A very regal Graham Kennedy, who died yesterday, pictured on the cover of his biography written by Graeme Blundell.
A very regal Graham Kennedy, who died yesterday, pictured on the cover of his biography written by Graeme Blundell.

Gra Gra?s crown too big to fill

SYDNEY (AAP)

The King is dead. Long live The King.

No matter how many television stars come and go, Graham Kennedy will own the nickname forever.

He was Australian TV's first and most enduring star ? a hugely popular, funny, irreverent trailblazer widely credited with shaping the way the medium is today.

Many still recall Kennedy's infamous 'crow call', which sounded like a four-letter expletive and prompted the then Broadcasting Control Board to suspend him for a week.

Some knew him best for his naughty game show Blankety Blanks in the late 1970s.

Others will recount the 19 Logie awards, including five gold statuettes, he won after bursting onto TV screens in 1957, and movies including 'Don's Party' and 'Travelling North'.

How ever he is remembered, Australian showbusiness lost one of its greatest yesterday when Gra Gra, as he was affectionately known, passed away at a nursing home in Bowral in the NSW southern highlands. He was 71.

Kennedy had suffered several long illnesses in recent years after he fell down a set of stairs in 2003, breaking his leg and skull.

Close friend Noeline Brown said the star, who burst onto the television scene in 1957 with In Melbourne Tonight, was still cracking jokes hours before his death.

Brown, who worked with Kennedy on the TV show Blankety Blanks and helped care for him in recent years, said she was with him yesterday afternoon.

"He was fading and his lungs were full of water, it's a terrible thing to see somebody with pneumonia," she said.

"But he'd come to and he'd make a joke.

"I said 'what did you say darling, did you say whisky?', he said 'no, gin and tonic'."



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