Celebrities often fall into two categories—those who seem admirable and remote, and those who you could easily share a cuppa with.
Actress and entertainer Patti Newton belongs in the second category. For many of us, Patti has simply always been a presence on our television screens and in our theatres.
Patricia Anne Therese Bernadette McGrath Newton, as famous husband Bert likes to call her, began treading the boards for our entertainment at the age of four. Later she graduated to the popular radio program Swallows Juniors, which she continued to feature in once it became a much-loved children’s television program in the 1950s.
Some of our more mature readers may remember the iconic television variety program, In Melbourne Tonight, which featured Patti as a popular singer, dancer and sketch comedy artist, alongside husband Bert, Graham Kennedy and, later, Don Lane.
The year 1967 saw Patti winning a Logie award for the Most Popular Female in Victoria for her television work. More quiz and entertainment programs followed, before she enjoyed a 14-year stint on Good Morning Australia.
Away from television, Patti performed throughout Europe as the support act to famous names including Lulu and Cilla Black, and enjoyed being resident compere and entertainer on the luxury cruise ship QE2.
But Patti always loved the magic of live theatre, and notched up theatre credits in The Sound of Music, Bye Bye Birdie and The Wizard of Oz.
Aside from television and theatre work, Patti has also taken pride in singing for armed forces personnel on active service in Vietnam, and since then has performed at many charity shows for Vietnam veterans and their families, for which she was honoured in 1997.
While performing is a notoriously fickle industry for stable relationships, Patti has defied the odds and has been married to Bert for more than 42 years. She is mother to Lauren and Matthew and grandmother to Sam and Monty.
But celebrity can be a double-edged sword, as Patti has had problems with paparazzi taking pictures and then inventing disaster stories they sell to the media. She has had to spend time debunking wild stories about love children, divorcing Bert and her imagined serious brain problems.
She is a regular guest on a Melbourne radio program, which gave her the opportunity to speak out against the wild rumours and reassure friends and fans that she was not seriously ill in hospital with a brain tumour, which was a total fabrication by paparazzi wanting to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense.
But Patti’s resilience and sunny nature are unbowed, and she has always been someone ready to support a worthwhile cause. In the past she has assisted The Salvation Army’s fundraising by singing carols with other celebrities to raise money for Salvo programs.
If all celebrities were as down to earth and giving as Patti Newton, the world would be a better place.