"Patti had never heard the story until last week when Peter broke it. It did, however, go some way to solve a family mystery. Bert had won some 36 Logies over his career but the family could only find 17. Suddenly it all made sense. It was just one of a myriad of stories shared by friends and colleagues and strangers and fans.
"Sam Newman reminded me of the famous Mr Anonymous speech written by Paul Keys and delivered by Richard Burton in 1983 in paying tribute to Frank Sinatra, another giant of show business. I feel it articulates perfectly the essence of Bert Newton so to paraphrase: Bert was a giant among the givers of the world he stands tallest.
"He has more than paid rent for the space he occupied on this planet, forged as he is from loyalty and compassion, carefully hidden, hidden because he ordered it. I appear as the herald as grateful multitudes who have opened those unexpected envelopes, special delivering answers to prayers, those awakened by late-night phone calls which remedied their problems.
"Those performers, business people, politicians, and the sick, down on their luck who suddenly landed the role they never expected and still don't know who to thank and for untold Ben Fishraelz of the caring and kindness of this splendid man who truly was - a splendid man who truly was his brother's keeper and they are legion, those whose lives took a turn for the better because of this man.
"Bert was such a legend that to be even acknowledged by him was to feel like you'd made it. When he named his toupee Eddie, he said at the time I was on everything else I may as well be on his head, I was honoured and gratified, first that he knew who I was, second because I'd become part of his act. Thirdly it was pure Bert - a punch line, a laugh but a nod of support to his colleagues.
"We've heard of people getting a segment on his shows, the note of congratulations, a phone call, a text. On your best day but more importantly on your worst because Bert knew both. Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar that it is common proof that lowliness is young ambition's ladder, where to the climber upward turns his face but when he attains the utmost round he then turns his back, looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend.
"The first part is pure Bert. The second is the antithesis. For Bert never turned his back on his people. He joked he sent them up, he understood them but was always there for them and he never left them. But lowliness was his young ambition's ladder. When Bert was a boy, having lost his father age 11, the Fitzroy of the 1940s and 50s was a far cry from the hipster headquarters is today. It was one of the - hipster headquarters is today. It was a notorious slum.
"So fired by his imagination of what could be inspired by the Marist Brothers who saw something in this year 7 boy who had a knack for radio plays, that he walked from his family home to the city down the very streets outside as a 14- year-old to 3XY.
"One year later he was on air, self-taught, self-driven, what he missed in the classroom he learned in the arena of life. Elocution, diction, general knowledge, music, panelling, timing, vaudeville. How to adapt in a fast-changing world, how to interview, how to perform.
"He cut his 21st cake on television and stayed there for his entire life. At 84, he was still making headlines with posts on Instagram from his hospital bed. Bert never stopped evolving, never stopped learning, never lost his insatiable appetite for what's new. He was the least jaded old-fashioned performer you would ever meet.
"Probably the first performer poached by Channel 9 from Seven, his partnerships have been the most successful and enduring in Australian television history. With Graham Kennedy, they lit up the small screen and would then do an encore performance the next day on the radio. Bert, the perfect foil for the genius of Kennedy, never to upstage, always to deliver.
"Later it would be Don Lane, live crosses to the world. Bert's Wheel, always there was this sense of adventure. As Shaun Micallef said, waiting for the Bert moment that would be the talk of the and workplace the next day, that sense of danger, excitement in a suburban Australia. But also for us that sense of pride as we watched "our Bert" match it with the best. To watch Bert with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr was to watch kindred spirits riffing out live on TV, unrehearsed, unrestricted and hilarious.
"In a business known for jealousies it was no fluke Graham was best man at the wedding and to watch Bert in his natural habitat at the Logies was a television -- Logies was a television highlight of the year. How he'd glide on to the stage moving like a dancer, his newly cut suit as he would describe, in his patent leather pumps with that air of 'I know you've seen all the stars and acts tonight but get ready for this.' That mildly amused grin on his face as he readied himself to bring the house down again.
