a writer's material. McColl-Jones continued as a writer on the series for several years. Also in 1963 Ernie Carroll joined the writing team. Kennedy had apparently relaxed his attitude towards writers by this stage and seemed happy to use their material with few complaints.
By this stage Fred Parslow was well established on the program's writing team and was a confidante of Kennedy's.
When he was really down, depressed about things. A relationship had failed. He rang me in a terrible state and asked me to go down to his house in Frankston. Joan, my wife, said you better go. He sounded really desperate. There wasn't much he could do for such a long time. Of course, when he did start to get brave, he was too old for going around and picking up what he might enjoy. He was the first of our mega stars; there seem to be mega stars everywhere now. In those days, living in such a Sleepy Hollow like Melbourne, he found his life terribly, terribly difficult. And you can understand in those days. The times have changed. It's almost compulsory to be homosexual now.
On 7 July 1965 Kennedy appeared on a then-innovative live
split-screen link with
Don Lane , the host of Sydney Tonight, via the
recently completed co-axial cable linking
By 1968 there was a regular roster of IMT guest hosts, including Bert Newton, Tim Evans , Bobby Limb , Don Lane , Kevin Sanders , and Michael Preston . The announcement of Kennedy's intention to leave IMT was made in October 1969 and he left the show on the expiration of his contract 23 December 1969. His final episode features newsreader Sir Eric Pearce placing on his head a crown made by the Channel Nine prop department in the style of that worn by Henry IV , symbolising Kennedy's reign as King of Australian television.
In 2007, the crown (which a private collector had recognised at a
junk store in
Kennedy deliberately pushed the boundaries of acceptability in a staid era. Inspired by stage comedians such as Roy Rene , his style was bawdy, irreverent, iconoclastic, often smutty, sometimes deliberately camp , and laden with innuendo and double-entendre. He regularly overstepped the boundaries of accepted "good taste", once telling a fan "There are no limits, love, there are no limits."
Journalist Megan Gressor described Kennedy's style as having "... mongrel roots – a hybrid of vaudeville, slapstick and endless suggestiveness, plus a subliminal subversiveness all his own. It seems almost pantomimic to modern eyes, but Kennedy was a product of simpler times. And more complex. His was an act predicated upon repression; naughtiness loses its point in a world without taboos, where anything goes. It wouldn't work today, when people don't just say "fuck" on television, they do it."
Drawing on his radio experience with Nicky (who had routinely "sent up" advertisers), Kennedy transformed the live commercials from what would have otherwise been dull pro-forma obligations into a unique comedic art form. On one famous occasion, a scheduled 20-second ad spot for an aspirin product was spun out into 33 minutes of improvised comedy.
Newton has written:
The blood would drain from the face of Pelaco shirt-wearing executives in television, advertising and business until they realised that instead of televisual suicide, this skinny little wiseguy was commercial gold. And then they liked his brand of humour a lot.
A commercial I shared with Graham, Raoul Merton ('of comfort you're certain when you wear Raoul Merton') changed the footwear buying habits of men.
Gerald Stone recounts in his book Compulsive Viewing that a "cocky young salesman" visited the IMT set hoping for an extra plug for his employer's product. The young salesman was Sam Chisholm , who later became a senior executive for variously the Packer and Murdoch media empires. A May 2005 interview with Chisholm records: Sam Chisholm: I was working for Johnson's wax at the time, and I don't think he believed my ... Graham Davis: Sales pitch. Sam Chisholm: Assertions about this product. So I said, "I'll go and polish your floors and prove it to you." Which I did. Graham Davis: Over at his home? Sam Chisholm: Absolutely. Graham Davis: You got down on your hands and knees at his home? Sam Chisholm: Yep. I started off as his housekeeper and ended up being his boss.
Rover was sometimes brought into the studio to assist with advertisements for Pal dog food. One night the dog showed no interest whatsoever in the product, which Kennedy then himself proceeded to eat with apparent relish, straight from the can – or so it seemed.
Rover also achieved television immortality by relieving himself – live to air – upon one of the huge cameras. The studio audience collapsed in hysterics, but the duration and urgency of Rover's impressively hydraulic performance might have led some cynics to question just how impromptu the event really was.
