Marilyn Mayo: ‘I’m so lucky to be alive’

TV fave Miss Marilyn gives her first interview in 15 years!
Loading the player...

When the cork pops from a bottle of champagne, former children’s TV host Marilyn Mayo’s face lights up and she beams her famous smile.

“It’s been a totally hellish four years, but made all the more tolerable thanks to the love of close friends, the unstinting dedication of my two stepdaughters, Lillian and Katrina, plus a cheeky glass
of wine or champagne,” smiles the Logie-winning TV queen who enchanted countless kids in the ’70s as Miss Marilyn on The Super Flying Fun Show.

It was her time on SFFS that garnered her national fame. (Image: Philip Castleton)

As she settles in to give her first interview in over a decade, Marilyn explains that her health ordeal began in May, 2020. She was at her inner-city Sydney apartment with her partner of more than 30 years, Jim Photios.

“I’d felt perfectly fine, then out of the blue I began to feel strange. It was like a black curtain closing in around me. I fell to the floor. The next thing I wake up in St Vincent’s hospital ICU. I’d suffered a massive stroke,” recalls Marilyn, 80.

“It was a thalamic brain haemorrhage and I heard specialists discussing whether I’d pull through… that if I did, I may never walk or talk again. It was terrifying, it was surreal and it was an unfolding nightmare.”

Marilyn remained in hospital for three months. When she was released from ICU, so began intensive physiotherapy before being transferred to a Sydney care home.

“Almost four years on, I’m learning to walk but it’s a slow, sometimes frustrating process. But I keep smiling. There are always other people worse off. I’ve always tried to remain upbeat in everything I’ve done. My showbiz mantra was keep smiling no matter what happens.”

The star still keeps in touch with Marty. (Image: Philip Castleton)


Marilyn began her TV career as a dancer in the ’60s on The Bobby Limb Show, before appearing on The Barry Crocker Show and Brian Henderson’s Bandstand. Then, in 1970, she found fame as Miss Marilyn on The Super Flying Fun Show.

She later starred as Dusty the barmaid on the ’80s soapie Holiday Island before becoming a popular panellist on TV’s Beauty & The Beast hosted by John Laws and then Clive Robertson.

“I loved my decades on TV, especially guesting on drama series like Home And Away, Water Rats, Heartbreak High, E Street and A Country Practice, before retiring in 2000.”

While Marilyn’s speech is slower, her famous husky tones remain instantly recognisable… but she is concerned that chunks of her memory have vanished.

“I have moments of my life I can’t recall at all. I look at a photo and think, ‘Where was that?’ The stroke affected my left leg, which doesn’t work, and my right arm has a mind of its own. I sometimes have no control over what it does. I’ve learned to make the best of a bad situation, though. Rather than lying in bed, I get myself off to the nursing home beauty salon and have a haircut, regular manicures and pedicures and get my eyebrows done. I look better, which makes me feel better. It’s a tonic.

“I’ve also realised that pink is the most flattering colour for me. I’m like a Barbara Cartland vision!” she wisecracks.

With her stepdaughters Lillian and Katrina. (Image: Philip Castleton)


Marilyn’s eldest stepdaughter Lillian Lyon, 60, says she has an innate survival superpower. “We feared she may not make it, but we should have known better. There’s only one way for Marilyn, and that’s forward,” she smiles.

“Marilyn’s been through the wringer. It was a double whammy. Her partner Jim died of cancer eight months after Marilyn’s stroke. But she kept going, determined to get better. It’s small steps, but she’s getting there. She’s a total inspiration, and despite everything, she has the best sense of humour.”

Katrina Medina, 59, is in awe of her stepmum’s fighting spirit. “Quite simply, she’s Wonder Woman. We love her so much.”

Marilyn says she could never have made the journey without the love of those close to her. “I’m in heaven when friends drop in. Marty Morton (her The Super Flying Fun Show sidekick, with Emu) pops in from time to time… and sometimes he’ll bring the Fun Show wheel. He makes me laugh. I love to laugh.

“I was blown away when a group of old school friends came by,” she adds, before cheekily admitting that she’s become the champion of nursing home trivia!

“I take each day as it comes, and I do so with a smile. Being miserable is pointless.”

Related stories