Lorrae Desmond

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Lorrae Desmond

Eva Rinaldi (6640170921).jpg
Desmond in 2012
Born
Beryl Hunt[1]

(1929-10-02)2 October 1929[1][2]
Died23 May 2021(2021-05-23) (aged 91)
Other names
  • Sheila Hunt
  • Beryl Gorshenin
  • Lorrae Gorshenin
Occupation
  • Actress
  • singer
  • recording artist
  • television presenter
  • radio presenter
  • theatre lyricist
Years active1945–2001 (retired)
Spouse(s)
Alex Gorshenin
(m. 1963⁠–⁠1976)
Awards

Lorrae Desmond AM, MBE (2 October 1929 – 23 May 2021)[a] born as Beryl Hunt,[4] was an Australian Gold Logie-award-winning singer, recording artist, radio and television presenter, character actress, and playwright, with a career that spanned over 55 years both locally and the United Kingdom.

She started her career in England, in the vein of entertainer Cicely Courtneidge. She carved out a career as a variety performer, as a singer and radio/television presenter, primarily at the BBC, where she had her own shows during the years of World War II.

Returning to Australia she became a popular presenter and remains best known to early local television audiences as hostess of the musical variety program The Lorrae Desmond Show from 1960 until 1964, while as a variety entertainer and vocalist she made numerous cabaret and TV appearances including In Melbourne Tonight, The Graham Kennedy Show, The Kamahl Show, The Ted Hamilton Show and appeared on Parkinson in Australia, and The Jack Benny Show.[3]

She was subsequently asked to tour South Vietnam with the Entertainment Unit during the Vietnam War, she also toured the Middle East, Malaysia, Singapore, Kenya and Somalia,[3] where she became known for her live singing performances, billed as a forces sweetheart, she in the style of Vera Lynn and Anne Shelton, in which she was honoured with the MBE for services to entertainment.

She started taking roles in local soap operas and serials starting from the late 1960s, including a guest role in Crawford Productions staple series Homicide, and a guest role in Number 96, after which she was given a more permanent role in the ill-fated series Arcade in 1980.

However she became famous for her long-running role in the television series A Country Practice, as original character of nurse Shirly Gilroy appearing in 816 episodes from 1981 to 1992.

She briefly guested in Home and Away as Isobel Dupre in 1997, as the mother of Donald Fisher (Norman Coburn).

She had worked as a theatre lyricist, writing the play Honey in 2001, based on the novel Smoky Joe's Cafe by the author Bryce Courtenay.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Desmond was born on 2 October 1929, in the Southern Highlands town of Mittagong, New South Wales, to Alice and Des Hunt.[1][2][5] She left Mittagong after the fire season, and briefly lived on an island on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. After leaving Mittagong Primary School, she trained as a hairdresser, but inspired by Dame Gracie Fields decided she wanted to become an entertainer. By the age of 10, she had travelled to Britain with her family.

Music, performing career and radio in Britain[edit]

She started her career in England in 1945, as a teenager of a mere 15 as a singing cigarette girl and became a celebrity there. She performed as both a solo artist and with backing group "The Rebels", whilst making studio recordings and featured in everything from theatre, cabaret, pantomime, and radio. She had her own shows including several for the BBC, including Meet Lorrae and Swing with Lorrae.[6]

Television in England[edit]

In 1957, she competed in the second semi-final of the Festival of British Popular Songs, where the winner got to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. She also featured in her own comedy series Trouble for Two in 1958, and was in the cast of several of the Terry-Thomas TV specials.[7]

In his book Bounder (2008), Graham McCann states that Desmond might have even married Terry-Thomas, who had been her constant companion for ten years. Instead, the actor married Belinda Cunningham, despite a 26-year age gap between the two. Desmond refuted this in an ABC interview in April 2008, saying that whilst she dated Thomas for 10 years, they would never have married.[8]

Career in Australia[edit]

The Lorrae Desmond Show[edit]

Returning to Australia in the early sixties, her career kicked off in 1962, as presenter of the self-titled music variety show The Lorrae Desmond Show and in 1961, she made history by being the first woman on television to win the Gold Logie (which was in fact Silver, as women at the time received the Silver Statuette, and men received the Gold Statuette)[9] The Gold Logie award that year was a dual honour, with Tommy Hanlon Jr. also winning the coveted trophy.

