Australian Celebrities

EXCLUSIVE: Denise Drysdale wants you to know she isn’t done ‘living or laughing’

The Aussie icon has plenty of reasons to celebrate 75 years young.
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Denise Drysdale has never been one for making a fuss on her birthday. But after living pain-free for the past 12 months, she had every reason to celebrate when she turned 75 on December 5.

“It’s been a terrific year,” Denise tells New Idea exclusively. “I’ve worked non-stop with some of my best mates – Normie [Rowe], Craig [Bennett], Jess [Rowe] on Studio 10 and lots of my own stuff.”

More than anything, it’s Denise’s health that’s been a blessing.

WATCH NOW: Denise Drysdale’s son gives update after her brain surgery. Article continues after video.

“I finally feel on top of how I felt,” Denise confesses. “I don’t think I realised how sick I was until I got better.”

Regaining her mobility has been a joy for Denise, after spending much of 2021 and 2022 in excruciating pain following a trigeminal neuralgia (TN) diagnosis.

Inviting us into her Gold Coast home for a catch-up and celebratory photo shoot, Denise explains, “It was one of those things that cripple you. It changed how I walked, even simple things like how I got things out of a drawer.”

A woman, Denise Drysdale, poses with her dog at home.
Denise, with her dog Mr DD (aka Mr Darling Dog), is loving life again. (Credit: Will Horner)

“It felt like electric shocks,” she continues. “The pain was caused by the artery touching the nerve. Some mornings I’d just sit and inch my way out of bed because I knew as soon as I stood up it was going to start.”

The TN diagnosis was the last in a slew of health problems, including a fractured shoulder that left Denise feeling rundown and exhausted.

“There was a period there where I thought, ‘Geez, what else can He have in store for me? I mean, I say ‘He’ … God might be a woman … but if She is, She hasn’t got a sense of humour,” Denise says with a laugh.

Girls’ day out

So, on a high from a busy 12 months, ‘Ding Dong’ broke with tradition for her 75th – which, she says, is “usually to not do much at all for my birthdays” – and planned a knees-up with two of her dearest friends, neighbour Doni, and Jen, who flew in from Perth.

Hot chips with salt and vinegar were the perfect accompaniment to good company and a flutter, as the bubbles flowed during an afternoon at The Star on the Gold Coast.

 “We went all out with the expensive champagne. It was $60 – that’s expensive for me! I think we had about a bottle each,” Denise says. “I don’t really gamble but we set ourselves a limit of $50 and that was enough to keep us laughing for about four hours. We lost it all, of course.”

A woman, Denise Drysdale, poses with her grandchild and dog.
Denise has loved seeing her grandchildren thrive this year. (Credit: Will Horner)

Growing up fast

Another highlight this year has been seeing her grandchildren thrive.

“My son Pete’s son, Xavier, is six. He’s on the spectrum, so we were all worried about how he would go with the transition to school. Kids are wonderful, but they can be cruel,” Denise says. “He has the most incredible teacher and we’ve seen a huge shift in him. She’s gotten him swimming, she’s going to take him for a haircut – on a scale of 1 to 10, he’s at an 11.”

Xavier’s two-and-a-half-year-old sister Heidi keeps everyone on their toes.

“She is a little bruiser,” Denise confirms.

Then there’s eldest grandchild Bodhi, son of Denise’s youngest Rob, who joined his nana on our shoot and is growing at lightning speed.

“He’s taller than me and in a size 11 shoe – and he’s only 12!” Denise says proudly. “He’s just finished primary school and gone from problem child to student of the week!”

A woman, Denise Drysdale, holds a tiny teacup in her garden
Making people laugh is “a privilege,” says Denise. (Credit: Will Horner)

The time is now

With so much progress in 12 months, which included a club tour with her pal Craig, it’s hard to know what’s next for Denise. 

“Well, I think I might have left my run too late to join the police force,” she quips without missing a beat. “No, seriously … what am I looking forward to? My roast chicken tonight.”

But beyond the jokes, there’s an enduring sense of gratitude that shines through.

“I’m just enjoying how I am now. I am so lucky; lucky, lucky, lucky!” Denise says. “I’ve managed to find a beautiful place in the world, I have my family and my dog and my pussycat. If I can provide for them and look after them, I’ll feel I have done a good job.”

For our full chat with Denise, pick up a copy of New Idea, on sale now.

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