A year after Patti married Bert Newton, 82, in 1974, Bert’s beloved older sister, Alice passed away from cancer, aged 52. Bert, then a huge TV star, was devastated.
“He loved her desperately and she died,” Patti tells New Idea. “But in her time all those years ago, it wasn’t homed in on you to keep checking and to go and have mammograms.”
It’s now 45 years since her sad death, but Alice remains in the hearts of the Newtons. What few people realise is the crucial role she played in Australia’s television history.
Both Bert and Alice loved the theatre and as a young man, Bert was poised to pursue a career on the stage.
“They had a very close relationship,” a source said of the siblings. “She’s very special to him.”
But Alice had some words of advice for her younger brother and future Gold Logie winner.
“Alice said, ‘TV is the future, you must do TV,’” a source says. “So, if it wasn’t for Alice, Bert would have gone into theatre. Australia has Alice to thank for giving us the TV legend we know and love.”
Now, when Patti strips for The All New Monty, which raises awareness of breast cancer research, she’s honouring Alice’s memory.
“When I explained I was dedicating my performance to Alice, Bert was very moved,” Patti says.
In recent years, Bert’s own health has been a priority.
“When he had a health scare with pneumonia in 2017, it shook him to the core,” a source previously told New Idea. Patti reveals Bert’s diet has “changed” as he now monitors what he eats.
Their daughter, Lauren and husband, former Olympic swimmer Matt Welsh, have given them six beautiful grandchildren. Their latest, a son named Alby, was named in honour of Bert.
“Bert’s name is Albert and he gets Bert, and I’ve always called him Alb or Alby, so it’s such a lovely tribute,” Patti beams.
While it’s understood Patti and Bert would’ve loved to have had more children – their embattled son Matthew lives in the US – they dote on their grandchildren.
“Every time I talked about doing Monty, my [grandson] Monty, who’s 4, looks at me and says, ‘Why are you saying my name, Nan?’”
‘The truth about my diet’
Performing a striptease on TV, even for a seasoned performer like Patti, was not easy.
“We were all very nervous,” Patti admits of her burlesque-style Monty routine.
The performer wears a top hat and coat before shedding her clothes, along with other celebrities, on the show. With little preparation, she put her faith in choreographer, Todd McKenney.
“Look, I’m not somebody that is very good at dieting and I’m not a great exerciser, but Todd was so good with the choreography that we worked hard when we had to, and that gave us a bit of strength,” she says.
“And remembering the steps was a good exercise enough for me. So, I used my brain for the exercise part rather than my body.”
For more, pick up a copy of New Idea. On sale now.