By GABRIELLA COSLOVICH
Showbiz pioneer Edna Edgley, the mother of prominent Australian promoter Michael Edgley, has died at the age of 89.
Behind every great man is a woman, the saying goes, and behind Michael was the vivacious, irrepressible Edna, a trailblazer who, in the 1960s with husband Eric, organised the first tour of Soviet artists to Australia. The couple mortgaged their Perth home to bring out the Moscow Variety Theatre. Australians also saw the Bolshoi Ballet and Moscow Circus thanks to their efforts, and, later, the likes of Marcel Marceau, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Torvill and Dean.
"She was a wonderful support to me," Michael Edgley said, speaking from his Gold Coast home this week following his mother's death on Monday night. "My father died in 1967 in Perth and I had been working with him for five years, and she was instrumental in my decision to go on with the business.
"She really was an icon in her own right and the longer she went on, the more her reputation grew. She was basically involved in the theatre for 83 years; she literally began on the stage at age six." Edna Edgley was still at it last year, travelling around the country helping to promote the Moscow Circus, and in 1988, aged 78, she was asked to perform with the Australian Ballet as the nurse in Romeo and Juliet - a role she would reprise for the next five years, later describing it as a career highlight.
Born Edna Luscombe in Carlton, Victoria, in 1910, she began dancing at six, and at 10 was cast in the pantomime Aladdin, starring English vaudeville duo Eric Edgley and Clem Dawe. Twenty years later she and Eric were married in London.
Edna Edgley and fellow promoter the late Kenn Brodziak were honoured with the inaugural James Cassius Awards two years ago for their outstanding contributions to live entertainment.
Edna Edgley spent the evening at her son's home for a family dinner on Monday. "Before dinner she watched a video of 42nd Street and then we had a wonderful meal and she went back [to her nursing home] at 10pm," Michael said.
"Not only did she have a phenomenal life, she went the best way that anyone could hope for, without pain, very quietly and with great dignity. It was a just a splendid exit for a splendid lady."
Her passing will be mourned by many in the industry. "Everyone respected her... she really was a genuinely loved woman," said Melbourne publicist Susie Howie.
Edna Edgley is survived by her two children, Michael and Christine Trostle, and six grandchildren.