They gave each other strength
On With the Show’s
Flashback to Variety Today 1992
By SHIRLEY BROUN
WHEN Peter Allen discovered he had terminal throat cancer earlier this year, one of his major concerns was not for himself but the fact that he had to cancel his season at Twin Towns Services Club, on the Queensland Gold Coast.
Judy Stone and close friend Col Joye.
Such was the nature of this performer who gave so much in the name of `entertainment’. “Peter kept saying how he felt he was letting his fans and colleagues down by cancelling, despite the fact that he really had no alternative – he was too ill to go on,” legendary Australian entertainer Judy Stone said.
Judy, also diagnosed with throat cancer, was with Peter at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, that fateless afternoon when he learned of the fatal consequences of his cancer. “We were sitting back to back in the waiting room when my sister recognised Peter’s voice. It gave us strength to know each other were there.”
“My operation was scheduled for 3pm and Peter for 5pm. To my surprise, Peter walked in to see me after my operation – I knew then that his cancer was inoperable.”
No words of explanation were needed. I could see in his eyes the sadness that he felt for us both. Why us? I reached out for him and just wanted to keep holding him.”
Judy begged him to stay in Australia but it was not to be. As he left, Peter told Judy he would write a duet for them both. “I will expect it to arrive in the post,” an emotion-filled Judy exclaimed.
While two of her dearest friends have sadly taken their final bows, Judy is determined to overcome the rare form of cancer which has forced her to stop singing for the first time in her long and successful career. “The next 12 months are going to be very testing,” she said.
Judy, Peter and fellow pioneer of Australia’s rock’n’roll industry of the 50s and 60s Laurel Lea were all diagnosed with cancer during the same week.
Laurel, who made Judy’s stage clothes and was a close friend, died within days of discovering she had leukaemia – the shock of which rocked the entertainment industry, resulting in one of the largest show business funerals ever held.
“It’s unbelievable that we were all diagnosed with something so serious during the same week, and all around the 48 to 50 age”,” said Judy.
LEGENDARY entertainers Judy Stone and Peter Allen (pictured above) gave each other strength at a moment in their lives when they felt most helpless.
Judy, who has a history of rheumatic fever resulting in her having a weak heart, admitted her diagnosis was a `hell of a shock’. “I just never expected cancer. I have malignant carcinoma and there is no guarantee of being cured, but I’m currently in remission and return to the hospital every six weeks to be monitored and X-rayed.”
Having never stopped performing throughout her career, Judy finds the break away from the spotlight and her adoring public, one of the hardest tasks to accomplish. Her last show this year (1992) was at Terranora Lakes Country Club (on the Qld-NSW border). “I was so dry that I could hardly swallow and was gulping water between every song. And, I felt so exhausted. I knew then, I would have to stop performing for a while.”
Judy spent the next week sick in bed and her weight dropped from 6 stone 10 to a mere 5.5 stone. But, she says, her friends within the industry rallied to her support. “Bobby Limb rang to tell me what to expect. He had been through it and his insight helped me along the way.”
Col Joye too was a constant caller and her large `Bandstand’ family and industry friends encouraged her not to give up hope. “It is true what they say – Cancer is not a sentence, it is a word – and I personally know of some wonderful success stories,” said Judy.
“The important thing is to never give up, always be positive and never be afraid of getting two or three opinions.”
Judy’s first diagnosis had been a `blocked salivary gland’. “If I hadn’t sought second and third opinions immediately, another two weeks could have meant life or death to me,” said Judy.
1992 has not been a good year for this endearing songstress. Not only was she battling her own health crisis, but Judy also endured the death of her mother. Her funeral was held on the day of the 17th Annual MO Awards in Sydney, an event at which Judy was to have been a guest presenter for the Country Performer of the Year.
Ironically, Judy had made a radio commercial emphasising the importance of never giving up on cancer. The commercial was aired for the first time on the Monday morning and her mother, who suffered from emphysema, was listening. Ät 70, Mum had been fighting for 15 years. She heard my voice, laid back and closed her eyes. So, although I couldn’t be with her physically, I was still close to her at the time of her death.”
With the determination that made her one of Australia’s favourite and best loved peformers, Judy does not intend to sit back and cry Four million, Three Thousand, Two Hundred and Twenty One Tears (one of her all time hits). Moreover, she is determined to regain her health and has plans to return to the stage with long-time friends, The Flanagans, in cabaret on August 29 at the Sydney-based Blacktown Workers Club.
She may even write a duet of her own as she awaits Peter’s in the post. “I have a lovely little cottage on the north coast where I plan to spend many a relaxing weekend in the coming months,” she said.