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Talking Heads -

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THEME MUSIC PETER THOMPSON: 'On Talking Heads, Jill Perryman. She became the first truly local star
of the big Broadway musicals. Now she's happy to be described as "doyenne", even "grand dame". How
about "living legend"?'

(SINGS) # Don't ask the lady... #

'Her name is synonymous with a host of productions, especially Hello, Dolly.'

# I'm staying where I'm at, fellas... #

From a theatrical family, Jill Perryman ended up on stage despite active discouragement, and so
have her own children. Perhaps theatre really does run in the blood. Jill Perryman, it's lovely to
meet you.

Great joy to be here. Thank you, Peter.

Thanks for coming on Talking Heads. Now, does an insanity for performance run in your family?

Yes, insanity is definitely the word, because I look back now and I think how fortunate I am that
I've sort of been in circus - when I say "been in", I was only two - but circus, radio, cabaret,
musical theatre, drama. I mean, I wouldn't say "bum" for sixpence, actually. (LAUGHS)

What are the moments that are fondest for you?

Oh, dear, there are so many. I love Miss Hannigan, cos the funny thing is I can look back now and
say I was the original... It sounds egotistical, but I was the original Miss Hannigan in Annie,
well, the original Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly, and I think this is amazing, cos I've been in shows
that I've been in the actual revivals. I've done a couple of revivals...

30 years later!

Yes, well, Side By Side, Hello, Dolly. And I think, "Goodness me!" But Annie, I loved. I loved
being a stinker. All my career, I've been sort of a bit goody-goody until I did things like Death
Of A Salesman, but I have wonderful memories for every show I've done.

You were really the first Australian star of a big Australian musical.

Well, I suppose I was in the fact that it made people confident that Australians could do it. I
mean, the Australian audiences used to love to hear an American accent, but when I did Funny Girl,
the audiences then changed their... It was really the audiences that sort of accepted Australians
then. # Then you career from career to career # I'm almost through my memoirs # And I'm here... # I
don't think my sister and I went to one school for longer than, oh, a month or so at a time, and we
were living in trains and sleeping in bottom drawers of dressing tables and wardrobes, and I don't
think we've suffered, expect for the slight insane streak in our family, but apart from that you
couldn't get a happier family. My parents were in the theatre, and we were actually touring with
Wirth's Circus in a production of White Horse Inn.

NOSTALGIC MUSIC

We had the back section of the train, the very last section of the train. That was Perryman
Mansion, as they used to call it, and it must have been very hard on my mum because, I mean, there
were no washing machines in those days. And my mother told me that once she had to walk two miles
to wash my clothes in water that she totally accepted.

CARNIVAL MUSIC

Wirth's Circus was a very strong force in those days, and we actually performed, from what I can
vaguely remember, under the big tent. We'd travelled 10,000 miles before I was two, and they were
places like Charters Towers, Townsville, Tamworth. Mainly up north, it seemed to be. The circus
people would perform, then they'd go bush and the centre of the area of the circus would be
rearranged, and then a production of White Horse Inn would go on. And my mother was playing the
postmistress, my father was the professor, and I don't know how it happened, but I was left in the
dressing-room to have a sleep - I was two. Must have woken up, heard the music, wandered onstage,
whatever the stage was, looking for my mother. I wandered on, got a round of applause, and they
said, "We'll make her a costume," which is now under glass in the Victoria Arts Centre. If that
doesn't make you feel old, nothing does! But that was my debut at the age of two, but I retired at
three. That was when the show finished, you see. (LAUGHS)

Back in those Depression days, was there much money to go to the circus?

No, well, you'd always You'd always get your money's worth. I can remember, though - it's probably
the only memory I've got, apart from a few of them touring on the train - and they used to bring
out the tiny, wee ponies, all with the feathers on their heads and everything, looking beautiful,
and I was always held onto the front pony as it did the complete circle around the ring, and I can
remember that very, very clearly, which is a wonderful memory to have.

What about your mum and dad? Where did their talent come from?

Mum was from Adelaide, and she nearly killed her mum and dad when she said, "I'd like to go into
the theatre." I think she was about 17. She was a very beautiful-looking woman and, of course, she
clapped eyes on Dad when she was 19.

