Inimitable showbiz performer Jeanne Little, best known for her catchphrase “Hello Dahhhling!” has died, aged 82.
Her daughter Katie confirmed in a Facebook post her mother had died, following a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
She became a household name through her outrageous appearances on The Mike Walsh Show, initially on 10. She first appeared on the show when she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant in 1974 to plug her ailing dressmaking business. Her larger-than-life character made her an instant hit with audiences and she went on to become an Australian television fixture for the next 30 years, taking out two Silver Logies and the Gold Logie in 1976.
On The Mike Walsh Show on Nine she wore gaudy costumes and wigs, years before Lady Gaga and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. She made home-made frocks of alfoil, garbage bags, bubble wrap and toast- and hats she has made out of food including pizza, french fries, crumpets, bangers and mash, ice cream cones and frankfurters in honour of Melbourne Cup day.
She held audiences captivated with her loud voice, fashionista style and sense of daring, all with an innate Australian sense of self-irreverence.
“Initially, I was probably this frenetic…overdressed maniac,” she once said, “but I think over the years people have sort of got to know me more and I’m always sort of, you know, on different shows, and talking here and there and everything, and I do think that, um…I’m sort of accepted now.”
It was followed by similar appearances on Midday with Ray Martin, Good Morning Australia and later The Bert Newton Show on Seven where she hosted a “Housewife Superstar” talent search.
Little was also a regular on Beauty & the Beast hosted by Stan Zemanek. She performed at the Royal Command Bicentennial Concert before the Prince and Princess of Wales and toured in Jerry’s Girls with Debra Byrne, Marcia Hines, Judie Connelli, Angela Ayres before Legends with Kerrie Biddell, Toni Lamond and Nancye Hayes. In cabaret she performed Marlene, her one woman tribute to Marlene Dietrich.
But Jeanne developed a stutter as a teenager and sought treatment when it resurfaced in 1983. She developed her drawling ‘Dahhling’ as a way of moderating her stutter, becoming a patron of The Australian Stuttering Foundation.
In 2009 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease which impacted so rapidly, she was sadly in care by the age of 70. It would continue for a cruel 11 years.
“It’s no wonder every housewife around Australia was turning the television on and going ‘What is she doing this week?’” said devoted daughter Katie, “because she made life fun.”