Thursday, 31 July 2014

End of an era: The Shields Gazette office in Chapter Row, South Shields, closes

The Last Man on Earth
MOVIN' ON

( A tribute to The Shields Gazette office in Chapter Row, South Shields, on the occasion of its closure on July 31, 2014.)

Awkward Locks

Pencils, half-finished paperwork,
this is how it ends: time just stops,
Not even remembering hurts,
keys jammed in their awkward locks.

Rooms silent, worn out by shouting,
papers lost to a print of sea,
dust grows into a grey mountain,
Still the quiet heads home with me.

Dead-lines are disconnected phones,
There are no more sales at the front desk,
urgent messages left alone,
'The Shipping Forecast's' are a wreck',
brick by brick it comes crying down,
tears, and cement, hit the ground.

TOM KELLY

Did the captain go down with his ship?

J. D. Salinger - Go See Eddie, Once A Week Won't Kill You, The Young Folks...

JD Salinger stories published after 70 years out of print
Three early works – The Young Folks, Go See Eddie and Once a Week Won't Kill You – brought out after indie imprint finds rights still available

Alison Flood
theguardian.com
Monday 28 July 2014

Three stories written by a young JD Salinger in the 1940s have gone on sale to the public for the first time in 70 years.

Independent publisher Devault-Graves says that Salinger's Three Early Stories is "the first legitimately published book by JD Salinger in some 50 years". The late author of The Catcher in the Rye, notoriously protective of his privacy, published nothing after the release of his story Hapworth 16, 1924 in the New Yorker, in 1965. In 1974, he told the New York Times that the release of two volumes of his uncollected short stories was "an illicit act. It's unfair. Suppose you had a coat you liked and somebody went into your closet and stole it. That's how I feel."

But, after learning of the existence of 21 stories written before the publication of Catcher in 1951 in the 2013 documentary about Salinger, publishers Tom Graves and Darrin Devault began to research rights in the stories.

They found that three - The Young Folks, Go See Eddie and Once a Week Won't Kill You - had never been registered to the author, they told Publishers Weekly. "We knew we had a shot at obtaining the rights," said Graves, "and the game began."

Their "exhaustive" search led to the acquisition of world rights, with the publishers clear that if they "stepped one inch over the line" the Salinger Trust would "nail" them, they told PW. "I can't blame them for protecting everything that is rightfully theirs," said Graves, adding that since the book was made available for sale on Amazon earlier this month, it has been investigated by lawyers, but the matter is now "settled".

The Young Folks was published in 1940 in Story magazine, a small journal. It is, said Devault-Graves, "an impressive view of New York's cocktail society and two young people talking past one another, their conversation almost completely meaningless and empty".

"About eleven o'clock, Lucille Henderson, observing that her party was soaring at the proper height, and just having been smiled at by Jack Delroy, forced herself to glance over in the direction of Edna Phillips, who since eight o'clock had been sitting in the big red chair, smoking cigarettes and yodelling hellos and wearing a very bright eye which young men were not bothering to catch," writes Salinger.

The second, Go See Eddie, was published in 1940 in a college journal, The University of Kansas City Review, and is "a tale of quiet menace as an unsavoury male character gradually turns up the pressure on a young lady to see a man named Eddie", said its publisher, adding: "the story is notable for the back story that is omitted". The third story, Once a Week Won't Kill You, was published in 1944 in Story magazine, and is "ostensibly about a newly minted soldier trying to tell an ageing aunt he is going off to war".

Graves admitted to Publishers Weekly that Salinger may well not have approved of the new book, which is illustrated. "The old man himself may not have liked what we've done," Graves told the American publishing magazine. "But we have done our best to respect his legacy and present a handsome product that would not have embarrassed him … We hope this book winds up in every library with the other Salinger classics."

The release of Three Early Stories follows the leak online last year of three unpublished short stories by Salinger. The stories, An Ocean Full of Bowling Balls – which Salinger had prohibited publication of until 2060 – Paula, and Birthday Boy, are kept in university libraries in the US, for use by scholars, but scanned versions were released online in November.