There's something to that story. It's more than clapping eyes on Dad.

Mum was sitting up on top of a pile of the staircase that was used in the show. They were having a
rehearsal. She's up on the top. Dad walks in in a Tussah silk suit with a monocle... Can you
imagine? I get so embarrassed when I say this. ..a monocle on the eyeball, a cane. He was only a
young man.

This is not his costume. This is what he's wearing?

No, this is him, coming back from India. And Mum said to her girlfriend, "I'm going to marry him,"
and six weeks later they were married with the most idyllic marriage, and that was it.

Was there theatre in your dad's family?

No, not at all. None at all. My father was told that he would either end up a millionaire or in
jail, one of the two. But he had a beautiful voice...

So, he was a wag, was he?

He was a wag, he was a wag. But he ended up on station 2KY in Sydney as a radio announcer.

You used to make lots of use of the 2KY record library, didn't you?

Oh, yes, I certainly did.

How old were you then?

Oh, eight, nine? Cos my dad... I used to go in with him on a Sunday afternoon cos I love my
classical music. I've never been a pop music person. Even with musical shows that I've done, I
would only buy the recording if it was a show I'd done where I had to learn a song or something.

So, Jill, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Now, you'll laugh at this. I wanted to work in a drycleaner's or be a lady butcher. Now, isn't that
strange? Because, see, I was never taught anything. I was never taught singing, dancing and all
those things which, in retrospect, I would love to have been taught. But my parents, because they'd
gone through the Depression years, weren't that crash-hot keen on either me or my sister going into
the industry. My parents were not political, even though these were very, very political times, but
their only concern, really, was for the family. My dad thought, after we'd done the touring, that
Sydney would be the best place, even though I was born in Melbourne. In 1953, I turned up for an
audition. I'd been working in various establishments, frocks, coats, suits and maternity fashions.
I got a phone call from the lass on the switchboard at J.C. Williamson's, who said, "Look, Jill,
are you still applying for work in the theatre?" And I said, "Yes." She said, "Well, they're having
an open audition tomorrow for Call Me Madam." I sang, but I sang the song that the star sings, that
Evie Hayes was singing, which is something you never do. (SINGS) # Your heart goes pitter-patter...
# (MUMBLES WORDS) # ..the matter # Because I've been there once or twice... # I think we'd better
stop there. (LAUGHS) I mean, it's a long time ago. Oh, that was good. I enjoyed that. (LAUGHS)

APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

I was selected to be a member of the chorus and to understudy Evie, but I never, ever expected
anything else to come out of it, you know?

WOMAN: This is Her Majesty's Theatre in Sydney, Australia.

Working for J.C. Williamson's was possibly the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I loved
them, funnily enough, before the theatres were tarted up, cos I loved the grottiness backstage.
There's something wrong with me, because I think I'd have been happy in the chorus for the rest of
my life. I just loved being there. The rest of my career that evolved was a total shock.

So, let's just get this clear - you actually kept sending letters, day after day after day, to J.C.
Williamson's, didn't you?

In those days, at the Theatre Royal in Sydney, which was in Castlereagh Street, there used to be a
little box that was full of papers and pencils, and you would fill in a form and give your name,
experience, address and all the details, you see. And, of course, I thought, when I found out about
this, I thought, "How wonderful." I thought I'd be contacted next week to come in and, you know, be
in the chorus. Such was not the case, because I filled out a piece of paper every day for a year.

So, here they are. They're saying, "We can't stand it any longer. Get this Jill Perryman in, for
goodness sake!"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, put her on!" Where I know that I wasn't very popular, I came in, did the
audition for Call Me Madam, and when I was given the understudy to Evie Hayes, the other members of
the chorus, they weren't very happy. "Who IS this girl that's come in?"

Well, you sang her song, as you say.

Yes - it was years later that my friends, the girls that became my friends that were very wary of
me, they'd say, "Oh, we hated you when you came into the company. We thought, 'Oh, who IS this
girl?'" This and that. But they said, "We realised that you're quite a nice old tart underneath..."

(LAUGHS)

"..and so we realised that you weren't trying to," you know, "get us out of the way to push
yourself forward."

