They starred together in hit program The Ernie Sigley Show in the 1970s and have enjoyed a close friendship ever since, but now Denise Drysdale has revealed her agony at watching long-term friend and mentor Ernie Sigley succumb to Alzheimer’s disease.
The Studio 10 star opened up on her comedic partner’s deteriorating health in a candid interview with Woman’s Day, revealing the 80-year-old sometimes forgets who she is when she visits him.
According to the Mail Online, Denise, 69, told the mag: “I’ve worked with some horrible comedians who hate it if you’re perceived as funnier than them. But with Ernie, we didn’t stop laughing for nearly 40 years, and to see him struggling to even remember who I am is devastating.”
Ernie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2016. The degenerative disease affects more than 342,000 Australians and an estimated 44 million people worldwide. It typically robs people of their memories and can cause aggressive behaviour, paranoia and loss of muscle movement.
Explaining when she first began to suspect there may be a problem, Denise reportedly told the mag she actually had her first suspicions eight years ago.
“He seemed to be forgetting lyrics to songs we’d sung for decades. He’d begin to repeat himself. If we were doing a club show, I knew I couldn’t leave him on stage alone as he seemed confused,” she added.
It comes just months after Denise recalled making a visit to see her former co-star earlier this year – admitting she became emotional when he struggled to remember who she was.
“I went to see him a couple of months ago and I sang him the whole of ‘Hey Paula’ (their duet that went to No. 1 in 1974). He stood and looked at me, got a bit emotional and gave me a big cuddle,” she told the Herald Sun.
“Then I was sitting with him about 10 minutes later and he said, ‘God, you remind me of somebody’. I said, ‘Delvene Delaney?’ and he said, ‘No, not her’. I said, ‘Denise Drysdale?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, that is who you remind me of’.”
Drysdale and Ernie starred in his hit program The Ernie Sigley Show, in the 1970s and quickly became household names thanks to their impeccable comedic timing and on-screen chemistry. Their hilarious antics left Aussies in stitches and earned the pair Gold Logies in 1974. Drysdale won again in 1975.
In his heyday, Sigley was regarded as one of the best comedians in Aussie entertainment. After his show was cancelled in 1976, he and Drysdale remained close, with the comedy veteran acting as mentor to his young protégé.
Sigley went on to work in radio for almost 60 years and hosted Wheel of Fortune from 1981 to 1984. Drysdale went on to star in a number of variety shows before landing her own program, called Denise, in the late ’90s.
The pair are well known for their duet of ‘Hey Paula’, which Denise performed solo last year in a poignant tribute to her partner on Studio 10. While she appeared solo on stage, she had Ernie’s vocals in the background throughout to accompany her.