Jeanne Little was one of Australia’s favourite entertainers for decades, appearing in a number of hit programs including The Mike Walsh Show. She won a Gold Logie in 1976 and was known all around the country for her “Darrrrling” catchphrase, her outrageous fashion, over-the-top make-up and bubbly personality.
Sadly, Jeanne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, with her close family confirming the star no longer knows where she is or what’s going on around her and that her memory has faded. It has become the subject of daughter Katie Little’s new book, Catch A Falling Star.
Katie appeared on Monday’s episode of The Daily Edition where she gave an update on her famous mother’s health and what it’s been like caring for someone with Alzheimer’s for the past 10 years.
“The book was meant to be about childhood and adolescence, because I had such an interesting period to write about, but then the publisher said, ‘Look, we want the ending with your mother getting sick’, so it was like being asked to go and self-harm in a corner for six months,” she explained. “If I’m going to write about this, I really want to write about the whole truth.”
Read more: The wonder and heartbreak of Jeanne Little
Katie explained that Alzheimer’s doesn’t just impact the person with the disease and that it also affects the families and loved ones.
“It’s not just the people with dementia, which is terrible, it’s all the families who are also going through this too,” she continued. “It’s just heartbreaking. And 10 years. It goes on for a long long time.”
She also opened up about the time she found a note her mother wrote before her memory started to fade and before she went into care. She found it hidden in a rug when she was cleaning up her mother and father’s home.
It read: “Then I was told that pills will give me a means of perhaps ‘how I used to be’ but sadly my whole life is ruined, it’s kind of like being in jail.”
During the interview, she also opened up about what it was like having Jeanne as a mother.
“It was just lovely,” she said of reliving her childhood. “After all the sadness and awfulness of when mum got sick, to be able to go back and rethink what it was like when we were all living in this crazy four-storey terrace with each other and mum had her crazy sewing room next to my bedroom and it was all crazy, creative chaos going on up the top and dad has his sensible downstairs, running the interior design.”
Katie also said that her mother was exactly like she was on television in real life.
“You try getting woken up for school at 8am by Jeanne Little every morning and see how you like it,” she joked, also revealing that Jeanne adored being a grandmother.
The book, which was released earlier this month, is set to tell the story of Jeanne’s fame through Katie, who grew up watching her mother backstage amidst crazy outfits, sequins and feathers.
“Catch A Falling Star will take you on a journey that is both laugh-outloud funny, heartbreakingly honest, and a rare glimpse into the personal life of one of Australia’s most beloved celebrity families,” a statement by the publisher read.