Now, you were with the firm, which was the only show in town, really.

Yes, it was.

J.C. Williamson's. What was it like working under the one roof? Everything was being done under the
one roof.

It was the only organisation in the world where you could get wigs, costumes, make-up. Everything
was under the one roof, and this is what impressed people like - I was going to say Stephen
Sondheim, but that would be name-dropping a wee bit. That was what impressed...

Why NOT say Stephen Sondheim? (BOTH LAUGH)

Well, he sort of had come out, and he was impressed to find that everything was under the one roof.
And the one thing that I missed whenever I go back to the Maj in Melbourne, there used to be... as
you opened the stage door, there used to be an onrush of the smell of Size, which is the glue that
they used to do with the sets and the backdrops and everything. It was awful, but it was made out
of...it's horse glue, really. But to me, it was like Chanel No 5. I really miss that. It's like the
old Leichner make-up and everything.

The really big breakthrough for you was Hello, Dolly, which you performed in 1965, and then again
in 1995.

You can't beat public demand - twice in 30 years.

(MEN SING) # Hello, Dolly # Well, hello, Dolly

# Glad to see you, Hank Let's thank our lucky stars

# Your lucky stars

# You're looking great, Stanley # Lose some weight, Stanley # Dolly's overjoyed and overwhelmed and
over par... # I must have been awful in those early performances. You know, I must have been like
Rita the robot. # I'm Sadie, Sadie Married lady... # But from that came Funny Girl, because Fred
Hebert, who was the director of Dolly, came in to me one night and he said to me, "Have you ever
heard of a show called Funny Girl?" And I said, "No." # To tell the truth # It hurt my pride # The
groom was prettier than the bride... # So, a month later I got a phone call from my girlfriend, all
excited, congratulating me about what I'd got, and I said, "What have I got?" She said, "You've got
Funny Girl." Nobody told me. So, I thought, "Ooh, that's nice." # Out from nowhere comes a
maniac... # If I'd realised what was on my shoulders I might have panicked a bit, but I thought,
"Oh, no, this is lovely. I shall do this."

Private Schwartz # Private Schwartz from Rockaway... #

MAN: Oh, sure. (CLEARS THROAT) Perryman On Parade.

NOSTALGIC MUSIC

I prefer being a character in a play or a musical. I love being a character. I don't like being
myself as me. Take it away! # The night is long # The skies are clear... # I find theatre the most
satisfyingly frustrating industry to be in. It is so satisfying when you get something right, and
it's so frustrating when you can't quite get there. (SINGS SONG IN PIDGIN SPANISH) You've got to be
insane to be in it, you really do. When one is blessed with the right partner, I think we should be
very grateful. It's a comfortable inner feeling that seems to pervade your whole existence.

(SINGS) # By George, I swear I would trust her... #

I was dragged kicking and screaming from the eastern States to live over here when we first came. I
really didn't want to come, but I thought, "My bloke has been so wonderful. He's a West Australian.
I must go to WA."

Jill, there's a real story behind that dress in Hello, Dolly.

Oh, is there ever. I reckon the guys that design these clothes really hate women, because they're
made so heavy. That gown weighed nearly 60kg.

60kg?!

And it had a...

Almost as much as you do!

They said it was like carrying around two labrador dogs. But the thing was, it had a mind of its
own, because at the top of the stairs before the actual number of the Hello, Dolly where she comes
down the stairs with the waiters on either side, sort of doing... (SINGS) # Hello, Harry # Well,
hello, Louie... # ..as she comes down the stairs, I was standing up and my dresser would establish
me firmly there, and she'd arrange the skirt so that when the curtains parted there I was in all my
glory, you see? And as the dresser left me, she must have... Well, she did. She just sort of moved
the bottom of the skirt, which had this huge frill. Well, the skirt thought, "I'm going to go down
these stairs," you see? The skirt started - cos it had a train - the skirt started to go down the
stairs. Well, I had to brace my legs like a footballer to stop from being pulled over. As I passed
these guys, instead of... (SINGS) # Hello, Harry # Well, hello, Louie... # ..I'm going... (SINGS) #
Hello, Harry Well, hello... # I just had to keep on going until I hit the bottom. But the force of
that gown was absolutely amazing. It had a mind of its own.