Biographer Blundell quotes Ernie Carroll:
Pal dog food, with Rover was time consuming once we fed him all afternoon so that when he came out to do the commercial he didn't want to touch the Pal dog food. He was already full of it. on another occasion they had him drink before the show, big drinks. So when he came out, he peed all over the camera and all around the set Even those seemingly innocent dog manoeuvres were carefully planned.
Kennedy was exasperated for decades by questions about "whatever happened to Rover". As late as 1989, on Graham Kennedy's News Hour (see below), he answered a viewer's question couched in exactly those words with the withering reply "... he was a dog. What do you think happened?"
In early June 2005, on the 3AW programme Nightline with Philip Brady and Bruce Mansfield , Patti (McGrath) Newton stated that her father had often looked after Rover when he appeared at GTV-9. It seems that Kennedy had become increasingly irritated with retrieving Rover from the pound and so, when Patti's father's dog died, Rover went on to a long and happy life at the McGrath (senior) household.
THE GRAHAM KENNEDY SHOW
Main article: The Graham Kennedy Show
After specials on 15 November 1971 and 2 March 1972, Kennedy returned to regular television with The Graham Kennedy Show on 19 September 1972. This series lasted until late 1973. In 1974, when Kennedy claimed he wanted a rest, Nine allegedly paid him not to sign with another network. It was Frank Packer who paid Kennedy $50,000 to do nothing, as he was fearful he would work for someone else. Kennedy said in 1978: It wasn't a retainer. It was $50,000 not to work. Sir Frank didn't know it but I had no intention of working.
The Graham Kennedy Show resumed in March 1975, and was Kennedy's first series in colour.
Memorable, and controversial, moments, included the "crow call" controversy where, on 3 March 1975, Kennedy imitated a crow call ("faaaaaark") highly reminiscent of the word "fuck ". This led the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to request that Kennedy "show cause" why he should not be removed from the airwaves. Kennedy replied that he could not show cause, suggesting that the Board take action to limit his appearances, while hinting at legal action should they do so. Rather than removing him, the ABCB banned Kennedy from appearing live, forcing him to pre-record the show on videotape.
Another notable moment was from 17 April 1975, when Kennedy attacked Senator Doug McClelland , the then Minister for the Media, over local content issues. His comments were edited, and a voiceover recorded by the general manager was inserted saying that Kennedy had made a "cowardly attack on a Labor Minister who was unable to defend himself."
Following the McClelland incident, Kennedy parted company with the Nine Network, but later returned.
POWER WITHOUT GLORY
Kennedy appeared as Clive Parker in an episode of the 26-part ABC
Power Without Glory
He returned to television in 1977 for what is now
In 1979, "The King" became King of Moomba complete with his famous motorised desk, the second Melbourne-born recipient after Newton .
THE BLAINEY VIEW
In 1982 Kennedy provided the voice-over narration for a ten-episode ABC historical documentary The Blainey View .
Kennedy appeared as the host of Channel Seven's morning news program Eleven AM in 1983 and again – for eight weeks – in 1984.
GRAHAM KENNEDY\'S NEWS SHOW
Nearly 60, Kennedy accepted an offer from the Nine Network's managing director Sam Chisholm to present Graham Kennedy\'s News Show from Sydney, to air five nights a week at 10:30 pm against Clive Robertson's Newsworld on the Seven Network. Five trial programmes were recorded but never broadcast.
Kennedy initially "pulled the plug" and withdrew from the show but returned (see Harry M. Miller, below). Kennedy's contract stipulated that his co-presenter would be sports commentator Ken Sutcliffe .
Kennedy's writers, who worked from a production cottage at the corner of Scott Street and Artarmon Road included Jim Pike, Tim Evans, Larry Burns, and Ken Stirling. Blundell records:
They worked in the back room shooting out gags over typewriters and word processors, united in their hatred of the 'Little Guy', as they also called him."
The writers also referred to Kennedy as "the little buggle-eyed bastard",. However, they admired his talent. Jim Pike said, ".. I hate him, but he is the best there is".
