HELLO Daaaahling! That voice… that bouffant hair… those huge eyes and false eyelashes… and those outfits! Jeanne Little was personality personified.
She burst onto our television screens and into our loungerooms with her first appearance on the Mike Walsh Show back in 1974. And we didn’t know what had hit us.
That raucous voice, the catchcry “Hello Daaaaahling”, would soon enter the Australian vernacular. She was an instant sensation.
So much so that she won the Gold Logie for Most Popular TV Personality just two years later.
What must it have been like growing up with a mother who was known for fashioning outfits from squares of toast, rubber gloves, hot pink balloons or plastic sandwich wrap?
Jeanne Little’s only child, Katie M Little, explains life with her unconventional mother in a new book, Catch A Falling Star.
Jeanne was pregnant with Katie when she first hit our screens, so this is a first-hand look at what it was like to be Jeanne Little and her darling daughter.
“I grew up backstage, taken everywhere with her,” Katie writes. “In my mind I can retrace our steps as I held her hand and followed her into the labyrinth of the Channel 9 studios.”
She recalls walking down the channel 9 corridors graced with glossy posters of rising stars including Paul Hogan, Tony Barber, Jana Wendt and Don Lane – “who all had enormous eighties hair and shoulder pads, brilliant smiles and eyes that would follow me down the corridor like paintings in a haunted mansion”.
While we laughed along with the stick-thin empress of fun fashion, Jeanne was later to show she had so much more to give.
As unthinkable as it seemed to so many, she won a part in Jerry Herman’s Australian production of the hit musical Gerry’s Girls, in which she had to dance – and sing!
With help from her husband Barry and dancing tips from Katie, Jeanne set to work. And the show was a hit.
Fast forward to 2010 and Jeanne’s name is again in the headlines. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“In 2018, 10 years after diagnosis, my mother Jeanne Little is still alive,” writes Katie, who is patron of the Jeanne Little Alzheimer’s Research Fund.
“She is one of an estimated almost 50 million people worldwide ‘living with dementia’.”
This heartbreakingly honest book will have you laughing out loud, shedding a tear and being presented with a rare glimpse into the personal life of one of Australia’s most beloved celebrity families.
Catch A Falling Star, New Holland Publishers, RRP $29.99.