Well, Hello, Dolly transitioned on to Funny Girl. How did that come about?

Fred Hebert had been instructed from Broadway, "We have to have an American," and they'd auditioned
everybody in the States to come out, as was the usual thing, and he said, "No, I think we've got
this Australian girl that can do it." And that's what sort of started the ball rolling for me. But
the funny thing was, I'd finished Funny Girl, then they didn't know what to do with me.

APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

I feel as though I'm back on home territory, even though it's a long time since I've been at the
ABC, not since Perryman on Parade.

What about in the '70s with those television shows - An Evening With Jill Perryman, Jill.

Gosh.

Must have been nice having all of that.

Well, it was lovely. But, like everything else, I just took it with a grain of salt. I loved it.
All forms of entertainment, I love, really.

(SINGS) # You are too wonderful # To be what you seem... #

You seem like you've always had your ego under control. You've been a bit surprised by your
success.

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. You know, I feel as though, you know, when you say, "Somebody up there
likes me," I think that the way my whole life has evolved has been a total surprise, surprise as
far as sort of success and joy in what I'm doing and being able to combine both career and family,
which is, you know, pretty rare, I think, mainly because I've got the right bloke, I s'pose.

Moving to Perth must have been a hell of an adjustment.

It was. I didn't want to go because, I mean, my life was the eastern States. But, having gone to
Perth, it opened up another... You know, as I always said, everything happens for a reason, and the
reason I needed to go to Perth was to get involved in dramatic theatre, and Perth did me a lot of
good because every time I'd come back to Sydney to work, I'd come back like an import, you know,
which was very nice.

Like an overseas star, was it?

Exactly, exactly. Without any of the responsibilities, you know. Nine years is up again and the
dreaded reunion visits us once more. I've lived through it five times. So have you. If you're not
careful, it could become very self-indulgent this time round. Changi was special to me, cos I was
working with all old mates - Bud Tingwell, Frank Wilson, Bill Kerr, you know, people of my vintage
that, when we spoke about people, we knew who we were talking about.

I only have eyes for you.

I hadn't realised the power of television in those days. I love you too.

WOMAN: Entertainers Jill Perryman and choreographer husband Kevan Johnston were a rare double. Both
were honoured for their services to the performing arts.

I'm very pleased that Jill got an Australian award. Like she said, she had an MBE, but I felt for
someone who'd really made her name purely in Australia and hadn't had an Australian award, I think
it's great.

This was my first one. That's a Penguin for Perryman On Parade. AFI award for Maybe This Time, in
the films, and M o. I love him. He's our doorstop.

MAN: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Miss Jill Perryman.

APPLAUSE

I'm very proud to have these wonderful awards, but because I don't think of myself as a creative
person - I think I'm interpretive. (SINGS) # Ask what the lady's doing now... #

Is it nurture or nature that shapes our destiny? Either way we look at it, I guess I'm a living
experiment. I mean, I grew up in a place like this. This is me as a baby. My parents are Jill
Perryman and Kevan Johnston, so you could say performance was certainly going to have a strong
influence on my life.

People always say to me in my profession, "You shouldn't have children in the theatre." All I can
say is, piffle!

Well, your whole family, as we've been saying, is steeped in theatre. The next generation is too.

It's interesting, and we've both performed onstage with our kiddies. Well, "kiddies" - they'll kill
when I say that. But Tod, you know, we're known as Tod Johnston's parents in Perth. He's an
entertainer, he's done television, radio. And our daughter, as I said, I've learnt more from her, I
mean, in terms of Ibsen, Shakespeare, Chekhov, all those sort of things that she has studied as her
theory, that when I go along to the theatre with her, I come out better.

What's the singing voice like these days?

Not bad. A bit of Vera the vibrato, you know. You could drive a bit of a truck through it. But...

So, you change it. You adapt, do you?

Well, I've adapted. I've learnt different techniques.

Very wise.

I mean, there are some songs I wouldn't sing again now, but others that have lovely words or comedy
words, I can still get through those all right. The audience don't know. (LAUGHS)

Do you still say a prayer before you go onstage?

