Friends of Barry Humphries have gone on an extraordinary spray against Nine entertainment editor Richard Wilkins after it was announced he would be emceeing the late comedian’s state memorial later this year.
Friends were reportedly left so “aghast” when news broke that Dickie, 69, would be hosting the much-anticipated event at the Sydney Opera House on December 15 that many inside their friendship circle and some key family members, such as Barry’s widow and fourth wife, Lizzie Spender, and Emily, his daughter to his second wife Rosalind, are planning to boycott the event.
“Like a number of Barry’s friends, I was amazed and aghast that Nine personality Richard Wilkins was chosen to be the MC at this important event,” Professor Ross Fitzgerald, a friend of Barry’s for more than 60 years, told the media last week.
“I am also very puzzled how this happened. I had someone contact the NSW Premier’s department, who said everything had been run past Lizzie Spender and the children and had their approval. But that is just not true.
Ross added that Barry’s daughter Emily was not aware of Dickie’s appointment and found “it very hard to believe that members of the family and the children, for example, would have approved this”.
“It is important for me to stress, Richard Wilkins seems to be a nice bloke, but like a number of Barry’s friends, he seems to us and to me and to Emily to be an inappropriate choice. He certainly seems to me to have no gravitas and little if any sense of humour.”
Ross concluded that, while he wished the memorial all the best, he would not be attending. Despite the upset, Dickie is refusing to step down, saying in a statement that he was “honoured and humbled to be asked by Barry’s family to perform the role of MC at
his State Memorial”.
“I had the enormous pleasure of spending a great deal of personal and professional time with Barry over many decades… and developed profound love and respect for him.”
Even one of Dickie’s main competitors, Seven’s entertainment reporter Peter Ford, weighed in on the drama. And while he admitted he “probably, for myself, wouldn’t have given him this particular one [gig],” he gave sympathy to Dickie for getting caught in the middle of what seemed to be a “rancid” family feud.
“There are factions within the family,” Peter told 3AW Breakfast last week. “You can’t have five different people barking instructions at you, especially if those five people are all on different pages,” he added, hinting that Lizzie may have approved of Dickie without consulting the other members of the family.
“How much must you hate Richard Wilkins for you not to go to your father’s funeral? That’s fairly extraordinary.”
This isn’t the first time that factions within the Humphries family have come to light. In 2017, Barry’s son Oscar shocked fans when he announced on social media that he was “changing my name”, after being allegedly told during a lunch that he was disinherited from the family’s estate.
“New name. I never wanted the little bit of money anyway. Liberating after the shock. The feeling is, ‘Well, I’ll do it myself,'” he said.