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Elaine Stritch


I thought of Elaine Stritch as my neighbor, because she lived at the Hotel Carlyle, and when she said, after years of living there, and years of sobriety, that she was moving back to Michigan and might even take up a wee bit of liquor again, I knew she was fixing to die. At her memorial service, someone said that when confusion was the norm and her mind wasn’t working well, she stopped eating and escorted herself off the stage. But what a stage. Her life was her art. Her art was her life. She was a babe, a good-time girl, a dame. And claimed that she was a good girl, too. A virgin until 30! Stritch was a hard drinker and a soft touch. She was always giving to street people, probably imagining how close she was to being one. There was money in her will for the down-and-out, for the Actors’ Home, and for Liz Smith to take Barbara Walters out to dinner. But she never, ever paid for a theater ticket, showing up at the box office before a performance and asking for one seat in the back, free of charge. Guess it worked. Her performances are legendary, nailing "The Ladies Who Lunch"—filmed, thank God—and her role on 30 Rock as Alec Baldwin’s mother—how perfect is that??—and A Little Night Music, where she was famous for blowing the lines. She was perfect the matinee I saw. Woody Allen, Albee, Sondheim. She could do it all, and did. She had a very long career on and off the boards, and I wish she was still here. (Thanks to Barbara Perlov for her notes on the memorial service.)


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