He will be forever known for his iconic role in The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and 60-year career of singing, acting and cabaret across the world's stages.
But for Barry Crocker, if ever there was a decade he "felt most alive", it was the 1970s, when the world was his, variety entertainment was booming and he was... everywhere.
He reflected on those days while talking about his new memoir, Barry Crocker: Last of the Entertainers, an unvarnished reflection on a rollercoaster life of great successes and a few regrets.
With wry good humour he tells of sharing the stage with the likes of Peter Allen, Olivia Newton-John and Kylie Minogue. Of rubbing shoulders with celebrities good, bad and ugly. Of having a bloody ball.
On the flip side, he also shows vulnerability in the emotional toll of combining showbiz with family life, of loves lost and found, and the realisation that many of his friends are no longer here.
Barry, who turns 88 on November 4, was terrific mates with the likes of Graham Kennedy, Bert Newton, Don Lane, Ernie Sigley, Stuart Wagstaff and Jimmy Hannan.
Roaming between cities and studios, they guested on each other's shows, had riotous fun at telethons and "lied about how well we were doing". All of it totally unscripted.
"They were the times when we were all learning about television and we had to stand on our feet and deal with whatever came up, which was quite sometimes wonderful and sometimes shocking," Barry said.
Don and Bert were his best mates; he knew Bert since he was 17, on radio in Melbourne while Barry worked the clubs. "I used to sing Johnny Ray's Cry behind the curtain and he'd go out the front and mime it," Barry recalled.
"Don was a great mate. We were friends for 42 years. I wish he was still here so I could give him a big hug."
To absent friends
Last year, it dawned on Barry that many of his mates from the 1960s were slipping away or had retired and he was, as the title says, the "last man standing".
He had already started on the book when Barry Humphries, his aunt Edna Everage in The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, died in April 2023.
"It hits you. It was the cherry on the cake. I have to look in the mirror every morning to make sure I'm still here."
About Barry (just some of it)...
- 33 gold records to his name
- Star of The Adventures of Barry McKenzie and Barry McKenzie Holds His Own
- Host of The Barry Crocker Show and The Sound of Music
- Six years as host of Seven Network's Carols in the Domain
- Cabaret performances including seasons at the MGM Hotel (Las Vegas), The Bonsoir (New York) and Talk of the Town (London)
- Many telethons in Australian and the US (three hosted by Jerry Lewis)
- Theatre performances including See Saw, Mothers Day, Educating Rita, The Rocky Horror Show and Fiddler on the Roof
- Four Logies (one for Most Popular TV Personality), four Mo awards, plus many others
- Awarded the Order of Australia in 1987
A tough gig - but
Like many a performer, even the on-screen knockabout, knock-'em-out Baz had moments of self-doubt.
"We all had that drive that we had to make it. We had that thing that says, 'You're not going to be good enough. Get out there, you've got to do it, you've got to do it'," Barry said.
But it was instructive.
"When we were all starting initially, we had a chance to be bad and die the death of a dog. But that's how you learned. You'd say, 'What did I do wrong? Where did I lose the audience?'"
Still, if you had the talent and the profile, there were endless opportunities in the 1960s and '70s - in Barry's case, events such as telethons, awards nights and outdoor extravaganzas like Melbourne's Moomba parade.
It was hard to imagine an event without Barry Crocker in it.
Golden age of clubs
For fans of a certain age, it will be the Aussie club circuit where many saw Barry in full flight. It was huge at the time - and thriving.
At venues including South Sydney Juniors, St George Leagues Club in Sydney, Twin Towns on the NSW/Queensland border - all of which seated up to 1500 people - Barry and his fellow troubadours played to packed houses.
"It was the halcyon days of the big clubs. Everyone was working and lots of things were happening," he said.
Still, while a good earner, the performers felt they didn't get their due.
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Clubs regularly brought in overseas acts who got princely sums for less than stellar shows, while the likes of Barry, Don Lane and Col Joye brought houses down for a penny.
This led to - as Barry described it - "a sort of an early facsimile of the writers strike in America".
"We said, no, if you want us, you'll have to raise our fees. So the real money was coming in from our personal appearances," he said.
"It was very wonderful to hear all that applause and get paid at the end of the night with what we felt we deserved. So they were great days."
Building a name
Barry went to England, Europe and America, feeling like he had to prove to the public at home that he had something to offer - a true world-class entertainer.
He also toured South Asia and the Philippines, where he was one of the first Western performers to break ground in the '60s, plus Israel, where he became friends with the great Topol.
Oh, you are awful
Barry says it would be hard to get away with a film like The Adventures of Barry McKenzie nowadays.
"You've got the Barry McKenzie version, 90 minutes of mayhem, or you could buy the woke version that runs for 18 minutes and three seconds," he said.
"People would be hounding us. You can't say anything now without having someone wanting to punch you in the face or something."
The show goes on
Barry sympathises with today's young artists, who often only get one shot at success - think shows like Australia's Got Talent and The X Factor.
That said, he is full of admiration for the performers of today.
"I firmly believe that this country now turns out some of the best talent in the world, be it in acting, singing, writing, directing, as well as in the more technical fields."
Why write it?
The book, which follows the release The Adventures of Barry Crocker: Bazza 12 years ago - is less an apology than a hope for reconciliation.
Barry writes: "Although not intentional, some people have been hurt by my sometimes selfish ambition, love, lust and the desire for success. As I grow older, I would hope to heal those wounds."
While he said his life was "wild and wonderful", it took a heavy personal toll.
The father-of-five's marriage to Doreen ended and two relationships floundered before he found contentment with English actress Katy Manning in 1990.
He told The Senior: "When you're out there trying to be the person that you planned to be, I'd look at myself today and say, 'Well, you weren't a very good husband and father'."
He eventually found peace with Doreen, who died in January 2023. He dedicates the book to her.
"You have your druthers... But it's fine now because I have eight grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and two more on the way."
They are scattered across Australia and the US, where his son lives, but keeps in close contact.
Today, Barry is retired. "The body is saying lie down, you silly old bugger," he said.
But not before a final hurrah: a nationwide, shortened revival of his one-man show on the life and work of Banjo Paterson. A creative project many years in the making, it received wide acclaim.
A top read
Last Man Standing is a reminder of a time when variety entertainment was just that. Performers like Barry had to be able to do it all.
It's a flashback to a time unlikely to be repeated - literally so: Barry's lifetime collection of photos is reason alone to grab a copy - and shows Barry has lost none of his ability to hold an audience.
Barry Crocker: Last of the Entertainers, New Holland Publishers, RRP $32.99, available from all good bookstores or online.