The Last Time I Looked: (Stories, Real and Unreal) -

June 17, 2013

So...Yes, in walked Fred Astaire.

There was no time for awe or awkwardness. As soon as Sydney spotted him, he said in his loud, hoarse, laugh-filled voice: “Jesus Christ! If it isn’t the other old hoofer himself! By God, I took these two guys out of the gutter, worked with them on their fucking arabesques til’ I got a hernia, and do they ever thank me? Nooo. Do they ask me to do my famous beached-whale imitation in their movies? Nooo…”

Astaire and everybody else is laughing. Sydney throws his bear arms around him.

“Hey, Fred, how are you, buddy?” (Remember to see and hear the completely charming, devilish merriment in Sydney’s eyes and voice.)

Astaire and Kelly hug. I hug myself because I’m there. Sydney makes the sweetest introductions all around. Astaire sits down. There is no tension or pomposity because of Sydney.

Goldie and Wayne start playing songs vaguely connected to the two of them. I mean, no one had the gall to play “Singin’ In The Rain” or “Easter Parade.” I mean this was sophisticated New York City – a little easy Gershwin, some humming, some laughing, a drink or two, some trading off of half choruses. And then the two of them got up and started dancing improvisatorially around the tiny available spaces, using people, chairs, the pianos, and the bar as props for invention and limitations. They were as stunning dancing spontaneously as they were in their carefully worked out film numbers.

That year, when I was in the show and while Adolph and I were reconnoitering each other, his universe of accomplished and recognized people was becoming highly seductive. They were his colleagues, friends, mentors. I’m still seduced. I’m still a superfan of people with talent, intellect, originality. My face becomes very alive and my body sings when I’m with these life-enhancing, oddball, driven, successful figures.

The Delacorte Theater in Central Park - Photo by Simon Luethi

That feeling came over me again last week as I watched the hilarious one night only Gala for the Public Theater. It was at their summer home in Central Park. The night turned out to be balmy and perfect. And then…and then hooray!

A full orchestra on stage, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and Martin Short and so many other talented people in THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE. Now, I had seen Kevin thirty years ago in the same show, and oh how unique and hilarious he was then and now. He surprises you, every second. He’s just as effective (and different) playing Hamlet.

The company of the concert included Kevin Kline, Jonathan Groff, and Martin Short - Photo by Simon Luethi

I got to know him all those years ago when he played Bruce Granit in hub’s show ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, and brought the house down in every one of his scenes. So, he’s one of those you want to hang on to and out with.

Glenn, who used to live next to me, was and is a warm, funny and very caring friend, who literally climbed over our adjoining metal fence to visit, have tea, and be there for me. We share the same birthday. So, come on…you can’t blame me for liking these names, names, names. That’s how it rolls.

O.K. two more names and then we’re going to open this up for a conversation. Alec Baldwin, as you know is a serious philanthropist with a wild sense of humor. Well, not too long ago he was good enough to come to my apartment, and with the insanely handsome and talented Brian Stokes Mitchell, helped raise money and people’s awareness of the PHYLLIS NEWMAN WOMENS HEALTH INITIATIVE OF THE ACTOR’S FUND. We were a very funny trio and I blatantly confess I wish they had both been keepers.

PN and Alec Baldwin

Now, it’s your turn…Let’s Go. Where do you want to be? On your couch with your feet up on the coffee table, having a snack, a drink and good talk with him, her, them? Or how about a small cozy round table in the back of an Italian restaurant, laughing and telling stories? Well, you get it. Create your own setting - and then what name or names do you want to hang with? The world is your oyster. Remember, it’s not just fame you’re looking for. It's shared interests, attraction, a sense of their sense of humor…just go for it. To start the ball rolling, here are some assorted types, but it’s anybody you want. I’m dying to see who you pick. Go ahead and put it in the comment box below and send it along.

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I find that my two biggest comfort zones are sitting upon a soft couch in a beautifully decorated living room, be it small or large, and sitting at a back table tucked into the corner of a quiet restaurant. I am so fond of so many of the great stars that it's impossible to pick just one or two, but any one or combination of the following would be a dream come true: Julie Andrews, Dick van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Carol Burnett, and four ladies whom as a New Yorker I have the pleasure of encountering from time to time, but never for as long as I'd like: Chita Rivera, Kaye Ballard, Jane Powell, and last but certainly not least ... Ms. New York herself, Phyllis Newman!
1:39pm 09/06/2013
Bruce Bider
Phyliss, I had it when we had dinner in L.A. when you were doing the series at Universal. Phylis and Joan Rivers and me and Sammy in a small Italian restaurant in the Valley. I got to witness the two funniest women in America (dare I say the world?) meeting for the first time!!!
1:21pm 09/06/2013
i agree with ron, pn wouldn't be chopped liver at all.

BUT, i always thought dinner at the brooks/bancroft house would've been as
good as it gets.
9:26pm 07/04/2013
So proud that Phyllis is a Trustee of The Actors Fund and founded and continues to inspire support for the "Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative". God Bless You!
9:21pm 07/03/2013
Joe Benincasa
If I could pick anyone alive or dead---John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan....if we're dealing strictly with the living....I would pick Mel Brooks, Betty White, Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke---legends all! We would be sitting in a living room somewhere drinking sweet tea and laughing like crazy!!
2:11pm 06/21/2013
Barbara Heiland
Oh. how to pick? I think Julia.. She seems more verbose on a myriad of topics I would think. Betty . .yeah... but I know so much about her. .and Woody.. I need verbal stimulation to keep ME confident. .I have read and heard he is not that verbose one on one? IDK. .yeah Julia D.. thinks we would have a blast. .and of course PN.. now that would be a hoot for sure!!
8:39pm 06/18/2013
Having lunch in Malibu with Shirley MacLaine, discussing all things metaphysical.
8:15pm 06/17/2013
Hanging w/ Phyllis Newman is as good as it gets.
1:51pm 06/17/2013
Ron Barron
Helen Mirren, having a drink together as we talk about our lives.
12:51pm 06/17/2013
Pris Robichaud