"Alongside Bob Hope, John Wayne or inebriated foreign star it made no difference, Bert either made no difference, Bert either made a performance great or saved the day. And we saw a moment ago his celebrated sparring with Mohammed Ali was made more memorable in hindsight by not the so-called faux pas but the way Ali realised there was nothing sinister, that Bert was a good man. Greatness knew greatness when he saw it. Bert never missed an opportunity. Ali was one thing, belvedere and Moira, they became household names. Max Morrison, Peter Win, his great friends Pete Smith and Phil Brady, when you're part of Bert's crew you were there forever.
"Bert encouraged so many. Hugh Jackman said, 'By watching Bert I learned how to handle the spotlight with grace, dignity, honour and class.' Rove McManus said, 'I lost a mentor and a friend. Our country lost an icon. Most importantly, a family lost their hero and soul fate.' Rhonda Burchmore spoke of Bert being there always with encouragement. Paul Hogan said he was Mr Television, never took himself seriously but took his job seriously. Phillip Adams wrote, 'Bert the electronic friend, he is there when you want or need him. Bert is company.'
"Russell Crowe: 'Bert is not about fashion or trends, he's watched them all come and go. He is about intellect, wisdom born of experience. My life is richer having him as a mate.' Channel Nine's Michael Healy said, 'Bert was a star.' And Jane Kennedy, Bert would always support new talent, was up for the gag, he wanted you to succeed," Eddie recounted the peers he touched with his generosity.
"New Faces may have been his show but behind the scenes, Bert lived its ethos. So vale, Our Bert. Who turned a piano factory in Richmond into a television city. The first Melburnian to become the king of Moomba. When the marquees dimmed it was Bert who helped relaunch theatre in this town. He was a star on the wireless and ran the first sports-based radio station. He loved his footy and his beloved Fitzroy and his horses, fittingly passing on Derby Day, the day of the champions. He sang It's Time he looked forward not back. In passing, he has been recognised by the Prime Minister, afforded a state funeral by his beloved Victoria with a flag of his country draped on his coffin which Patti said he would have loved.
"The other constant in his life is Catholic faith, his funeral here at St Patrick's Cathedral. Last night, the theatres of Melbourne dimmed their lights in Bert Newton's honour. 70 years ago, could that young boy have dreamt of what was in front of him? And while there was Bert and Graham and Bert and Don there was nothing like Bert and Patti. What a combination. Patti, you shared your husband with us all. Your highs and your lows, your family, Matthew and Lauren, your grandchildren who filled Bert's last few years with love and joy. There would always have been a Bert but he was enhanced so much by his Patti.
"Whether the Gold Logie becomes the Bert Newton award or a theatre or similar be named in his honour, show business and this city will never be the same. The young boy from Fitzroy who became a star then a legend then an institution and now our greatest memory of the golden years of television. Forever, our Bert."
Bert's son Matthew, who did not attend the funeral, had also composed a message to honour his father, which was read out during the service by Peter Smith along with a tribute written by Bert's daughter Lauren.
Earlier in the week, Patti had revealed to Daily Mail Australia that Matthew, who is based in New York, did not make the trip home for the service due to "logistics" and COVID.
Instead, she was joined by her daughter Lauren, her son-in-law Matt Welsh and the couple's six children for the funeral, which was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne on Friday morning.
The gathering also saw Bert's family and friends in attendance, with Silvie Paladino performing the Australian national anthem and Anthony Callea singing the prayer.
WATCH BELOW: Matthew Newton's Letter For father Bert's Funeral
For more on the life and legacy of Aussie TV legend Bert Newton, see below:
- Everything to know about Bert Newton's funeral
- Why Matthew Newton isn't attending his father Bert's funeral
- Australia's golden couple: Looking back at Bert and Patti Newton's relationship
- Bert Newton 1938-2021: "He gave us so much joy!"
- Australian TV royalty: A glimpse at Bert Newton's career through the years
- Keeping up with the Newtons! Bert and Patti Newton's best family photos
- Bert Newton’s pride and joy! Meet the TV legend’s six gorgeous grandkids
- Bert Newton celeb tributes