Kennedy defied convention with remarks which were tasteless, and yet hilarious. Pointing out the irony of how a news show gets good ratings he said it would be helpful for his show's ratings if the Pope's aircraft were to fly into a mountain while it was full of orphans. He also remarked that Queen Elizabeth II "didn't have bad breasts ... for a woman of her age" and mocked 17 October 1989, San Francisco Loma Prieta earthquake with a re-creation on the set.
After a slightly heavy woman was caught for streaking at a cricket match, Graham explained on air that they would run the footage but had to cover certain offending parts of her body with black. The clip he played was all black, except for a single spot that revealed her pubic hair.
He also reprised the "Chum Song" from
The Chum Song, I believe, was written and recorded originally by Jack Hilton for a Scottish Newsboys Club.
The lyrics of the chorus are: Being a chum is fun, That is why I'm one; Always smiling, always gay, Chummy at work, (and) chummy at play - Laugh away your worries, Don't be sad or glum; And everyone will know that you're a Chum, chum, chum!
Sutcliffe would "corpse", with tears in his eyes, unable to continue; this became so frequent that Kennedy managed to coin a catchphrase, "I love it when he cries".
Kennedy called Sutcliffe "Two Dogs" after delivering a joke ending with the tag "Why do you ask, Two Dogs Rooting?"
Graham Kennedy's News Show was a rarity in that it was a live news show that had a studio audience. Five nights a week for most of the year, audiences lined up at 10:30 at night just to see Kennedy do his magic in the flesh. Often the funniest parts of the show were in the commercial breaks when Kennedy would come down and join the audience for a chat. He always made a point of telling them a particularly crude joke that was timed so they got the punchline just a second before the show was back on air.
Coast To Coast
On 13 February 1989 the show became Coast to Coast, with Nine journalist John Mangos replacing Sutcliffe, and ran until 8 December 1989.
HARRY M. MILLER
Kennedy engaged Harry M. Miller as his agent. According to biographer Blundell, Kennedy believed that Miller was to donate his commission of $2500 per week to the Wayside Chapel for Kennedy's appearance on Graham Kennedy's News Show.
Miller later sued Kennedy for "wrongful termination and for a 20 per cent commission on his 1989 gross earnings." During the court case Miller "painted a picture of his client of twenty years as a late-night drunk in the habit of sending demanding faxes while under the influence." Justice Brownie found against Miller, and ordered him to pay $75,699 and costs.
GRAHAM KENNEDY\'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS
Kennedy's last series was Graham Kennedy\'s Funniest Home Video Show which was broadcast between 29 March and 15 November 1990 on the Nine Network.
35 YEARS OF TELEVISION
Kennedy presented the introduction segment to the Nine Network special 35 Years of Television in 1991. The segment covered the very early days of television variety, including his own In Melbourne Tonight.
LAST TELEVISION APPEARANCE
Kennedy's last television appearance was in February 1994 in an interview for Ray Martin Presents Graham Kennedy's Sixtieth. Believing that Martin had ambushed him by departing from a pre-agreed list of questions, Kennedy ensured that much of the interview was unusable for broadcast by peppering his responses with obscenities.
In 2005 John Mangos wrote:
He (Kennedy) later explained the experience in a piece for TV Week in an article called 'In his own words'.
"Ray Martin and I had worked together before, and he well knows that if I have the questions in advance, he'll get a better interview. Everyone knows this – politicians in particular. Ray duly faxed the questions to me, but on the morning of the recording changed them. I was bewildered by this (I think a researcher let him down). I terminated the interview when I didn't know what he was talking about and went upstairs to lunch." It was a critical turning point in his career. He vowed never to do television again.
Ray Martin denied any ill intent, saying "We faxed a series of general topics, but it was clear at the outset that much would depend on the general run of the interview An ambush was not on the agenda He had no complaints. There was never a suggestion that he was unhappy."
Kennedy received many Logies, including:
* 5 Gold Logies for the Most Popular Personality on Australian Television (1960, 1967, 1969, 1974, and 1978).