"These stories – especially the latter ones – are obviously drafts, with misspellings and odd syntactical lapses, which may or may not be a fault of the transcription," wrote Jay Parini of the stories in the Guardian at the time. "Ocean Full of Bowling Balls is fascinating work, and Salinger fans will not have to wait until 2060 to read it. The others will interest only scholars. Whether or not these stories should have seen the light of day – given Salinger's directions not to publish – is another matter."

A recent biography of Salinger claimed that five posthumous books by the author would be published between 2015 and 2020.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/28/jd-salinger-stories-published-70-years-out-of-print

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

J. M. W. Turner - Britain''s greatest artist ... ever?

Is JMW Turner Britain's greatest artist?
He once divided critics, but Turner's profound influence on later artists is testimony to the immutable power of his creative vision

Jonathan Jones
the guardian.com
Monday 28 July 2014

Joseph Mallord William Turner is Britain's greatest artist.

What? Who says? What about Constable, or Lucian Freud? How do you even measure such a claim?

One measure is the fascination an artist holds, not just for the general public, but for other artists. If an artist of the past is still haunting, provoking and inspiring modern artists, that has to suggest some deep vitality. To this day, Turner haunts art in that way. It is not yet done with the grandiose after-echoes of his smoky light.

Olafur Eliasson is one artist whose experiments with light and atmosphere powerfully echo Turner's paintings. Eliasson's Weather Project in 2003 turned the Tate Modern Turbine Hall into a vast walk-in Turner world, where a blazing sun and heady, twilit space engulfed visitors in romantic illumination.

As if there were any ambiguity about  debt to Turner, he's acknowledging it himself, in an exhibit opening at Tate Britain on 8 September. Eliasson's show is to be held in the museum's Clore Galleries, which are dedicated to Turner's vertiginous paintings. Eliasson has studied seven pictures by Turner and abstracted their colours into circular paintings that resemble the "colour wheel" widely used to analyse colour in Turner's age. Eliasson's colour wheels instantly evoke Turner, with their gold and bronze fiery hues.

Eliasson's homage coincides with Tate Britain's forthcoming exhibition of Turner's late, near-abstract oils and watercolours, in a year when passion for the painter is being rekindled by Mike Leigh's film Mr Turner, which comes out in Britain in the autumn.

Yet the influence of Turner on modern art is no publicity gimmick. It is an enduring affinity. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneering French modernists from Monet to Matisse admired the intense chromatic freedom and atmospheric uncertainties of this British master.
Mark Rothko Untitled 1959
It was partly because of his love for Turner that Mark Rothko gave many of his abstract expressionist Seagram Murals to the Tate. Rothko deeply admired Turner, and his eerie spells of pure colour echo Turner's bloody skies and seas. In fact, there's currently a Turner painting hanging in Tate Modern – not a gallery in which you would expect to see a 19th century landscape picture – next to the Rothko room.

When an artist makes a subject his own, it is impossible to ignore that artist's way of seeing. Turner said something eternal about the way light penetrates the human imagination. He meditated so deeply on the psychology of light – our love affair with the sun – that any artist fascinated by light is bound to echo him. 
Turner's sun pervades James Turrell's installations, which sculpt space with light, just as much as it enflames Eliasson's art. We can no more escape him than we can escape our need for light. Even photographs of deep space taken by the Hubble telescope are given colour by Nasa scientists in ways that echo Turner; somehow, he shapes how we see nebulae and supernovae.

If the sun is God, as Turner is supposed to have said, this incandescent painter was the sun's high priest and art is indebted to him.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/jul/28/jmw-turner-britains-greatest-artist

Answers on a postcard, preferably one from the Tate.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Booker T. Jones and Bettye Lavette at The Sage, Gateshead

SOUL GREATS ... Booker T. Jones, above, and Bettye Lavette, below, shared the bill at The Sage.
Live review: Booker T. Jones and Bettye Lavette
Terry Kelly
22July 2014

A DOUBLE soul treat was served up as part of the SummerTyne Americana Festival 2014 at The Sage.

Bettye Lavette wears her heartache on her sleeve, in a voice bearing the scars of a musical career which this year reached its half-century.

Pencil-thin, dressed in black and wearing heels, she strutted around the stage as she gave life to songs old and new, all delivered in her trademark torch singer style.

