Barry Humphries battled a secret battle with incurable cancer for years before his death last week.
The Australian actor and comedian, known for his alter ego Dame Edna Everage, passed away on April 22 at the age of 89 from a recent hip operation.
As he said his goodbyes on Friday surrounded by family and close friends, reports emerged that Humphries’ health was “complex” during the last years of his life.
‘Close family sources’ confirmed to the The Saturday Telegraph he had been diagnosed with Paget’s disease outside the breast, a rare form of skin cancer, in 2021 after noticing “something unusual” on one of his testicles while in the shower.
He underwent surgery after this initial discovery, but after his recent hip surgery, doctors realized “the extent of the cancer that … would take his life in six weeks.”
Barry Humphries (pictured in Sydney on March 17, 2017) battled a secret battle with inoperable cancer for years before his death last week
“I had Paget’s rare extramammary disease, which was first noticed in the shower — so it was a general anesthetic and the knife,” he explained in his column for The Oldies magazine at the time.
Humphries was said goodbye at a private funeral by family and friends, who made last-minute arrangements to attend after being advised only 24 hours in advance.
The private ceremony took place Friday at his longtime friend and artist Tim Storrier’s Bowral estate in the NSW Southern Highlands.
The Australian actor and comedian, known for his alter ego Dame Edna Everage (pictured), died on April 22 at the age of 89 from a recent hip operation. As he said goodbye on Friday, surrounded by family and close friends, reports emerged that his health was “complex” during the final years of his life.
Humphries’ wife, Lizzie Spender, is leaving for London on Saturday and guests were not told until Thursday evening that his funeral would take place the following day. The Australian reported.
“It was a small affair, just family and close friends,” said film director Bruce Beresford.
Also at the ceremony were Humphries’ sons Oscar and Rupert, who had flown in from London, as well as his daughters Emily and Tessa, brother Christopher and sister Barbara.
Beresford said no speeches were given, but excerpts from some of Humphries’ favorite poems were read, including three verses from his favorite poem, The Heart of a Friend by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
‘Close family sources’ confirmed that he had been diagnosed with Paget’s disease, a rare form of skin cancer, in 2021 after noticing ‘something unusual’ on one of his testicles while taking a shower. He underwent surgery after this initial discovery, but after his recent hip surgery, doctors realized “the extent of the cancer that would take his life in six weeks.”
Humphries said goodbye at a private funeral at the Bowral estate of his old friend and artist Tim Storrier (pictured here with his portrayal of Sir Les Patterson, one of Humphries’ most famous comic characters, in 2014)
“It was very moving, very warm. Everyone was family or a close friend of Barry’s,” said Beresford.
Humphries was an art lover, an avid collector of contemporary art and an amateur painter himself.
His passion for art was shared with Storrier, one of his best friends, who once painted a ten-foot portrait of Humphries as his alter ego Sir Les Patterson, which won the Packing Room Prize among the 2014 Archibald Prize entries.
After the actor’s death, Storrier wrote, “It seems like a greater loss when a person who made us all laugh passes away.
“As we all know when the jester dies, the king complains. Vale, old man.’
Humphries (pictured as Dame Edna) was an art lover, an avid collector of contemporary art and an amateur painter herself
Humphries returned to Sydney for Christmas in December. However, he subsequently fell, leading to his hip replacement surgery.
“He was completely himself until the end and never lost his brilliant mind, his unique wit and generosity,” his family said in a statement.
His family was previously in talks with the Victorian government about a possible state funeral for the star. It is unclear whether that will continue.
Creative Industry Minister Steve Dimopoulos revealed earlier this week that talks were underway with the entertainer’s loved ones about the best ways to honor his legacy.
“The main mover of these things is the family, because it is their gift to decide effectively in dialogue with the government,” Dimopoulos said on Sunday.
So yes, that could be it (a state funeral). It could be much more.’
Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said Humphries would live on through his iconic writing and larger-than-life characters, most notably Dame Edna Everage who put the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds on the map.
‘But in the end he was a boy from Kew with big dreams. And he reached them,” he posted on Twitter.
NSW counterpart Chris Minns said Humphries has popularized Australian larrikinism on the world stage, but he doesn’t want to “front-line” potential gestures or ceremonies in Sydney.
“(He was) an Australian legend and someone we’d like to honor,” he said.
According to the Daily Telegraph, “close family sources” confirm his private struggle