She appeared in the TV play Red Peppers.

Service with the Vietnam Entertainment Unit[edit]

The Australian Government invited her to tour Vietnam from 1967 to 1971, to entertain the troops. She was widely courted as being the Australian Forces Sweetheart, amongst others including Dinah Lee, Little Pattie, Cathy Wayne, Sylvia Raye, Lynne Fletcher and Jacqui De Paul.[10] Australia didn't have its own honours system at the time, however Desmond was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1970 for services to "entertainment and the welfare of the Australian Forces in Vietnam".[11][12]

Television roles[edit]

Desmond's television appearances include Homicide and Number 96 (1973) and Arcade (1980), both series written by David Sale, however the latter series was unsuccessful and cancelled after 16 episodes. Later, in 1997, she also had a guest appearance on Home and Away as Isobel Dupre, the mother of regular character Donald Fisher played by Norman Coburn.[9]

A Country Practice - Shirley Gilroy[edit]

Desmond, after having appeared in the ill-fated series Arcade, was touted by the Seven Network, alongside co-star Syd Heylen to appear in their new series A Country Practice which became her best-known role as Shirley Dean Gilroy, and appeared from the series' inception in November 1981 until 1992. In 1984 she won the Logie for Best Supporting Actress for this role. In one of the series' iconic episodes in 1992, Lorrae decided to leave the series and the long-running character Shirley was killed off in an off-screen plane crash, with the actress stating she did not want a prolonged death storyline arc like that of Molly Jones (Anne Tenney).

Writing[edit]

Desmond co-wrote the lyrics to the musical Man of Sorrows (originally titled Jesus Christ Revolution) which premiered in Melbourne in 1972.[13]

About the industry, she said:

What I really wanted to do was write lyrics for songs. I did do a few weeks in Home And Away after ACP, but I’m a bit sick of performing—after you've been doing it for 50 years you're just going around in circles! The thing I liked most about being a performer was putting the act together, which is why I've come back to writing. It's still pleasant to be recognized as Shirley because people are always nice to me. And with those ACP repeats on Hallmark, it goes from generation to generation.[citation needed]

In 2001, she obtained the rights to write the lyrics for a musical play based on Bryce Courtenay's novel Smoky Joe's Cafe, about the effects of the Vietnam War on a veteran. The play, entitled Honey, premiered in 2007 at the Riverside Theatre Parramatta.[14]

She was also a magazine columnist for That's Life; she wrote an article called "Ask Lorrae", where readers would write in, asking for advice and information.

Desmond took part in an A Country Practice reunion special in 2006, as part of the "Television Turns 50" celebrations, and the series' 30th-anniversary reunion in 2011.[15] In 2017, Lorrae who was the first female to win a Gold Logie, appeared at the Logie awards, to present an award opposite her cousin's son, Chinese Australian actor and presenter Sam Pang.

One-woman show[edit]

Desmond toured Australia, performing in High Society and her own one-woman show.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Desmond was married to Sydney surgeon Dr. Alex Gorshenin from 1963 to 1976.[16] They travelled to the United States together, where he continued to study. Prior to her marriage, Desmond was involved in a long-running affair of several years with the English comic actor Terry-Thomas. She died on 23 May 2021, Gold Coast, Queensland, aged 91.[17]

Lorrae Desmond.jpg

Awards[edit]

Year Association Category Work
1962 Logie Awards Gold Logie Award for Most Popular Personality on Australian Television The Lorrae Desmond Show
1984 Logie Awards Silver Logie Award – Best Supporting Actress In A Series A Country Practice

Mo Awards[edit]

The Australian Entertainment Mo Awards (commonly known informally as the Mo Awards), were annual Australian entertainment industry awards. They recognise achievements in live entertainment in Australia from 1975 to 2016. Lorrae Desmond won one award in that time.[18]

Year Nominee / work Award Result (wins only)
2009 Lorrae Desmond John Campbell Fellowship Award Won

Honours[edit]

Year Honour Awarded for
1970: Order of the British Empire ribbon.png Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) For services to entertainment and the welfare of the Australian Forces in Vietnam[11][12]
2021 Member of the Order of Australia For significant service to the performing arts as an actor, entertainer and singer.[19]