Dylan’s Everything Is Broken was given a soulful makeover early on, before Lavette thanked her English fans for buying her music and sparking a late-career revival.

The popular Let Me Down Easy went down a treat, and her interpretation of Joy, by Lucinda Williams, was a highlight.

After slowing down The Beatles’ Blackbird, Lavette invited a 40-strong local choir on stage for a couple of numbers, which drew a standing ovation from the audience.

Booker T. Jones’ musical pedigree speaks for itself, from his days with the famous Stax studio, a string of hits with Booker T. & the MGs and on to a career as one of the world’s top producers and arrangers.

The 69-year-old soul great cherry-picked his way through his illustrious back catalogue, backed by a superlative, three-piece band, spicing up the numbers with his trademark organ sound.

The hits Green Onions, Soul Limbo and Time Is Tight from his days with the MGs were all present and correct, plus great versions of his co-written classics Born Under A Bad Sign - famously covered by both blues great Albert King and Cream - and the Al Green hit Take Me To The River.

Immaculately dressed - including his familiar trilby - Booker T. looked supremely at ease with his amazing musical legacy, but also exuded great humility in his simple, down-to-earth introductions.

For a man who enjoyed his first hits as a teenager in the early 1960s, Booker T. is clearly still in love with music.

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/what-s-on/music/live-review-booker-t-jones-and-bettye-lavette-the-sage-gateshead-1-6743561

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Uncollected J. D. Salinger Stories Published

Three more J.D. Salinger stories published

Jacob Shamsian
22 July 2014

Three previously uncollected short stories by J.D. Salinger have been published in a new book. J.D. Salinger: Three Early Stories, published by The Devault-Graves Agency, includes “The Young Folks” (published in a 1940 issue of Story magazine), “Go See Eddie” (published in 1940 in the University of Kansas City Review), and “Once a Week Won’t Kill You” (from a 1944 issue of Story).

Tom Graves, one of the publisher’s founders, told Publishers Weekly that this is the first Salinger book with illustrations, which were made by artist Anna Rose Yoken. However, in keeping with the style of Franny and Zooey and Nine Stories, the cover has no illustration, and Salinger’s biography and picture are not included in the book.

Three Early Stories is the first lawfully published Salinger book in more than 50 years, the last being 1953′s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. An unauthorized collection of Salinger’s early short stories appeared in 1974, and Salinger sued its publisher. “Some stories, my property, have been stolen,” Salinger then told The New York Times. “Someone’s appropriated them. It’s an illicit act. It’s unfair. Suppose you had a coat you liked and somebody went into your closet and stole it. That’s how I feel.” The three stories published by Devault-Graves are different from the three unauthorized stories—”The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” “Paula,” and “Birthday Boy”—which leaked online last year.

According to the recent book Salinger, by David Shields and Shane Salerno, the Salinger estate plans to publish five more of the author’s books by 2020. Those books will reportedly include a collection of stories about the Glass family (featured in Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey), a collection of stories about the Caulfield family, books based on his experiences in WWII, and a manual of the Hindu Vedanta religion, which he followed in his later years.

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2014/07/22/3-more-j-d-salinger-stories-published/

Indie Publisher Releases First Salinger E-book
Clare Swanson
22 July 2014

Roughly two years ago, Tom Graves and his business partner, Darrin Devault, formed The Devault-Graves Agency in Memphis, Tenn., with the idea of repurposing select, out-of-print backlist titles as e-books. Their publishing credo, according to Graves, is that “no good book deserves to fall into obscurity.” Now they're putting that credo to use with J.D. Salinger.

Since its launch, the company has released about a dozen titles, but last week unveiled its first physical book—J.D. Salinger: Three Early Stories. The collection, available as print-on-demand, and in e-book and audiobook, from the company's imprint Devault-Graves Digital Editions, marks, according to Graves, the first (legally sound) book by Salinger to be published in 50 years, and the first Salinger writing legitimately available as an e-book and audiobook. Ingram is handling printing and physical distribution, Bookbaby digital distribution, and the audiobook is available through Audible (and selling well, Graves noted).