* He also won the " TV Week Awards' Star of the Year" award at the inaugural presentation in 1959, and this is sometimes counted as his first Gold Logie, which would give him 6 in total
Kennedy appeared in a number of films, ranging from brief cameos to leading roles. They include:
* They\'re a Weird Mob (1966) (cameo as himself) * The Box (1975) (supporting role as himself) * Don\'s Party (1976) * The Odd Angry Shot (1979) * The Club (1980) * Silent Reach (1982) (telemovie) * The Return of Captain Invincible (1982) (cameo) * Stanley (1984) * The Killing Fields (1984) * Travelling North (1987)
He also had a cameo in On the Beach (1959) which was not used.
Being a period of that era of the 1950's I think being gay must have been pretty harsh for Graham. I can imagine...everybody knew, nobody cared, but I think it was such a time when you didn't talk about issues that were personal, and I think that made him much more secretive and reclusive, and I think that was probably quite a tough thing for him... — Susan Gaye Anderson
Kennedy himself never publicly acknowledged that he was gay, but his homosexuality was considered an open secret within the Australian entertainment industry.
In the 1960s Bob Dyer described him as "probably the loneliest young man in Australia."
Many years later, Kennedy wrote to a newspaper that a photographer,
taking pictures of Miss Cantrell and him leaving a restaurant together
asked if he could "hint at a romance". The following Sunday a poster
proclaimed "GRAHAM AND LANA TO WED". His former housekeeper, Mrs
Devona Fox, in the 2009 television documentary The Real Graham Kennedy
, produced by Bob Phillips, one of the producers from Kennedy's
breakthrough Channel 9 program In
Graham always told me right early on that he would never get married. He told me that his life was devastated when his parents split up, and he said straight out, "Mrs Fox, I'll never get married", so I never expected anything more of him than what did happen. Even when Lana Cantrell came into the scene I was puzzled and I did say to him why all this, and of course we all know it was good publicity. Lana came to the house and I had to go up, and have it all cleaned, ready for her and her party to come one Sunday night. And then on the Monday night, this great big announcement was going to be made that he was supposed to be engaged to Lana Cantrell. Well, the ratings went through the roof...
In his 2006 book King and I: My Life With Graham Kennedy, published by celebrity agent Anthony Zammit, broadcaster Rob Astbury stated that he and Kennedy had been lovers. Kennedy is portrayed as homosexual in the 2007 biopic The King .
He was a Freemason.
In 1991 Kennedy retired to a rural property at Canyonleigh , near
Kennedy's health declined during the 1990s. He was diabetic , and a heavy smoker and drinker. Throughout his illnesses, his friends Tony Sattler and Noeline Brown rallied to his aid.
On 18 December 2001 his housekeeper found him unconscious and dehydrated. Sattler said "Between the diabetes and the booze, there's not much left of him", adding that the death of Kennedy's dog Henry was "the final trigger".
On 14 June 2002 Kennedy was found unconscious at the foot of the stairs at his home, suffering a broken leg and skull with suspected brain damage.
His Canyonleigh property was sold, and he moved into a townhouse and later a nursing home.
Despite a career of high earnings, press reports said that his financial situation was, while not disastrous, insufficient to fund his ongoing care. Having made millions for the Packer family interests, he believed that "the Packers will always look after me".
According to Graeme Blundell 's biography, Tony Sattler:
spent several days ringing Kerry Packer's office Nursing was going to cost $3000 a week. 'We could cope for several years but not longer. After three days Di Stone, Mr Packer's personal assistant, called Sattler back: 'Mr Packer has considered his plight. Unfortunately, he is unable to assist.
Sattler received a phone call from an 'unnamed businessman' — ten minutes later there was a call from Graham's bank to tell Sattler that $150,000 had been deposited in the ailing comedian's account.
On 27 May 2005, Noeline Brown confirmed that the benefactor was Sam Chisholm .
However, Kennedy's will reportedly left a seven-figure sum to the Sydney City Mission .