Filmography[edit]

Actress[edit]

Year of broadcast Title Role
1955 Stock Car Singer
1956 Strictly T-T (TV series)
1956 Hancock's Half Hour Secretary
1957 Mostly Maynard
1957 Sheep's Clothing Lorrae Desmond
1958 Trouble for Two
1968 Homicide Harriet Murphy
1969 Riptide Madge Scobie
1973 Number 96 Marion Carlton
1975 Shannon's Mob Cassandra
1976 The Outsiders Rose
1980 Arcade Molly Sparks
1981–1992 A Country Practice Shirley Dean Gilroy (816 episodes)
1997 Home and Away Isobel DuPre

Celebrity appearances[edit]

Year Title Role
1955 Variety Parade Herself, episode 1.24
1956 Strictly T-T Herself, 6 episodes
1957 Festival of British Popular Songs Herself, episode #2.2
1957 Monday Melody Herself #episode 1.2
1957 The Grand Order of Water Rats presents Herself, episode "Salute to Song"
1957 Off the Record episode #3.3, #2.12
1958 The Jack Jackson Show Herself, performer
1957–1958 Six-Five Special 4 episodes
1960 Jukebox Jury (TY series) Panelist
1960 The Lorrae Desmond Show Host
1964 Muloorina (documentary Short) Herself
1964 Jack Benny in Australia Herself
1966 Jimmy Episode 21 August
1966 Meet Matt Munro Singer
1969 In Melbourne Tonight 2 episodes
1972 Kamahl Herself, episode "Looking Back on Love"'
1972–1973 The Graham Kennedy Show 3 episodes
1974 Ted Hamilton's Musical World
1975 The ABC Melbourne Showband on tour in Perth
1975 Celebrity Squares Celebrity Contestant
1980 Celebrity Tattle Tales Episode #1.18
1983 Parkinson in Australia Guest
1989 The 31st Annual TV Week Logie Awards Herself, performer
2002 The Best of Aussie Drama Herself - commentary
2017 The 59th Annual TV Week Logie Awards Presenter (with Sam Pang)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Desmond's age was corrected when awarded on the Australia Day honours in 2021, which gave her stated as then being 91 years old, hence birth year of 1929, other official sources had previously gave birth year as 1932

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Lorrae Desmond: (author/organisation) | AustLit: Discover Australian Stories". www.austlit.edu.au. 8 January 2020. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Desmond, Lorrae (1932-)".
  3. ^ a b c "Vale:Lorrae Desmond".
  4. ^ "Lorrae Desmond". AusStage.
  5. ^ Atterton, Margot "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Australian Showbiz" published by Sunshine Books ISBN 0867770570
  6. ^ "ANOTHER JOY NICHOLS?". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 29 September 1954. p. 21. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  7. ^ "A Song For Europe 1957". oneurope.biz. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Talking Heads - Lorrae Desmond". www.abc.net.au. 14 April 2008. Archived from the original on 3 May 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
  9. ^ a b "1962 – Lorrae Desmond". tvweek.ninemsn.com.au. Archived from the original on 1 September 2007. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  10. ^ "Sequin and chiffon entertainer's scarf : Lorrae Desmond | Australian War Memorial". cas.awm.gov.au. Archived from the original on 24 September 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Lorrae GORSHENIN MBE". Australian Honours Database. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  12. ^ a b "No. 45118". www.thegazette.co.uk. The London Gazette. 5 June 1970. p. 6401. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  13. ^ "Out-of-town success for new musical". smharchives.smedia.com.au. 4 June 1972. p. 143. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Lorrae Desmond - blonde goddess in the golden dress | Stage Whispers". www.stagewhispers.com.au. Stage Whispers. August 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  15. ^ Knox, David: TV reunions are hot property, Citysearch, March 2011.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "LORRAE DESMOND'S WEDDING". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 29 May 1963. p. 8. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  17. ^ Noyes, Jenny (23 May 2021). "'Enormous heart': Lorrae Desmond, Logie-winning star of A Country Practice, dead at 91". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  18. ^ "MO Award Winners". Mo Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  19. ^ "Ms Lorrae DESMOND MBE". It's an Honour. Australian Government. Retrieved 25 January 2021.

External links[edit]