Devault and Graves began to research the rights to the Salinger’s 21 early stories—all written before Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951—after learning of their existence in Salinger, Shane Salerno’s 2013 documentary about the reclusive author. The pair discovered that three stories had never at any time been registered to Salinger. “We knew we had a shot at obtaining the rights," explained Graves, "and the game began.”

After an “exhaustive” search that involved a team of intellectual property attorneys and expensive searches by the Library of Congress, the Devault-Graves Agency was able to legally secure world rights to the three works. Graves admitted he and Devault understood that if they “stepped one inch over the line” the Salinger Trust would “nail” them.

“I can't blame them for protecting everything that is rightfully theirs,” Graves added.

The late author’s trust did indeed have their lawyers investigate the matter as soon as the book went live on Amazon. But, after Devault-Graves’s lawyers presented the information from the rights hunt, all parties considered “the matter settled,” said Graves.

Three Early Stories contains Salinger’s first two published short stories, “The Young Folks,” fromStory magazine in 1940, and “Go See Eddie,” published in the University of Kansas City Review in the same year. The third story, “Once a Week Won’t Kill You,” appeared in a 1944 issue of Storymagazine.
Yoken's illustration for Salinger's short story, "The Young Folks," first published in 1940.

In addition to the other firsts, Three Early Stories is, according to Graves, the first Salinger work to include illustrations (provided by Brooklyn-based artist Anna Rose Yoken). In designing the rest of the book, the publisher sought to put together a package with Salinger's preferences in mind.

“He liked his book jacket covers simple and with little ornamentation,” said Graves. “He did not want his photograph on the book, and did not like biographical information. So, we left all that out, as he would have wished.” While Graves and Devault had Salinger's tastes in mind for their edition, they did not seek to create a knock-off of current Salinger books. Grave said they “purposely did not in any way imitate any of the other iconic Salinger covers,” so as not to “creatively infringe on those concepts.”

Salinger, of course, was famously protective of his copyright during his lifetime. When an unauthorized collection of Salinger’s early short stories was published in 1974, the author told the New York Times, the act was "illicit" and "unfair." Salinger went on: "Suppose you had a coat you liked and somebody went into your closet and stole it. That's how I feel." Graves acknowledges that if Salinger had a say, his early works wouldn’t reach new audiences in republication.

“The old man himself may not have liked what we've done,” said Graves. “But we have done our best to respect his legacy and present a handsome product that would not have embarrassed him...We hope this book winds up in every library with the other Salinger classics.”

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Need Your Love So Bad
Make You Feel My Love
Dead Flowers

Da Elderly: -
Love Song
Birds
I Believe In You

The Elderly Brothers: -
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
Let It Be Me
I'll Get You
Things We Said Today
Everybody Knows

A quiet start meant solo spots for the Elderlys, but no sooner had Ron kicked off, than the place filled up with punters. A most enjoyable evening followed, with a wide variety of York's musical talent on show. After the open mic closed there was another unplugged jam, with several acapella offerings from the audience; and several sing alongs, where everyone seemed to join in, notably on You Never Can Tell and We Can Work It Out.

The 2nd of August sees the Elderly Brothers' Saturday night debut at The Habit starting at 9pm. Miss it or miss out!

Dora Bryan RIP


Dora Bryan, a talented character actress who could turn her hand to everything from musicals to Shakespeare, farce to tragedy has died, age 91.

The variety of the roles she played, including parts in plays by Ibsen and Pinter, belied her caricature as a wide-eyed dizzy blonde.

Born Dora May Broadbent in Southport, Lancashire in 1924, she went to a council school and, encouraged by her ambitious mother, made her first stage appearance at the age of 12, in pantomime in Manchester.

During World War 2 she worked in repertory theatre and with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) - an organisation set up in 1939 to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel during the war.

She moved to London in 1945 and appeared in a number of West End productions - notably in the Lyric and Globe revues in the 1950s.

She changed her name to Bryan, taking it from the match manufacturers Bryant and May. She lost the closing "t" when a theatre programme misspelled her name.

In 1966, the actress played the title role in Hello, Dolly at Drury Lane, eating a full chicken dinner on stage six nights a week and at two matinees.

In 1968 she played nine parts as the star of They Don't Grow on Trees at the Prince of Wales.

