Photo by Denise Winters
by Jeanne Lieberman
hottest ticket in town, not the new Nathan Lane/Mathew Broderick play or Hugh Jackman in that strange little play - it was for the highly sought after, almost unattainable,
one day only event.
afternoon, November 17th theater glitterati and fans alike huddled
under the Al Hirschfield theater marquee for protection during a blinding,
traffic paralyzing, torrential downpour.
heavens did not weep for Elaine, they roared! Appropriate for the woman
who hollered and growled her way through life. Not
the tender hearted, sentimental tribute of most memorials, the event was like
its subject: Over the top, irreverent and raucous. No
tender tear jerking remembrances here – not for this tough bird.
A List of “speakers” scrambled over themselves trying to top each with their
own outrageous anecdotes, many punctuated by raucous imitations of Ms Stritch's
signature strident high decibel led vocal qualities. –
Photo by Monica Simoes
first was Nathan Lane: “We’re here because we loved her. She was a legend…. Elaine
would go into a bar and order a bottle of vodka and a floor plan…She was proud
of her gams….to her a hemline was an unnecessary accessory. She studied acting at the
New School when it was new…
She never bought a ticket. Instead, she’d march up to the box
office 10 minutes before the show and introduce herself. “’Don’t be silly —
after all I’ve done, I’m not paying for a ticket’ ”
didn’t stop there – when inside she was the last to laugh (loudly) so people
knew she approved and first to begin the clapping and cheering. She was famous
for obvious exits – her walk up the aisle before anyone else – in full view of
Ryan Herdlicka, who made his Broadway debut in the revival of A Little Night Music, said that
Elaine Stritch was "my best friend." He recalled that at a performance
of Sondheim’s Into The Woods in Central park, when the actors were
taking their bows (and stage light on high) she would laboriously make her way
out – totally distracting the house
Donna Murphy came out for her bow she turned, instead to Stritch still exiting
and clapped for her!
Photo by Monica Simoes
Peters, who shared the stage with her in A Little Night Music,
deadpanned a song “Civilization (Bingo Bango Bongo I Don’t want to leave the jungle)”.
Stritch used to refer to the departed as having left the building.
As she got more and confused she decided it was time to go and basically stopped eating and drinking until, as Peters said "Elaine Stritch has left the building."
Hal Prince quoted her as saying right in front of him “I am smarter than any director
I worked with”. , who directed Stritch in the 1970 Broadway premiere of Stephen
Sondheim's Company — which gave the actress one of her
signature songs, "The Ladies Who Lunch”
confided she often had lines to say from brilliant writers like Edward Albee.
“I never knew what hey meant. Just said them and hoped for the best”
by Jennifer Mitchell unless noted otherwise
Buckley who spent a lot of time with her at the Carlyle bar (where Stritch
lived) sang an appropriate “I never know when to say when”.
would often embarrass her during a cabaret performance by shouting out
“suggestions” during her act. She also said “The martini needs to be a little
dirty. Add the olive".
Smith bragged that in the 5 decades they were friends they never had a cross
word. Stritch, who was a bit naive, called her once in the middle of her date
with Marlon Brando saying 'It's an emergency” as things heated up,
quite understand how Hudson could be both "married and gay." ““She left me money to
take Barbara Walters to dinner”
Ebersole sang a special version of the Nash/Weill song "That's Him,"
ending with "wonderful world, wonderful you, that's him, that's him.
Laura Benanti and Michael
Photo by Monica
Benanti joined Michael Feinstein in a duet Stricth never got to sing when she
was understudying Ethel Merman (who never missed a performance” “You’re Just In
Hall, dressed a la Stritch in a white shirt and black tights sang a marvelous
rendition if one of her signature songs “Broadway Baby”.
Holland Taylor, a friend for three decades, recalled how
Stritch who always toted fruit and juice for her diabetes, always toted them in
"fresh, crisp" shopping bags from high-end stores and did not
hesitate to enter them and demand new ones. Taylor said she “always suffered the fear of
dying of embarrassment” whenever they went out.
Other speakers included, Stritch's nephew Chris Bolton.
Not in person but by virtue of video
clips were ”30
Rock" co-star Alec Baldwin and Cherry Jones.
included Cynthia Nixon, David Hyde Pierce, Joy Behar, Lois Smith, Megan Mullally, John Turturro, F. Murray Abraham, John Lithgow, Matthew Broderick,
Judy Gold, Christine Baranski, Kathleen Chalfant, Billy Porter, Ellen Burstyn and many, many more.
Stritch left $500,000 to the Actors' Fund and the same amount
for juvenile diabetes research.
Elaine herself concluded the ceremony with a
stunning rarely seen video of a young Stritch singing her signature song,
Sondheim’s “Ladies Who Lunch” By the time she belted out, "Everybody Rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise!," the entire audience at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre were
Oddly, it was the only moment of the entire
evening that referenced her talent.
“It’s like the prostitute once said “It’s not
the work, it’s the stairs” (Stritch 2001)
Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th Street. November 17, 2014