Lorrae Desmond

Lorrae Desmond MBE (2 October 1932), born as Beryl Hunt is an Australian retired Gold Logie-award-winning singer, character actress, television presenter and theatre lyricist, with a career that has spanned over 60 years both locally and internationally. She started her career in England as a singer and radio/television presenter before returning to Australia where she became a popular actress and remains best known to early television audiences as presenter of the self-titled musical variety program The Lorrae Desmond Show from 1960 until 1964, her live singing performances as a forces sweetheart, in the style of Vera Lynn and for her soap opera roles including the Marion Carlton in Number 96 her long-running role as Shirley Gilroy an original character in the television series A Country Practice, for 816 episodes from 1981 to 1992, and briefly Home and Away as Isobel Dupre in 1997

Lorrae Desmond (MBE)
Desmond in 2012
Born
Beryl Hunt

(1932-10-02) 2 October 1932[1]
Other namesBeryl Gorshenin (married name)
Occupation
  • Actress
  • singer
  • recording artist
  • television presenter
  • radio presenter
  • theatre lyricist
Years active1948–2001
Spouse(s)Alex Gorshenin (1963–1976)
Parent(s)Alice and Desmond Hunt
AwardsMember of the Order of the British Empire
Logie 1984 – Best Supporting Actress in a Series for: A Country Practice (1981)
Gold Logie 1962

Early life and career

Desmond was born on 2 October 1932, in Mittagong, New South Wales, to Alice and Des Hunt. She travelled to Britain in the 1950s, and at 16, as Lorrae started her career as a singing cigarette girl and became a celebrity there, she performed as a solo artist and with backing group The Rebels, she appearing in cabaret, pantomime, radio, and live recording, including several shows for the BBC, including Meet Lorrae and Swing with Lorrae.[2] She even featured in her own comedy series Trouble for Two in 1958, was in the cast of several Terry-Thomas TV specials, and competed to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1957.[3]

In his book Bounder (2008), Graham McCann states that Desmond might have married Terry-Thomas, who had been her constant companion for seven years. Instead, the actor overcame a 26-year age gap to marry Belinda Cunningham. Desmond refuted this in an ABC interview in April 2008, saying that she dated Thomas for 10 years, but they would never have married.[4]

Returning to Australia and in 1962, she made history by being the first woman 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) for her work on her music variety show The Lorrae Desmond Show.[5] The Gold Logie award that year was a dual honour, with Tommy Hanlon Jr. also winning the coveted trophy.

Desmond married Sydney surgeon Dr Alex Gorshenin in 1963.[6] They travelled to the United States together, where he continued to study. They moved back to Sydney but the marriage did not last long.

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 Little Pattie.[7] 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.[8][9]

Television roles

Desmond's television appearances include Homicide, Number 96 (1973) and Arcade (1980). She also had a guest appearance on Home and Away as Isobel Dupre.[5]

Desmond appeared in her best known role as Shirley Gilroy in A Country Practice, an original character, from the shows inception in 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, the long-running character Shirley was killed off in an off-screen plane crash, with actress Desmond stating she did not want a prolonged death storyline arc like Molly Jones (Anne Tenney).

Writing

Desmond co-wrote the lyrics to the musical Man of Sorrows (originally titled Jesus Christ Revolution) which premiered in Melbourne in 1972.[10]

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 recognised as Shirley because people are always nice to me. And with those ACP repeats on Hallmark, it goes from generation to generation.

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.[11]

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.[12] 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

She toured Australia performing in High Society, and her own one-woman show.[11]

Awards and honours

Filmography

Actress

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

Celebrity appearances

Year Title Role
1955"Variety Parade"' (TV series)Herself episode 1.24
1956Strictly T-T (TV series)Herself 6 episodes
1957Festival of British Popular Songs (TV series)Herself episode #2.2
1957Monday Melody (TV series)Herself #episode 1.2
1957The Grand Order of Water Rats presents' (TV series) Herself episode "Salute to Song"
1957Off the Record (TV series)episode #3.3, #2.12
1958The Jack Jackson ShowHerself Performer
1957-1958Six-Five Special' (TV series) 4 episodes
1960Jukebox Jury (TY series)Panelist
1960'The Lorrae Desmond Show Host
1964Muloorina (documentary Short)Herself
1964Jack Benny in Australia (TV movie)Herself performer
1966Jimmy | episode 21 August
1966Meet Matt Munro (TV movie)Singer
1969In Melbourne Tonight2 episodes
1972Kamahl (TVseries)herself episode "Looking Back on Love"'
1972-1973The Graham Kennedy Show3 episodes
1974Ted Hamiltons Musical World (TV series)
1975The ABC Melbourne Showband on tour in Perth (TV special)
1975Celebrity SquaresCelebrity Contestant
1980Celebrity Tattle Tales (TV series)Episode #1.18
1983Parkinson in Australia (TV series)Guest
2002The Best of Aussie Drama (TV special documentary)Herself - commentary
2017'The 59th Annual TV Week Logie AwardsPresenter

References

  1. "Lorrae Desmond: Biography". austlit.edu.au. Retrieved 21 April 2017.
  2. "ANOTHER JOY NICHOLS?". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 29 September 1954. p. 21. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  3. A Song For Europe 1957, ASFE History Pages
  4. Lorrae Desmond, Talking Heads, with Peter Thompson
  5. "1962: Lorrae Desmond", TV Week Archived 1 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "LORRAE DESMOND'S WEDDING". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 29 May 1963. p. 8. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  7. Sequin and chiffon entertainer's scarf : Lorrae Desmond, Australian War Memorial.
  8. "Lorrae GORSHENIN MBE". Australian Honours Database. Retrieved 2 October 2007.
  9. "No. 45118". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 June 1970. p. 6401.
  10. "Out-of-town success for new musical". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 June 1972. p. 143.
  11. Lorrae Desmond – blonde goddess in the golden dress, Stage Whispers, July/August 2008.
  12. Knox, David: TV reunions are hot property, Citysearch, March 2011.
  13. http://www.moawards.com/?page_id=103, Mo Awards, 11 May 2010.
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