Later, she was in the National Theatre's She Stoops to Conquer (for which she won an award) and a revival of Charlie Girl. And she took the West End by storm in a lavish 2002 musical production of The Full Monty.

But she was not just a stage actress - she made her big screen debut in 1948's The Fallen Idol. About 40 further films followed, including The Blue Lamp, The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery, The Sandwich Man and Two a Penny.

The peak of her career came as she played the domineering, promiscuous, alcoholic mother, Helen in the 1961 film A Taste of Honey. The role won her a Bafta award for best actress.

James Garner RIP

James Garner had huge success with long-running TV series The Rockford Files and Maverick

James Garner, the US star of hit TV series The Rockford Files and Maverick and films including The Great Escape, has died aged 86.

Garner had suffered ill health since a severe stroke in 2008.

"Mr Garner died of natural causes," the West LA Division of the Los Angeles Police Department told the BBC, adding he died on Saturday and his body has been released to his family.

His publicist confirmed that he died at home.

Garner famously played the laconic private investigator Jim Rockford.

He won an Emmy for the role in 1977 and starred in 122 episodes of the hugely successful show from 1974 to 1980. He returned to it in the 1990s with eight Rockford Files TV movies.
Another role, as the poker-playing Bret Maverick in the Western comedy, was also a hit with TV viewers, running for 60 episodes from 1957 to 1962. It ran again for another 18 episodes from 1981 to 1982.

Richard Natale of Variety said that the role of the laid-back, work-shy Maverick fitted "his wry personality like a glove". However he left the show following a legal dispute over his salary with Warner Bros, which he won.

The TV show was later made into a film in 1992 starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, but also starred Garner - this time on the right side of the law, as Marshal Zane Cooper.

In 1963's iconic World War Two film The Great Escape, Garner played flight lieutenant Robert Hendley, an American in the RAF, alongside Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Donald Pleasence.

Garner went on to be nominated for nine Golden Globes for shows including The Rockford Files in 1980 and Maverick in 1982, having won in 1958 for most promising newcomer.

He also won a further two for TV series Decoration Day [1991] and Barbarians at the Gate [1994].

He also starred with Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn in mother-daughter drama Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, in 2002. From 2003 to 2005 he was in 45 episodes of US comedy 8 Simple Rules.

In 2005 the veteran star was given a Screen Actor's Guild lifetime achievement award.

Garner married his wife, the TV actress Lois Clarke, in 1957. They had two daughters, Kimberly from her previous marriage, and their daughter Greta.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Photographs of Vivian Maier


Vivian Maier: mysterious and eccentric nanny who took stunning photographs
Documentary out this week tells remarkable story of Maier and the photographs she shot – and then deliberately kept secret

Mark Brown
The Guardian
Monday 14 July 2014

Vivian Maier was a mysterious and eccentric nanny who spent a lifetime looking after other people's children while harbouring a rather lovely secret: she was an astonishingly accomplished photographer.

The Guardian newspaper on Tuesday publishes rarely seen photographs by a woman now considered one of the finest street photographers of the 20th century.

A documentary film released on Friday will tell the remarkable story of Maier and the photographs she took – and then deliberately kept secret.

Maier is today considered a genius whose photographs stand comparison with names such as Diane Arbus and Robert Frank.

But if it had not been for a chance discovery at a Chicago thrift auction in 2007, the world would still be unaware of her life and talents.

The discovery was made by a young former estate agent called John Maloof who was writing a history book on his Chicago neighbourhood.

He said: "I was wondering how I would find enough old photos to illustrate the book and tried my luck at a local junk and furniture auction house."

Maloof bought a box packed with about 30,000 negatives, which he did not use in the end.

"However, I knew to keep them. I thought: 'I'm resourceful. I'll look at them later when I have more time. Fast forward two years later, that purchase had unearthed some of the finest street photography of the 20th century.
/
Maloof set about finding out who Maier was, and decided also to make a film documenting his discoveries.

"My obsession drove us to compile a library of interviews and strange stories from across the globe. We found roughly 100 people who had contact with Vivian Maier. In the film we let people speak for themselves.

