Patti's heartache over berts SHOCKING BREAKDOWN
The ‘broken’ Aussie icon may never appear on TV again after the backlash over his Logies speech
On the eve of his 80th birthday, Australian TV legend Bert Newton should have been celebrating his triumphant return to the small screen. Instead, the icon has been left wondering what went so very wrong after his controversial Logies speech set social media alight.
“Bert and Patti were horrified at the response,” a Logies guest tells Woman’s Day. “He didn’t even come back into the auditorium to mix with the other stars after his appearance.”
Bert was at The Star Gold Coast to present the Graham Kennedy Award for most popular new talent at the 60th TV Week Logie Awards. He received rapturous applause when he arrived on stage, but when he used a gay slur to refer to himself and then commented that his late friend Graham, who kept his sexuality a closely guarded secret, enjoyed “mentoring” young talent behind closed doors, the innuendo drew audible gasps from the A-list crowd in the room – and the online claws came out.
SAD FALL FROM GRACE
“He will always be a TV legend but that was just sad tonight,” commented TV and film critic Andrew Mercado on Twitter.
Another upset viewer slammed Bert, saying his “homophobic statements were the turn-off”.
Bert’s wife Patti was sitting with her close friend Studio 10 star Denise Drysdale and her co-stars Sarah Harris, Joe Hildebrand and Craig Bennett – and spent the following two hours fielding calls from an increasingly distraught Bert, who was holed up in their hotel suite.
“Patti was left stunned and reeling that the nation turned so savagely on Bert,” says a Newton family friend. “And he was totally shocked by the backlash and venom directed at him. He wasn’t well before he came on stage – and he almost collapsed when social media erupted.”
‘Bert didn’t mean to give offence and he’s heartbroken’
It was a sad fall from grace for Bert, who became a household name after joining In Melbourne Tonight in the late 1950s. Over the next 60 years, Bert – dubbed Moonface by his good friend and colleague Don Lane – became a TV fixture and fronted shows including New Faces, Good Morning Australia and 20 To One. The only other blemish on his career came in 1979, when he inadvertently used a racial insult by calling boxer Muhammad Ali “boy” at that year’s Logies. But he ultimately forgave Bert and that incident occurred long before the advent of social media.
“Bert didn’t mean to give offence and he’s heartbroken that after being considered a living legend, this year’s misstep has cost him everything,” the insider says. “He was broken by the end of the night.”
Afterwards, the shattered star offered an apology when confronted at the airport while fleeing the Gold Coast. “If I did offend anyone, I apologise,” he said. “I thought [the speech] went very well – until after the show when I looked at comments on social media.”
It’s a worrying turn of events for Bert, who turns 80 on July 23. Already in poor health and estranged from his troubled son Matthew, another source reveals the star, who semi-retired from TV in 2014, has been suffering from anaemia “for months”.
The condition is common in older people and symptoms include dizziness and irritability. Because the capacity to carry oxygen in the blood is weakened, the heart is forced to work harder – which can have very serious consequences. Bert underwent a life-saving quadruple heart bypass in 2012 and has since battled bouts of pneumonia. In recent months he has been barely able to get off the couch some days because of his anaemia.
“It’s the reason he’s gone to hospital numerous times in the past year,” a family friend says.
The Logies furore was the last thing Bert needed – and it’s left Patti, his devoted wife of 43 years, devastated. “She’s said it will be his last ever TV appearance,” the friend reveals. “Patti was inconsolable on the night, telling us how much she loves him. They were both shell-shocked.”
Bert’s Logies speech was slammed on social media.