Oh, my word I do.

What's the prayer?

"In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Never let me be put to confusion."

Put to confusion?

Exactly. And then I walk out and forget my lines. (LAUGHS) No, I don't. No, I don't. But I've had
some funny experiences. One of the characters I had to work with onstage, his name was Henry
Erminroid, and I called him Ernie Haemorrhoid.

(BOTH LAUGH)

Which got a good laugh, but not from the fellow I was performing with. That's terrible. Terrible.

I can see why it got a good laugh.

Living in the hills, it's the smells I think I miss.

(LAUGHS)

No, I'm not talking about you, Kevan.

That's all right. Charming.

Cos, see, I'm a winter person. I LOVE the winter. And I used to love to watch the mist and the fog
coming down the hill that's behind us. See, "suburban" is a word that might offend some people.
"Suburban", to me, is just being one of the gang. Well, we lived here 30-odd years, which was such
a happy time for us, even though the house was falling down, but it's now been so lovingly restored
by Tod and his wife, as they did our house, our original house, and I just feel as though... I felt
happy that it's gone to somebody that will dearly love it, you know, as we have. In my early days
in the theatre, I used to ache - it was almost like a physical pain - to go onstage and perform.
Now, that ache has eased and I'm very pleased, because I wouldn't like to go into my older years
still wanting to perform all the time.

(ALL SING ROUSING SONG)

When I did the concert with Tod at the Maj, Kevan had said, "Look, Jill, you'll have to sing People
because everybody expects you to sing People," and I'm not happy now, at my age, to sing that song,
cos I remember as I used to do it. So, Tod had said, "Look, Mum," he said, "look, I could sing
People."

I said.

Mmm? Oh, did you? And I went... (SINGS) # People... # Go on, what's the second line? What's the
second word? # People who need people... # And then... # Are the luckiest people in the world... #
And then the orchestra, or the band filled up, and then it came in with him, and he said... # We're
children needing other children... #

And there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Even Tod and I. I said, "I'm not going to cry!"

Him singing it to his mother.

"I can't stand theatricals that cry onstage!"

It was a lovely moment.

It was a beautiful moment, because he had known the song, and I knew that he was singing so well,
you know, and it was just a beautiful moment.

A lovely moment. It was really schmalzy.

But I know if I do anything now, it's got to be on my terms, what I can do, you know.

Yeah, it's always on her terms.

I've learnt a lot of tricks.

You noticed that, didn't you?

Yes, of course.

It's always on her terms.

Of course it is.

I hope you're not taping all this rubbish.

(LAUGHS)

You probably are, ya bum!

There's a unique insight into the dynamics of a couple that have lived together 50 years, nearly.

Absolutely, both talking at the same time, which is the story of our life. We're absolutely hell to
be interviewed if we're doing a show together, because Kevan will start a sentence and I will
finish it and we seem to know what the next one's going to say, you know?

How lucky do you rate yourself with the life you've led?

I've been blessed all along the way. I wouldn't change anything. And I think it's because I've been
able to combine a career with my wonderful family.

Jill, it's been just a pleasure talking to you.

Pardon my cold hand. Isn't it terrible? I always seem to get cold.

Thanks for coming on Talking Heads.

Thank you, Peter.

Captions By CSI 'Next week on Talking Heads, Robyn Davidson.'

You think about who you are and where you are, and what you're doing, and what it's all about.

'A woman on a quest to find her true self with a camel, as you do. Monday, 6:30.' MAN: 'Wednesday
on The Cook And The Chef...'

Never seen one bigger.

'..it's all about avocados.'

They are so perfect doing nothing to them.

'Avocados - that's The Cook And The Chef, Wednesday at 6:30.'

This program is not subtitled

block

CC

tonight Beijing goes out with bang.

these were truly exceptional Games.

all as London kicks off as London kicks off its Olympic campaign. and a top footballer sidelined
over a News. I'm Virginia Haussegger - China's party is over Maya the Olympic torch is 2012 will be
Britain's third Olympics. organisers say they cannot match cannot match China's financial muscle
will give it the best of British. as for Beijing the Games ended as they began with with a display
of passion, precision Maya here is Lisa Millar.

we have