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Bliss, Diana Gwenyth (1954–2012)

by Malcolm Brown

Diana Bliss, who started from small beginnings as a Methodist minister's daughter and became enmeshed in the theatrical world in London, New York and Australia, was a petite, engaging woman who lightened the way. She married Alan Bond despite his troubles, pledged herself when he was convicted and was there when he was released in 2000.

''It's a good test when your husband goes to prison,'' she said. ''It separates the men from the boys and the girls from the women.'' Interviewed by a magazine, she once said: ''When I'm in Perth, Alan and I sit on the beach and watch the waves crash on the beautiful coastline. It will be there when we're all gone and it makes you feel how fleeting life is and how elusive happiness is.''

Diana Gwenyth Bliss was born in Temora, in the Riverina, in November, 1954, daughter of Reverend Douglas Bliss, who was based at Ardlethan from 1953 until 1955, and his wife, Phyllis. After 10 years in Corowa, Reverend Bliss was transferred to Epping in 1965 and Diana spent her teenage years there. She taught Sunday school, fell in love with ''the theatre of her father's performances'' and joined a local dramatic society.

Leaving school, she studied fashion design at the East Sydney Technical College, became an air hostess and then worked at the Parmelia Hilton in Perth, where in 1979 she met a beaming individual who introduced himself as: ''Bond. Alan Bond.'' Bliss became close to Bond's mother, Kathleen, and Bond referred to her as ''a dear friend of my mother''. Bond and Bliss travelled together and at one point rented a house in Sydney. Bond's wife Eileen who had borne him four children, was unimpressed and when Bliss met Bond in a restaurant in 1987 and kissed him, Eileen said to the restaurant manager: ''Throw the bitch out of here!''

Bliss became a successful theatrical producer, working in the West End, with plays such as Oleanna, Death and the Maiden, Explosive Yarns and I Hate Hamlet. Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good won the BBC Laurence Olivier Award in 1988 for best play. Wayne Harrison made contact with Bliss when he was director and chief executive officer of the Sydney Theatre Company. Bliss, then on the artistic council of London's Royal Court Theatre, supported him.

''I had a policy of wanting to produce London and New York hits in Sydney asap, not waiting around for years until the 'colonial' rights, held by companies such as the Royal Court, expired,'' Harrison said. ''She was instrumental in bringing several theatrical properties quickly to the STC, the most notable being Oleanna, which became one of the great STC successes of the 1990s.''

When Bliss bought 500,000 shares in Petro Energy, a corporation Bond subsequently took over, questions arose as to whether there had been insider trading. Bond was then charged with massive corporate fraud and declared bankrupt, and in 1992, divorced Eileen. Bond was discharged from bankruptcy, and on April 15, 1995, though facing criminal charges, he married Bliss at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. The couple were unable to go on an overseas honeymoon because Bond had to surrender his passport as a condition of his bail.

With her husband jailed for four years, Bliss continued with local theatre. She produced Tracy Letts' Killer Joe in 1996. Interviewed about Bond in 1997, she said: ''I have to stand by him right to the end. I think that love is sacrifice.'' Bliss became close to her four stepchildren. Her connection with Bond helped her to get backers for her productions, but she pointed out that investors wanted results.

When Bond was released from Karnet Prison Farm in 2000, the couple went to live in London. He went back into business and she returned to theatre. In 2008, Bond resurfaced in Australia's rich list with a personal fortune estimated at $265 million.

The couple returned to Australia in 2009 and Bliss became the associate producer of the Perth Theatre Company's production, Equus. But she was not well. Cheryl Anderson, estranged wife of developer Warren Anderson, saw her on Friday last week, walking at Cottesloe. ''She did not look too well and it shocked me to see her in such a state,'' she said. The next day, Bliss's body was found in her swimming pool in Cottesloe. She had left a suicide note, thanking her family and friends for their support and understanding.

Diana Bliss is survived by Alan, three stepchildren and their families, her mother and her brother, Peter.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Bliss, Diana Gwenyth (1954–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bliss-diana-gwenyth-16711/text28607, accessed 10 December 2022.

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