May 26, 2010

On Monday, May 10, I went to the Roundabout Theatre at Studio 54 for a celebration of the life of the beautiful actress Natasha Richardson who died too young. I knew Ms. Richardson but I was not a close friend. Her aunt Lynn Redgrave died about a week prior to the celebration, and she was very dear to me – we were both trustees of the Actor’s Fund and when I had health problems she took care of a lot of events for the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative writing me beautiful letters all through. She was an exceptionally sympathetic, smart, talented and loyal pal. So I very much wanted to be a part of the gathering of her family and friends.

Back to Studio 54 – The house lights dimmed and a spot picked out a man in the audience dressed in a black leather jacket and boots. The spot followed him as he went on stage, turned around and sat on a stool. It was Bono, he sang a cappella in that unique husky voice of his. The song was “Amazing Grace.”


The following Monday, May 17, I went to St. Ignatius Loyola Church for the funeral of Lena Horne. My husband Adolph lived across the street from Lena and her husband Lennie Hayton who had won an Academy Award for Adolph’s movie On The Town in 1949 many moons ago when they were all working at MGM. They remained friends and I was happy to get in on their world some years later.

I honestly worshipped Lena the entertainer (and the activist) and like so many others I saw her one-woman show countless times. I was such a groupie that I bought two of her costumes from that show at the "Lighthouse's Annual Vintage Sale." As I was reading her full page obituary in The New York Times I noticed that in one of the pictures she was wearing "my" kimono. I went into the stuffed closet of clothes I'll wear when I lose a few hundred extra pounds - and took out the purple shiny kimono and spread it on my bed – it still had the red tag "Donated by Lena Horne - $200."


In the 1960's her beautiful and gifted daughter Gail married our good friend, the brilliant director Sidney Lumet. I've remained very close to Gail and their daughters Amy and Jenny.

Now – are you following? Are there too many names and cross relationships? – I can't help it – it's the way it is.

Another connection. In 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement Lena did a concert at Carnegie Hall in which she sang a new song – a Civil Rights anthem called "Now." The music, based on a Jewish folk song "Hava Nagila," was by Jule Styne, the lyrics by hubs Adolph and Betty Comden. Lena sent her proceeds to the Gandhi Society for Human Rights.


Back to St. Ignatius Loyola - the funeral:

The amazing Audra McDonald walks onto the altar and in her perfect voice sings – wait for it – "Amazing Grace."

So much talent, so much beauty, so many memories of then – so much happening now – let's think about them all and revere them.


Lennie Hayton, Lena Horne, Adolph Green
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Phyllis...this is truly wonderful. You have such beautiful and important memories. And, as always, you have the "Phyllis" eye for detail and humor. Bravo! (or should it be Brava?)
11:06am 07/19/2010
Beautiful blog, Phyllis. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
11:05am 07/19/2010
I love your continuing blog. It is dynamite.

Love and Hugs,

11:04am 07/19/2010
Gary Silverman