Tuesday, August 19, 2014

And One For Mahler! -- Elaine Stritch on Chanel

RIP Elaine Stritch

In the early 90s I played Ermengarde in  Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker" at The Roundabout Theater in New York.  Broadway diva, Dorothy Loudon (Annie), played Dolly Levi but the production was plagued (maybe cursed) by problems -- the death of the director's mother, violent outbursts by Kenneth Mars (The Producers, Young Frankenstein, What's Up Doc?) who had to be replaced, and a brief, ill-fated reunion with my mother.  

Interestingly, it had been Tyrone Guthrie (founder of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis where Mother met my stepfather Oliver Rea and ran away with him) who saved the play from a premature death after a diasterous Broadway production by Max Reinhardt.  Then, the play was called The Merchant of Yonkers.  It ran thirty-nine performances would never have never have been seen again if Guthrie hadn't picked it up fifteen years later and convinced Wilder to rewrite it and take the then minor character of Dolly Levi and move her to the center of the piece.  It ran in the Edinburgh festival and then the West End in London at the Drury Lane Theatre and came back to Broadway in triumph in 1955.  It was made into a film and then of course adapted as the musical Hello Dolly!.

Anyway, in addition to working with some wonderful actors and some crazy ones (Dorothy Loudon used to push me off stage as soon as or before I finished delivering my lines), the highlight of our ill-fated run of The Matchmaker for me was a phone call from Elaine Stritch -- the Elaine Stritch or as Noel Coward called her, Stritchey.  It was either a late morning or early afternoon.  My fiancee was at work.  It was summer and very hot and we didn't have air conditioning so I was vacuuming naked when the phone rang.  I picked it up and it was the unmistakable voice of Miss Stritch...

"Hello.   Is Wendy Lawless there?  It's Elaine Stritch calling.  I went down to the Roundabout last night to see my dear friend Dorothy Loudon in that horrible production of The Matchmaker.  That Joe Bova is about as funny as a dead baby's open grave.  But I wanted to tell you that you were great, kid.  That thing you're doing up there is hard.  Making people laugh in a turkey like that isn't easy.   I would have told you last night but I couldn't stay.  I'm diabetic you, know and I had to run home and stick myself in the arm.  You've got it, kid.  Just keep doin' what you're doin'."

The brief conversation remains what I consider to be one of my greatest reviews as an actress.  

Thanks, Stritchey!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wendy Wasserstein and the Chanel Bonfire Sequel

In 1989 I got my first job on Broadway, understudying in The Heidi chronicles.  I went on in January of 1990 and then took over my roles in February and began a wonderful nine months with the play.

Researching the sequel to Chanel, "Heart of Glass", (and trying to remember what happened!) it's been marvelous to revisit the play I did on Broadway, and learn more about Wendy Wasserstein. I fondly recall her kindness to me, her marvelous laugh, and all those times she took the cast to Sardi's and Orso. The Heidi Chronicles really stands up - rereading it twenty-five years later. Keep the faith!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hancock, New Hampshire Reading Today!

Today's the day, New Englanders and New England Vacationers!  I'll be reading from Chanel Bonfire, talking about crazy moms and surviving crazy moms and the saving grace of humor at the Hancock Town Library on Main Street in Hancock, NH 03449.  Stop by, I'd love to meet you and be happy to sign a book.  If you or a friend need a new copy, The Toadstool Bookshop of Peterborough will be on hand with fresh copies.  And afterwards we may stroll down the street to the historic Hancock Inn for a drink!  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's Not You

Sara Eckel @ Book Soup on the Sunset Strip

Went to a wonderful reading and then out for drinks with my old friend Sara Eckel.  An extradordinarily funny and observant writer of essays about us pitiful human beings and our struggles to live and love.  It's always a treat to see her.

Her new book "It's Not You: 27 Wrong Reasons You're Single" is a must read filled with hilarious and poignant stories of our struggles with being single, looking for Mr. and Ms. Right, and our attitudes toward those who are single and happy, unhappy, the whole gambit.  Go buy it from your local bookstore today!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hot Night at El Morocco

Okay, I don't have any pictures, but we were there.  One of the hottest nights in my memory, as if a garbage filled blow-dryer was pointed at your face.  It was NYC, 1974, Robin and I in our long Laura Ashley dresses, getting drunk on champagne while Mother and Pop Bossa Nova'd and didn't pay attention to anyone else.  Listening to "Midnight at the Oasis".  Later, I passed out in the taxi.  My first faint.  Stay cool out there this summer.

Years later, in a strange, worlds collide, my husband and I were living in Hell's Kitchen and we'd just had our first child, Harry.  We lived in Manhattan Plaza, a building for people in the performing arts.  An old lady named Mrs. Valentine who had been Toscanini's secretary lived a few floors down from us and knitted booties for Harry.  Her husband, Harry Valentine had been the Maitre 'd at El Morocco until his retirement in the early 80s and probably poured us all into the taxi!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Hampshire Reading August 11th!

The Hancock Town Library, 25 Main Street, Hancock, NH 03449

New Englanders! or visitors to New England, I'll be reading from Chanel Bonfire and talking to readers and answering questions about the book and about crazy moms and surviving crazy moms and life after crazy moms in New Hampshire this August. 

Two hours from Boston and fifteen minutes from Peterborough, Hancock is a beautiful little New England town in New Hampshire's spectacular Monadnock Region.  

I'll be reading at 7pm on August 11th.  Peterborough's Toadstool Bookshop will be there selling books and if you already have a copy, I'd be happy to sign it for you!  Afterwards, we may all walk down the street to the historic Hancock Inn for a drink!  I hope to see you there.

For more information on the library, inn and bookshop, click on the links below.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Reading List

Thanks to the Sacramento Public Library for putting Chanel Bonfire on their great Summer Reading List!  I heart librarians.  For their complete list, click on the link below.

Summer Reading List

And remember if you and your book group read Chanel Bonfire this summer, I'd be happy to do a Skype Q & A with you!  Just contact me at chanelbonfire@gmail.com!  Happy Reading!