Working with Dame Edna Everage made me a better work possum

My face was so close to Barry Humphries’ I could’ve kissed him. I was being paid to do this and I was terrified.

This was about 20 years ago. I was employed at Myer as an advertising stylist and on that day was working on the set of a TV campaign starring the star of Christmas, Dame Edna Everage. A memory I hadn’t stopped to properly recall until recently. 

The experience left an impression. Working with international luminaries who are godlike in their interactions can be paralysing. They, because of who they are, can leave you awestruck. Also, these people are such masters of their calling that they set the bar of professionalism high enough to make it exhausting to work in their presence. But, it can make you better at what you do.

Between takes, Dame Edna commanded quite a presence under the pomp of her heavily powdered glitz and glamour. All day I fumbled through and worked in silence around this theatrical phenomenon. The Dame wasn’t the easiest star to work with. She rejected film crew catering, instead calling in gourmet nibbles from an exclusive cafe in Kew. And then there was a demand for silk socks, which my colleague found, against unreasonable odds.

These days I do a lot of work with big events – live music, fashion and the arts, corporate and political functions, large creative experiments. These events take me to interesting places. I’ve worked alongside other international godlike luminaries and I’d like to think I’m better at managing these interactions, moving with grace and being able to take big personalities in my stride. I don’t forget the bar that Dame Edna set for me, and I keep it in mind when working alongside the next generation of superstars. Some can be obnoxious and insincere, but most are inspiring and worthy of the star power. While I enjoy it, I am there as a professional and I always work to that very high bar.

Except that one time after the shoot, when I snuck into her dressing room and tried on Dame Edna’s glasses. Please don’t tell anyone.

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