Graham Kennedy : biography
Graham Cyril Kennedy AO (15 February 1934 – 25 May 2005) was an Australian entertainer, radio, television and film performer, often called "Gra Gra" (pronounced "gray-gray"). Honoured with the National Order of Australia medal and a five time recipient of the Gold Logie, Kennedy is the most awarded star of Australian television and was known as The King or the King of Australian television.
At 4:30 am on 25 May 2005, Kennedy died at age 71 at the Kenilworth Nursing Home, Bowral, from complications from pneumonia.
John Mangos wrote in The Bulletin:
A week before his 69th birthday, he was bedridden and infirm. His wasted and frail, aching body could take no more. I paid a short and emotional visit. Still, the ashtray was by his bedside next to a radio tuned to ABC Radio National. I leaned over to kiss him on the forehead and he whispered, ‘Don’t get too close, it hurts’.
He also wrote:
I was often asked if he had cancer or AIDS. In fact at 67, he had diabetes, some rheumatism, the odd creaky joint, a healthy capacity to whinge and the usual symptoms connected with smoking and drinking. But by now the horses were gone and the dog had died. He was eating less and drinking more. One night, he fell down the stairs. He was discovered the next morning on the floor by his housekeeper. He was rushed to the local hospital where pneumonia in one lung was treated effectively and efficiently, a fracture near his hip was repaired and he was diagnosed with brain damage. We were to learn he had Korsakoff’s syndrome (an alcohol-related condition) and we decided to keep it private.
Korsakoff’s syndrome is a form of amnesia seen in chronic alcoholics; briefly stated, victims eat too little and drink too much.
After his death controversial radio broadcaster Derryn Hinch alleged that Kennedy had died from an AIDS-related disease. This was strenuously denied by his friends and carers Noeline Brown and Tony Sattler, and as a result Kennedy’s biographer Graeme Blundell then published Kennedy’s medical records, including a recent negative HIV test, to disprove this allegation. Hinch fought back saying he didn’t say Kennedy had AIDS, but that he was homosexual, had symptoms similar to those of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, and died of pneumonia, thus implying Kennedy’s death was AIDS-related.
Tony Sattler offered the Nine Network the right to televise the funeral but it declined, claiming it could not justify the cost of the outside broadcast. The Seven Network accepted, and gave coverage free of charge to the Nine Network. Hence, the one-hour funeral service was aired simultaneously across both Seven and Nine Networks.
Stuart Wagstaff presented the funeral, which was attended by many of Kennedy’s friends, colleagues and associates on the morning of 31 May 2005 in a small community theatre in the town of Mittagong.
Wagstaff’s eulogy alluded to the claims made by Derryn Hinch about the cause of Kennedy’s death:
Delivering a eulogy for a close friend and for someone who was so much admired is never a happy occasion. Though I must confess I would be quite happy to deliver a eulogy for a certain media personality who’s tried the second Kennedy assassination of our time… and failed.
Kennedy had never explicitly stated that he was homosexual, but at his funeral, his friends were at last free to make jokes, in a friendly way.
The Age of 26 June 2005 reported John Mangos as saying that he "knew Kennedy wanted his ashes scattered at sea. And that wish was carried out." This was confirmed in a report in The Sydney Morning Herald which stated that Kennedy’s ashes were scattered in the sea at Kiama attended by a group which included "Noeline Brown, Tony Sattler, John Mangos, Stuart Wagstaff, Kennedy’s former housekeeper Sally Baker-Beall and her husband John, and old friends Christine and Nicholas Deeprose."