"I hope that this story comes through honest and pure, and does more than just uncover a mysterious artist but tells a story that changed the history of photography."

Maloof has made the film with Charlie Siskel, who produced Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine. The executive producer is Jeff Garlin, who has many credits but will be forever famous as Larry David's agent in eight seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Maier's day job for 40 years was as a nanny working for families in Chicago, often taking her charges out with her when she was taking photographs.

Because she had no permanent home, she kept all her negatives in a Chicago storage facility. She died in 2009, too early to know about the high regard she is held in today.

Siskel acknowledged that "if Vivian Maier had her choice the world would know nothing of her life and photographs. She chose to conceal herself and her art during her lifetime.

"But hiding one's art is, of course, the opposite of destroying it. Maier preserved her work and left its fate to others."

Since the discovery of Maier's talents she has become a phenomenon,with galleries selling her prints for upwards of $2,000 (£1,200).

There have been books, exhibitions and a BBC Imagine documentary which called her "a poet of suburbia" and a "Mary Poppins with a camera".

Siskel said Maier was "a kind of spy" capturing street life and "recording humanity as it appeared, wherever it appeared – in stockyards, slums and suburbia itself".

But she was also an outsider and Siskel believed she "may have secretly longed for the family bonds she witnessed intimately for decades".

He added: "Her work is now part of the history of photography and an undeniable treasure. The discovery of Maier's work not only gave her story an ending, there would be no story without it."

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/14/vivian-maier-rarely-seen-photographs


Finding Vivian Maier review – fascinating study of a brilliant undiscovered talent
Documentary uncovering the mysterious life and amazing work of Maier, a nanny whose photographs bear comparison with Cartier-Bresson

Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian
Thursday 17 July 2014 

Seven years ago, a young Chicago historian named John Maloof made an extraordinary discovery. He picked up a box of undeveloped photo negatives at an auction belonging to a mysterious woman named Vivian Maier; later, Maloof tracked down a storage unit rented in her name, filled to the brim with negatives, prints and miscellaneous effects.

For a modest payment, he found himself the owner of a staggering, huge archive of street photography by a brilliant, undiscovered talent, clearly to be compared with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus. These were thousands of stunning images taken on the streets of New York and Chicago from the 1950s to the present, but never shown to anyone in the photographer's lifetime. This documentary shows Maloof's mission to develop, catalogue and publish this sensational trove, and to find out more about the unknown artist herself. Maier, who died in 2009, had earned a crust as a nanny to the well-heeled, dragging her charges out on long walks while she took candid shots on the streets, and also dabbled in Zapruder-ish cine film. Her humble job allowed her to roam, and perhaps her low status gave her a sharp sense of dispossession and even resentment. Interestingly, the pictures she took in rural France, her mother's birthplace, are calmer and gentler than the fierce images of Chicago. These are, in a sense, symptoms of her own mental turmoil. This is a fascinating study.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jul/17/finding-vivian-maier-documentary-review

Vivian Maier Self-Portrait

East 108th St, New york, 1959.

1953, New York.

Staten Island Ferry, 1955.

New York.

 Vivian Maier

Florida, 1960.

Vivian Maier Self-Portrait.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Wednesday night's set list

At The Habit, York - The Elderly Brothers: -

Everybody Knows
Island Of Dreams
People Get Ready
Bring It On Home To Me
Crying In The Rain
Walk Right Back
Bye Bye Love

It was a busy-ish night at The Habit, boosted by Graduation Day revellers. A hastily put together set, following Phil Elderly's Crazy Horse travels, included soul standards People Get Ready and Bring It On Home To Me. The after-show unplugged session turned into request time from the new graduates in the audience who demanded a Simon & Garfunkel set! Oh what fun we had.

FRIDAY NIGHT BOY COOL #261

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Elaine Stritch RIP

Elaine Stritch, Tart-Tongued Broadway Actress and Singer, Is Dead at 89

By Bruce Weber and Robert Berkvist
17 July 2014
Photo

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed by a friend, Julie Keyes. Before Ms. Stritch moved to Birmingham last year, she lived, famously, for many years at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan.