On 2 February 2004, The Daily Telegraph said:
The king of Australian TV
Actor Graeme Blundell, who had worked with Kennedy on the movie The
Odd Angry Shot, published a biography of Kennedy, King: The Life and
In 2001 Kennedy's friend and Coast to Coast colleague, John Mangos, was reported as saying:
I can say to his beloved fans that they won't see Graham again. He won't appear publicly again; he is in his twilight. He has made a personal decision to disappear quietly into the sunset.
On 25 May 2005, aged 71, Kennedy died at the Kenilworth Nursing Home, Bowral, from complications from pneumonia .
John Mangos wrote in The Bulletin:
A week before his 69th birthday, he was bedridden and infirm. His wasted and frail, aching body could take no more. I paid a short and emotional visit. Still, the ashtray was by his bedside next to a radio tuned to ABC Radio National. I leaned over to kiss him on the forehead and he whispered, 'Don't get too close, it hurts'.
He also wrote:
I was often asked if he had cancer or AIDS. In fact at 67, he had diabetes, some rheumatism, the odd creaky joint, a healthy capacity to whinge and the usual symptoms connected with smoking and drinking. But by now the horses were gone and the dog had died. He was eating less and drinking more. One night, he fell down the stairs. He was discovered the next morning on the floor by his housekeeper. He was rushed to the local hospital where pneumonia in one lung was treated effectively and efficiently, a fracture near his hip was repaired and he was diagnosed with brain damage. We were to learn he had Korsakoff's syndrome (an alcohol-related condition) and we decided to keep it private.
Korsakoff\'s syndrome is a form of amnesia seen in chronic alcoholics ; briefly stated, victims eat too little and drink too much.
DERRYN HINCH CONTROVERSY
After his death, controversial
Tony Sattler offered the
Stuart Wagstaff presented the funeral, which was attended by many of
Kennedy's friends, colleagues and associates on the morning of 31 May
2005 in a small community theatre in the town of
Wagstaff's eulogy alluded to the claims made by
Delivering a eulogy for a close friend and for someone who was so much admired is never a happy occasion. Though I must confess I would be quite happy to deliver a eulogy for a certain media personality who's tried the second Kennedy assassination of our time... and failed.
Kennedy had never explicitly stated that he was homosexual, but at his funeral, his friends were at last free to make jokes, in a friendly way.
Four of Graham Kennedy's television shows were named in the program
50 Years 50 Shows which counted-down the top 50 Australian TV shows of
all time, as decided by ratings data and the opinions of 100
television industry professionals, on the
TELEMOVIE THE KING
A telemovie examining Kennedy's life titled The King began filming in
December 2006. It stars Stephen Curry as Kennedy and Stephen Hall as
Bert Newton, with
Garry McDonald ,
Shaun Micallef ,
The project, which cost $2.1 million, premiered on 20 May 2007 on TV1
(becoming the highest-rating drama to be shown on pay-TV ) to heavy
criticism by Kennedy's friends. Tony Sattler and his wife, actress
Noeline Brown, Kennedy's closest friends, said they were mortified by
the movie. "The film was obsessed with his homosexuality. I don't
think people cared about that....He was Australia's most famous,
successful entertainer but how much do we see of that in the film? We
see fuck all of it." The
* ^ Blundell, Graeme (2003). King: The Life and Comedy of Graham
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* ^ A B Blundell (2003), p. 9
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* ^ "St Kilda Historical Society newsletter" (PDF). July 2005.
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* ^ A B C D Mangos, John (7 June 2005). "The King and I". The
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* ^ "
* Blundell, Graeme (2003). King: The Life and Comedy of Graham Kennedy. Sydney: Pan Macmillan. ISBN 0-7329-1165-6 .
* Newton, Bert (1977). Bert! Bert Newton's Own Story. Toorak, Victoria, Australia: Garry Sparkes & Associates. ISBN 0-908081-24-3 .
* Stone, Gerald (2000). Compulsive Viewing: The inside story that rocked the TV industry. Sydney: Penguin. ISBN 0-7329-1165-6 .
* Lee, Nancy (1979). Being a Chum was Fun: the Story of Nancy Lee. Melbourne: Listen & Learn Productions. ISBN 0-9596136-1-7 .
* Astbury, Rob (2006). King and I. Sydney: DNA Publishers. ISBN 0-646-46454-X .