Manufacturers on Who do you think you are? she’d approached showbiz doyenne Rhonda Burchmore several times, but finally admits she was intrigued to hear what they’d uncovered.
In the SBS series, Burchmore learns about her maternal grandfather who abandoned her mother as a child and is thrilled to discover an artist in her family.
“It’s the most thrilling roller coaster,” he says TV tonight.
“In albums and photos (of my mother) my grandfather’s head was always cut out of the photo. I was always told it was like mentioning “Voldemort” in our house. We couldn’t talk about Tommy. All we heard was that he was a very bad man and an alcoholic and all of these things.
“So to really put a face on that person was really extraordinary… and to find out that he had been suffering from PTSD from being on the front lines.”
Burchmore was even taken in by a previously unknown aunt.
“When that person comes up to me and says, ‘Hi, I’m your aunt,’ I said, ‘Who were you?’ I mean, the whole thing was so intense.
On her father’s side, she finds an intriguing guardian angel, who has come to the rescue of her widowed great-grandmother and her 11 children, and discovers a charming entrepreneur who has amassed a fortune.
“I had no idea, but on my father’s side, his great great grandfather was the first naturopath, as we call them now,” she continues.
“He made all these millions and millions of pounds, and my grandfather was written into the will. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never heard of this, maybe I’ll put my toe in it and see what I can get!’
“He ended up leaving a huge legacy for the people of Sydney.
“You kind of go, ‘Wow, why didn’t I ever know about these people?’ I’m so glad I did the program. I mean, I thought the jungle (hon I’m a celebrity. Get me out of here) was pretty intense, but in that you don’t know what you’re doing day to day and where you’re going to go, who you’re going to meet and what you’re going to discover.
“They came to my house here in Melbourne and said, ‘You have half an hour to pack, you’re on a plane!’”
If the tears do come, as they often do on the SBS series, Burchmore says they were a genuine reaction to the emotion of it all.
“I was so tired and there was so much information, so the tears of my end are completely authentic. If I cry at the end, it’s actually happiness… they were tears of joy to find out what these people have been through.
“And maybe just a little regret that my mother didn’t know her father…but now it can be passed on to my daughter, which is really wonderful.”
Meanwhile Burchmore is about to treat the boards once more, showing up in a burlesque show Cabaret De Parisalong with French can-can dancers, aerial pole artists, circus performers and illusionists.
“When I was young, I always wanted to be one of those Moulin Rouge girls, and because of my obvious height, I opted for the musical theater route rather than just long-legged dance. I’m so glad I did, because I’m more than just a dancer,” Burchmore says.
“I have a lot of fun with this show because not only can I do French songs, they’re kind of like the glue of the whole program.
“I can wear feathers and do a very cheeky striptease. It’s kind of tailor-made for me, but it’s all a bit ironic.
“I can’t really speak a word of French, but it’s very flamboyant and I bring a sense of comedy and performance to it.”
Cabaret De Paris 7.30pm Friday 19 & Saturday 20 May, Palms at Crown, Melbourne.
*Note: This is a Burlesque Topless Revue show, some aspects may offend – viewer discretion is advised
Who do you think you are? 7.30pm Tuesday 13 May on SBS.