Ms. Stritch’s career began in the 1940s and included her fair share of appearances in movies, including Woody Allen’s “September” (1987) and “Small Time Crooks” (2000), and on television; well into her 80s, she played a recurring role on the NBC comedy “30 Rock” as the domineering mother of the television executive played by Alec Baldwin. But the stage was her true professional home, where, whether in musicals, nonmusical dramas or solo cabaret shows, she drew audiences to her with her whiskey voice, her seen-it-all manner and the blunt charisma of a star.

Elaine Stritch built her Broadway career playing brash and bawdy characters.

Plainspoken, egalitarian, impatient with fools and foolishness, and admittedly fond of cigarettes, alcohol and late nights — she finally gave up smoking and drinking in her 60s, though she took it up again — Ms. Stritch might be the only actor to work as a bartender after starring on Broadway, and she was completely unabashed about her good-time-girl attitude.

“I’m not a bit opposed to your mentioning in this article that Frieda Fun here has had a reputation in the theater, for the past five or six years, for drinking,” she said to a reporter for The New York Times in 1968. “I drink and I love to drink, and it’s part of my life.”

Most of the time she was equally unabashed onstage, rarely if ever leaving the sensually astringent elements of her personality behind when she performed. A highlight of her early stage career was the 1952 revival of “Pal Joey,” the Rodgers and Hart/John O’Hara musical, in which she played a shrewd, ambitious reporter recalling, in song, an interview with Gypsy Rose Lee; she drew bravas for her rendition of the striptease parody “Zip.”

In a nonsinging role in William Inge’s 1955 drama, “Bus Stop,” she received a Tony nomination as the lonely but tough-talking owner of a Kansas roadside diner where travelers take refuge during a snowstorm. Three years later, in her first starring role on Broadway, “Goldilocks,” a musical comedy by Jean and Walter Kerr and the composer Leroy Anderson that also starred Don Ameche, she played a silent-film star and impressed The Times’s critic Brooks Atkinson with the acid capability of her delivery:

“Miss Stritch can destroy life throughout the country with the twist she gives to the dialogue,” Atkinson wrote. “She takes a wicked stance, purses her mouth thoughtfully and waits long enough to devastate the landscape.”

Noël Coward, one of Ms. Stritch’s devoted fans, built the 1961 musical “Sail Away” around her role as Mimi Paragon, the relentlessly effervescent hostess of a cruise ship. She repaid his trust not only by giving what Howard Taubman of The Times said “must be the performance of her career” (including a delicious rendition of Coward’s hilariously snooty “Why Do the Wrong People Travel?”) but also by successfully ad-libbing, on opening night, when a poodle in the cast betrayed its training onstage. The show was not a hit, but Ms. Stritch came away with her third Tony nomination. Her next Broadway role was in the replacement cast of Edward Albee’s scabrous portrait of a marriage, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” as Martha, the bitter, boozy wife.

One of Ms. Stritch’s most memorable appearances was in the Sondheim musical “Company” (1970), in which, as a cynical society woman, she saluted her peers with the vodka-soaked anthem “The Ladies Who Lunch.” It not only brought her another Tony nomination but became her signature tune — at least until, in her 70s, she became equally known for Sondheim’s paean to showbiz longevity and survival, “I’m Still Here.” It was the centerpiece of her 2001 one-woman show, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” and she sang it in 2010 at Mr. Sondheim’s 80th-birthday concert at Lincoln Center (Patti LuPone took on “The Ladies Who Lunch”) and at the White House for President Obama.

Essentially a spoken-and-sung theater memoir, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” created with the critic John Lahr of The New Yorker, began performances at the Public Theater in Manhattan (when Ms. Stritch was 76) and then moved to Broadway, where it was a smash.

Alone onstage except for a single chair, clad only in tights and a white silk shirt, Ms. Stritch wove together music (including “Zip,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “I’m Still Here” and two additional Sondheim songs: “The Little Things You Do Together,” a mordant salute to marriage from “Company,” and the aging showgirl’s lament, “Broadway Baby,” from “Follies”) and showbiz memories into a nightly tour de force that won a Tony Award for the year’s best special theatrical event.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/18/theater/elaine-stritch-tart-tongued-broadway-actress-and-singer-is-dead-at-89.html?_r=0