Stetson Saloon, Regent Palace Hotel, Piccadilly Circus, London
Saturday 11 November 1978
Fresh out of Warwick University, Rik Edwards was about to have his first book, the Crossword Anagram Dictionary, published by Barrie & Jenkins on 30 November. One of the editors there, recorded only as Mr Thompson, had been approached by Barry Humphries to put together a souvenir programme for his forthcoming one man West End show A Night With Dame Edna, and Edwards’s editor, Nancy Duin, suggested that Mr Thompson should get in touch with Edwards in order to compile a crossword for the programme.
A meeting was arranged in a bar at the Regent Palace Hotel on Saturday morning. Humphries was resplendent in close-fitting trousers and calf-length boots: he explained that he wanted Edwards to compile a crossword using some of Dame Edna’s favourite words: Humphries would then compile suitable clues. He set to work to compile a list of words.
Thompson bought a couple of rounds of drinks, and the youthful Edwards reassured the doubtful pair that the crossword would be of top quality. After a bit of chat, Thompson suggested that perhaps Edwards had other things to get on with today? Edwards failed to take the hint, pointing out that he had an hour or two to kill before going to see QPR play Liverpool at Loftus Road at 3pm.
At this, Humphries returned to his list to add a few more words, and presented the list to Edwards with an air of finality. This time the visitor took the hint and said his goodbyes, and went off to enjoy watching Liverpool win 3-1, thanks to goals from Steve Heighway, Ray Kennedy and David Johnson.
Edwards wove the words into a crossword, so that some of the black spaces spelt out the word “Edna”, and was rewarded with tickets to the show and a thank you in the programme notes to “little Rik Edwards”.
Edwards takes his parents to see “A Night With Dame Edna” at the Piccadilly Theatre on Saturday 20th January 1979, and the show attracts rave reviews.
He will next see Dame Edna on stage on 12th December 1987, when he accompanies his future wife Debbie and their mutual friend Caroline. This is also his first meeting with Debbie’s older brother Craig, better known as Biff, who dispels initial nervousness at the meeting by laughing generously at Edwards’s jokes, and by waving gladioli at strangers while riding down the escalator.
Meanwhile Humphries, who was 44 at the time of the meeting, was able to continue performing as the elderly Dame Edna until 2013, by which time he was 79.
(Based on “One on One” by Craig Brown, 2012)