As her memories fade, the larger-than-life showbiz darling is still very much in the hearts of her family and friends.
She was once the life of every party – a vibrant, triple-Logie-winning TV legend whose trademarks were those wild wigs, outrageous outfits and that unmistakable voice. These days, Jeanne Little sits quietly in her nursing home chair as the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease continue to rob her mind of memories – from times spent with her loving family, to her past glittering life as a colourful entertainer.
“What’s happened to Jeanne is truly heartbreaking,” says music icon Marcia Hines. “A kinder, warmer person you’d be hard pressed to meet. Behind the dizzy persona and those crazy garbage-bag dresses was a clever, generous woman. I love Jeanne, she’s my friend, someone incredibly sincere, and that’s a rarity in showbiz.”
Marcia met Jeanne in the 80s when they were both cast in the stage musical Jerry’s Girls. “Jeanne didn’t think she deserved to be in the show, that she didn’t have enough talent. I told her she had plenty, she was a star, and to enjoy the ride. We clicked instantly, and I’ve loved her ever since. It’s impossible to imagine this larger- than-life person in a nursing home. It’s a tragedy.”
Since she was diagnosed in 2009, the cruel disease has left Jeanne barely recognisable, says her daughter Katie Little Poulton, 38. “It took hold so quickly. Mum went into nursing care in 2010 and it was a shock. I’d drive home from visiting in tears. It’s still heartbreaking, but she seems more serene now.”
Read more about Jeanne Little's Alzheimer's battle in this week’s Woman’s Day on sale Monday April 9, 2012.