Graham Kennedy


Graham Kennedy : biography

15 February 1934 – 25 May 2005

Kennedy’s homosexuality was considered an open secret to many in the Australian entertainment industry, although Kennedy himself never publicly acknowledged that he was gay.

In the 1960s Bob Dyer described him as "probably the loneliest young man in Australia."Blundell (2003), p. 164

In 1973 Melbourne newspapers reported that Kennedy was engaged to 28-year-old American singer Lana Cantrell (born 7 August 1943), who became a successful New York lawyer.

Many years later, Kennedy wrote to a newspaper that a photographer, taking pictures of Miss Cantrell and him leaving a restaurant together asked if he could "hint at a romance". The following Sunday a poster proclaimed "GRAHAM AND LANA TO WED".Blundell (2003), p. 361 His former housekeeper, Mrs Devona Fox, in the 2009 television documentary The Real Graham Kennedy, produced by Bob Phillips, one of the producers from Kennedy’s breakthrough Channel 9 program In Melbourne Tonight, is quoted as saying:

Graham always told me right early on that he would never get married. He told me that his life was devastated when his parents split up, and he said straight out, "Mrs Fox, I’ll never get married", so I never expected anything more of him than what did happen. Even when Lana Cantrell came into the scene I was puzzled and I did say to him why all this, and of course we all know it was good publicity. Lana came to the house and I had to go up, and have it all cleaned, ready for her and her party to come one Sunday night. And then on the Monday night, this great big announcement was going to be made that he was supposed to be engaged to Lana Cantrell. well the ratings went through the roof…

In his 2006 book King and I: My Life With Graham Kennedy broadcaster Rob Astbury stated that he and Kennedy had been lovers. Kennedy is portrayed as homosexual in the 2007 biopic The King.


Four of Graham Kennedy’s television shows were named in the program 50 Years 50 Shows which counted-down the top 50 Australian TV shows of all time, as decided by ratings data and the opinions of 100 television industry professionals, on the Nine Network on 25 September 2005. Kennedy’s In Melbourne Tonight topped the poll, Power Without Glory (15th), Blankety Blanks (20th), and Coast to Coast (42nd).

In the Australia Day honours of 26 January 2006, Kennedy was posthumously appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for "service to the entertainment industry as an actor, comedian and presenter significantly influencing the development of the radio, television and film industries in Australia, and to the community". The award was made effective from 5 May 2005.

Telemovie The King

A telemovie examining Kennedy’s life titled The King began filming in December 2006. It stars Stephen Curry as Kennedy and Stephen Hall as Bert Newton, with Garry McDonald, Shaun Micallef, Steve Bisley, Jane Allsop as Noeline Brown, Beau Brady, Leo Taylor as Sir Frank Packer, and Bernard Curry as John Wesley.

The project, which cost $2.1 million, premiered on 20 May 2007 on TV1 (becoming the highest-rating drama to be shown on pay-TV) to heavy criticism by Kennedy’s friends. Tony Sattler and his wife, actress Noeline Brown, Kennedy’s closest friends, said they were mortified by the movie. "The film was obsessed with his homosexuality. I don’t think people cared about that….He was Australia’s most famous, successful entertainer but how much do we see of that in the film? We see fuck all of it." The Nine Network screened the film on 27 August 2007 .


Kennedy’s health declined during the 1990s. He was diabetic, and a heavy smoker and drinker. Throughout his illnesses, his friends Tony Sattler and Noeline Brown rallied to his aid.

On 18 December 2001 his housekeeper found him unconscious and dehydrated. Sattler said "Between the diabetes and the booze, there’s not much left of him", adding that the death of Kennedy’s dog Henry was "the final trigger".Blundell (2003), p. 418