Celebrating Jeanne Little
BY BETH TAYLOR
The NFSA honours the work of comedian and entertainer Jeanne Little in a new curated collection featuring some of her funniest moments, cutting-edge fashion and vocal virtuosity.
Jeanne Little entertained millions of Australians with her work on daytime television from 1974 until her retirement in 2009.
Making us laugh and see the funny side of life, Jeanne's daughter Katie says she offers 'a little bit of fun and frivolity in an otherwise dull world'.
12 reasons to love Jeanne Little
- Fashion was her first love. The Mike Walsh Show booked her for the show in 1974 after seeing a photo of her modelling maternity wear from her ailing dressmaking boutique Jeanne Mitchell in Five Ways, Paddington.
- Jeanne had a go at anything. She tried paragliding, flying a plane, knife throwing, motorcycle riding, singing, dancing and acting for The Mike Walsh Show.
- Her Glad Bag Fashion Show competition on The Mike Walsh Show unlocked local design talent and inspired 5,000 garbage-bag dress entries.
- She almost appeared on Doctor Who! She was offered a role as the Doctor's mad Australian aunt but the deal was blocked by Actors' Equity in the UK.
- That voice is not an act! Her unique voice is the result of her Scottish family's accent combined with the Aussie twang, plus a childhood case of diphtheria which damaged her vocal chords and affected the pitch of her voice.
- She surprised everyone (including herself) with her beautiful singing voice, singing everything from Marlene Dietrich's classic 'Falling In Love Again' to a bikie version of 'Born to Be Wild'.
- She pioneered found-object fashion well before Lady Gaga's 'meat dress' and the thong dress from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). Jeanne created forward-thinking fashion from toast, milk bottle-tops, frankfurters and one-dollar coins.
- She could have been in Crocodile Dundee. Her husband Barry didn't like the script and unfortunately she turned down the cameo role in Paul Hogan's 1985 film.
- Jeanne overcame a stutter by elongating words like her trademark 'Ooooh, ahhhh, dahhhling'. She became a patron of the Australian Stuttering Foundation.
- The loveable ditziness is for real. A very intelligent woman, Jeanne still managed to get into all sorts of trouble: painting her teeth white with nail polish, melting the hair off her head in a DIY perming accident (see video below), and exploding the oven door trying to melt plastic in the oven.
- She came from humble beginnings. The youngest of seven children, Jeanne knew the importance of hard work and inventiveness.
- Jeanne supported many charities including Red Nose Day. Her family started the Jeanne Little Alzheimer's Research Fund after her diagnosis with the disease in 2009.
Why Jeanne wears wigs
Her comedy is at its best when she's telling stories about her life. Here Jeanne tells the story of a home perm job gone badly wrong: