Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Posts tagged “Carol Channing

Photo of the day: AS THE WORLD still TURNS with EILEEN FULTON

Neal Hetherington (Habitat for Humanity), Colleen Zenk, Eileen Fulton, Richard Skipper

Neal Hetherington (Habitat for Humanity), Colleen Zenk, Eileen Fulton, Richard Skipper

Photo of the day: AS THE WORLD still TURNS with EILEEN FULTON – Sometimes being a bitch pays off, just ask Eileen Fulton! – Before there was Erica Kane/Susan Lucci on All My Children, Amanda Woodward/Heather Locklear on Melrose Place, Abby Ewing/Donna Mills on Knotts Landing and certainly Alexis Carrington/Joan Collins on Dynasty – – there was Lisa Grimaldi/Eileen Fulton in 1960 on the classic TV soap opera “As The World Turns“. Being a bitch certainly offers job security, Eileen played the roll for fifty, yes fifty years!

Soap classic

Soap classic

On February 16, 2014 Sunday night, Richard Skipper: entertainer, charity fundraiser, Carol Channing’s champion and a well loved friend and historian of the entertainment community, hosted an evening’s conversation with soap opera legend Eileen Fulton at New York’s Metropolitan Room. One of many celebrity interviews in the ‘Richard Skipper Celebrates…’ series. A charity event with all proceeds going to president Jimmy Carter’s ‘Habitat for Humanity’ at the request of Eileen herself.

Host Richard Skipper

Host Richard Skipper

Richard’s warm and listening manner lets his guests free flow with the room and the audience loves it. Eileen’s zesty charm took over the room immediately. She looked absolutely stunning with her blonde curls tossed on top of her head, wearing black feathers and diamonds just as a soap opera queen should! So how do you get a job that lasts 50 years? You bang down doors. No…I mean that literally.

On a hot summer’s day in 1960, Eileen was treading the pavement going from agents office to agents office. After her bluff did not work at the William Morris agency that “I have an appointment with Mr. William Morris”, she went on to the next name on her list, William McCaffrey. When knocking on the door yielded no results, she knocked/pounded a little harder therefore knocking the door off it’s hinges (well…it WAS being repaired and so therefore loose). That accidental stunt landed Eileen her first agent. Shortly thereafter she  landed the role of Lisa Grimaldi ‘for just a few episodes’ on ATWT. Her Asheville, North Carolina sweetness connected with the viewers but not with Eileen. Eileen didn’t like being the ‘good girl’ Lisa Grimaldi – too boring. So she schemed to spice things up. When not allowed to change the plots or staging directions, she changed her character simply by using her voice. She said the same sweet dialog “but as I said it, I thought the nastiest dirtiest thoughts and the words just came out differently – with a whole new meaning. It was live television, what could they do?” she recounted to Richard with a sly grin. The rest is television history.

Eileen Fulton speaks her mind

Eileen Fulton speaks her mind

Eileen’s determination is also show business legend. At one point Eileen held down three acting rolls at once. ATWT soap filming live, then 3 matinees of “Whose Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” and then evening performances of “The Fantastiks”. She had a speed record of getting from the CBS Grand Central Broadcasting studio to the Billy Rose Theater (now the Nederlander) on West 41st street in five minutes. Talk about determination! It’s a feat of determination that Elaine Stritch still talks about in her act today. Why did she stop? “I was exhausted!”.

Die hard fan Kevin Campbell meets Colleen Zenk

Die hard fan Kevin Campbell meets Colleen Zenk

Over the decades CBS tried to replace Eileen’s character of Lisa with another actress,  but the viewers would not have it. “You can’t lie to the audience” Eileen passionately insists.  Lisa/Eileen’s audience was so wrapped up in the nastiness of the character, Eileen was slapped by a Chanel wearing patron at SAKS Fifth Avenue and she also had to hire body guards because people simply couldn’t separate real life from fiction as they would try to slug her in the street. Well, Eileen slugged herself all the way to the banks with 5 lp recordings and two autobiographies under her belt, night club acts, movie rolls as well as many murder mystery novels to her credit as well.

Soap aficionado  Peggy Eason and husband meet their idol

Soap aficionado Peggy Eason and husband meet their idol

Sunday night under Richard’s loving guidance, two passions in acting came to light. Eileen strongly feels you can’t fake emotions and don’t glorify violence against women even in jest. When a scene came up that her character was to be taken across her husband’s knee and spanked, she refused to play the scene insisting to her directors “that’s abuse whether you realize it or not.” Eileen got her way and kept a high standard on the show for a long time.

ATWT 2001 cast

ATWT 2001 cast

Any ironies in her life? Yes. As a child she was fascinated that ivory soap bars would float on the water in the tub, “just like a piece of wedding cake.” Being left alone in the tub one afternoon as a child, her mother returned to find little Eileen had bitten away the edges of the tasting looking soap bar as she ‘foamed from the mouth.’ “Isn’t it ironic that for fifty years I had Procter and Gamble/Ivory Soap as my sponsor?!” she laughed.

Any grudges or unhappy memories? Yes, one. Eileen is not a great fan of Carol Burnett. There’s a grudge there. Seems Eileen came up with the idea of the comedic take-off on Carol’s show “As the Stomach Turns” yet she was never once asked to appear. But when Carol did the comedic take-off of “Sunset Boulevard/Norma Desmond”, Gloria Swanson was asked to appear. “I think it was jealousy” Eileen still quickly insists.

"As The Stomach Turns"

“As The Stomach Turns”

Eileen has played through fifty years of history, fashion fads, political turmoils and every heinous plot you can think of on TV soaps but on September 17, 2010, the “World” no longer turned to the heartbreak of the legions of fans of “As The World Turns.” All the more reason this rare intimate night with this TV icon was such a treat thanks to Richard Skipper.

'As The World Turns' stars Colleen Zenk and Eileen Fulton with Richard Skipper

‘As The World Turns’ stars Colleen Zenk and Eileen Fulton with Richard Skipper

Richard doesn’t just “read the book” as some interviewers may do, he gets to really know his guests and hence the magic of the evening is born. Many of her fans and also former cast member Colleen Zenk who played Barbara Ryan from 1978 till 2010 where in the audience. When asked during the question and answer part of the show if she still recalled her full legal show name, Eileen shouted: “Of course! I was married eight times, divorced three times and widowed four times. I’m Lisa Miller Hughes Eldridge Shea Colman McColl Mitchell Grimaldi Chedwyn!” (Take that Alexis Carrington!)

I had the surreal pleasure of having dinner with Eileen! (Thats me seated right next to her.)

I had the surreal pleasure of having dinner with Eileen! (Thats me seated right next to her.)

Richard Skipper’s web site: http://www.richardskipper.com/index.html


HAPPY 93rd BIRTHDAY CAROL CHANNING ♥ !

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROL CHANNING!

TO THE GRANDE DAME OF BROADWAY – HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROL CHANNING  !


Photo of the day: CAROL CHANNING CELEBRATES “HELLO DOLLY’s” 50th ANNIVERSARY !

CAROL CHANNING !©

Photo of the day: HELLO DOLLY!!! – There are certain voices that when you hear the first note you know it’s them. At the top of the list is Carol Channing. Yes, there’s Cher, Bette Davis, Hepburn, but Carol’s voice and accent is absolutely irreplaceable. Who else can go from a squeaky inquisitive voiced googely eyed girl to a jazzy baritone in a split second. No one, period – Carol Channing can.

Monday night, January 20th, that unmistakable charming infectious voice filled the Town Hall on Broadway in a dual celebration of the 50th anniversary of opening night of the classic musical “Hello Dolly” – the role she originated and played uncomplainingly over 5,000 (yes…5,000)  times AND her upcoming 93rd birthday on January 31st.

Hosted by performance artist Justin Vivian Bond, it was a love fest that likely will not be equaled for a very long time. To have been there was a privilege that will not ever be forgotten. The star studded audience included Folies Bergère/musical “Nine” star Liliane Montevechi looking absolutely stunning in her bright red fur coat, Carol’s dear friend and champion Richard Skipper, Sandra Bernhard, John Cameron Mitchell, Alan Cumming, Jackie Hoffman, divine John Lypsinka Epperson and Lady Bunny, Michael Musto (of course) as well as countess LuAnn de Lesseps and none other than Sir Ian McKellen.

Liliane Montevechi

Liliane Montevechi

Her entrance on stage in her crisp white pantsuit resulted into thunderous applause that would not end, no matter how they tried to start the show the audience persisted with their enthusiastic welcome. Upon first sitting down in her chair she was concerned that there was a microphone on a stand next to her and tried to grab it, it wouldn’t release. Justin explained it was ‘a back up mic.‘ “Oh! A bAAAAAAAAAAckuuuup mic!“ she exclaimed setting of a gleeful roar in the audience. No one can say “back up mic” and be heard all the way in San Francisco! San Fran is also, btw, where she wants to be buried, between the Curran theater and the Geary, she has already gone and measured and it seems there is just enough room in the narrow alley between the two theaters. “There are fire escapes there – but they’ll have to get rid of those.“ Another roar. She’s as sharp as tack, when she can’t recollect a name or story she will digress into another story with glee. She has no filter, she just blurts out her truth. When Justin intimated she performed 5,000 times in Dolly for the love of it, she interrupted him, looked down and said “noooooo, I wanted the money too.” Hysterical laughter and applause.

Sandra Bernhard with her idol

Sandra Bernhard with her idol

In one not  technically well functioning segment with taped video questions for her, Carol didn’t catch on there was a giant video screen behind her and was startled by the booming voice overhead. As Justin explained it was a video she  said with great relief, “Oh, I thought it was God” (perhaps eluding to her age). Each time a video segment came on, Carol just flung herself sideways in her arm chair, legs over the side and sat there like a little schoolgirl of seven years old.

Carol Channing sideways

Carol Channing sideways

She told of Sophie Tucker teaching her songs and sang ala Soph, excusing herself saying “I can sound nicer, but that’s just not how Sophie sounded!” In baritone voice she sang an ethnic milkman’s song as well. When asked about her pairing with Mary Martin in the ill fated show “Legends” she just drawled “it was a terrible show!”, thought a moment and added, “that was a bitch remark.” More gleeful roars. If any fan or Justin brought up highlights of her long career, she would always (feign) be astonished “”you remmmmmmberrrr…..were you there?!” One of the most touching answers she gave when asked what she would want for her 93rd birthday, she quickly answered “David Merrick.” Nothing more needed to be said.

When it was time to bring the program to an end, Carol recited her closing speech from “Hello Dolly”, in which she asks the spirit of her beloved late husband, Ephraim Levi, to “Let me go!” so that she might fully rejoin the living and marry again, there was not a dry eye in the house.  As a ‘thank you’, the audience spontaneously broke out into “Hello Dolly” led by a high school group in the balcony. The (mostly gay/theatrical) crowd sang the song to Broadway production perfection! The magic of the moment was, when the part came for Carol to sing “wow, wow, fellas, look at the old girl now!“ the audience instinctively lowered their voice in wait for her refrain – it was absolute theater magic that no flash mob could ever replicate. When ever are you going to get another chance to stand in a theater and serenade Carol Channing with “Hello Dolly“?! I’ve not seen so many beaming faces with joyful tears in an audience since I can remember. She was deeply moved, and in one very rare split second she let her guard down and looked as if she would break down and cry, she quickly caught herself and the beaming Hirschfeld Carol returned to take it all in, her eyes even bigger than usual, if that is at all possible. (Carol also has the distinction of having been drawn more times by Al Hirschfeld than any other personality ever.)

Host Justin Vivian Bond and Carol feel the love

Host Justin Vivian Bond and Carol feel the love

As she was led off the stage, the audience was not ready to let go of her, and quickly broke into a strong “Happy Birthday” song. She turned around and the look on her face as she took it all in, is one of the most priceless gifts she has ever given to me or an audience, it is a magic moment that flares for those brief seconds in a theater, you and the artist sharing this heartfelt strong love and you are the richest person on earth for having caught it. We are all richer for having Carol Channing in this world. Raspberries !!!


Photo of the day: CHRISTMAS DINNER AT BENDEL’S WITH LIZA, SARAH-JESSICA, WOODY, MARILYN, CAROL AND AL HIRSCHFELD

BENDEL HIRSCHFELD CHRISTMAS WINDOW
Photo of the day: CHRISTMAS DINNER AT BENDEL’S WITH LIZA, SARAH-JESSICA, WOODY, MARILYN, CAROL AND AL HIRSCHFELD  – Since I was a little boy the magical drawings of Al Hirschfeld have absolutely fascinated me! The fact that a few twists of the pen could totally capture a person and their character was astounding to me. Every Sunday I would get up early to run to the corner store to get a Sunday New York Times and pull out the Arts & Leisure section to see who had been ‘Hirschfelded’. That was a steadfast tradition from about 1964 till Al Hirschfeld’s death in 2003. I have boxes and boxes (and boxes) of clippings of all the Hirschfelds I could find from then till now.
The great Hirschfeld

The great Hirschfeld

My dream of meeting him came true one day in the year 2000, in the theater that was later to be named for him, The Martin Beck now The Hirschfeld.  The story of meeting him is a story unto it’s own. I had met the greatest of the greats until then: Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Elvis, Elton, Cher, Liz Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, but meeting Hirschfeld had topped them all. I had met the man that had documented close to 100 years of America’s entertainment history. It was the most humbling and breath taking moment of my life.
Jerry Stiller meets 'Jerry' with Margo Feiden and Bendel's

Jerry Stiller meets ‘Jerry’ with Margo Feiden and Bendel’s

When Hirschfeld died, I bought many of his possessions at the 2011 Doyle Galleries estate sale, his pens and pencils, his large wooden pencil box, his shoulder bag and many, many other items, all lovingly displayed in my home.
Fast forward to November 14, 2013 and I am standing in front of Henri Bendel’s windows waiting for the grand unveiling of their Christmas window featuring a three dimensional tribute to the great beloved Hirschfeld.
Bendel's president and top executives and creative team

Bendel’s president and top executives and creative team

I waited front row, clutching my Hirschfeld owned shoulder bag which still has his handwritten name tag attached written in his trademark squared signature. Due to arrive were Jerry Stiller who is featured in the window and Margo Feiden, the sole curator of the Hirschfeld collection. They were followed by the president of Bendel’s, the artistic director, and by Tom Carroll who created the pieces and Bendel’s Assistant VP of Visual, Gilberto Santana. Once inside, I showed the president of Bendel’s my Hirschfeld bag, “You must meet Margo!” (Shades of ‘All About Eve’!!) She welcomed me with open arms and warmth. There I was, after 49 years of collecting, sitting with Margo Feiden, holding hands and telling her my Hirschfeld stories. She so very much reminded my of my dear aunt “G” (see older posts here.) I told her: “Back in the 1960’s and 70’s I was the quintessential stage door Johnny. I had met Bergman, Davis and Crawford…” Margo squeezed my hand and cut me off, “but when you met Hirschfeld…” she interrupted. “Yes!” I proclaimed, “how did you know?” “I can see it in your eyes, it’s still there.” She held my hand tighter. I will not forget that moment. Bendel’s has a limited edition ($100.) poster available for sale commemorating the evening which I asked Margo to sign. “I hope you can read this,” she said as she rolled it up before I could read what she had written to me. I was on cloud 9 as I thanked her and left.
Hans, Jerry Stiller, Margo Feiden

Hans, Jerry Stiller, Margo Feiden

I called mom and told her of the wonderful evening and how my Hirschfeld story had come full cycle. “Well what did Margo write to you?!” mom asked. I didn’t know, because shortly thereafter it was tied up in the traditional brown/white polka dotted Bendel bow and into to fancy large shopping bag it went. “I’ll stop by your apartment on the way home and we can unveil it together.” I rushed home holding onto to it for dear life.
Margo Feiden

Margo Feiden

Once in mom’s living room, we carefully untied the bow and unrolled the large parchment poster, our eyes transfixed on the small handwriting on the poster, trying to make out the inscription. Then we both looked at up each other and were speechless when we saw what Margo had written: “To Hans, with your enthusiasm Bendel’s won’t need lights, Margo Feiden.”
My heart is full.
"To Hans..."

“To Hans…”

The celebrated party guests translated into three dimensions in the window include from left to right: Whoopi Goldberg, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Woody Allen, Matthew Broderick, Liza, Sarah Jessica Parker,  Jerry Stiller, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing and Hirschfeld himself. (Omitted in error is Margo Feiden.)
The Margo Feiden Gallery
15 East 9 St Between 5th Ave & University Place
New York, NY 10003 (212) 677-5330 : http://www.alhirschfeld.com/index2.html
HIRSCHFELD POSTER

Mondays on Memory Lane: Richard Skipper weaves a magical evening with Tommy Tune

TOMMY TUNE 5-23-13

Mondays on Memory Lane: Richard Skipper weaves a magical evening with Tommy Tune – On Thursday night, May 23rd, 2013, Richard Skipper hosted an extraordinary evening of intimate conversation with nine time Tony winner Tommy Tune at Queensborough Community College. The evening was a rare privilege for all. First and foremost for Richard, since it was Tommy himself who had requested him for the interview. Secondly for all of us lucky enough to be in the audience. To see this talented icon of Broadway theater open up to Richard’s questions and reminisce freely was an exciting treat. We’ve all seen Tommy Tune dance and perform, but a shared moment like this is irreplaceable. Richard knows his theater history, combined with both their friendships with legend Carol Channing – their bond made for an insightful conversation. Tommy shared lessons learned from luminaries such as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Carol, Michael Bennett, Lucie Arnaz, Honey Coles and his perfect pairing with Twiggy in the film “The Boyfriend” and the hit Broadway show “My One and Only”.
Tommy Tune reflects

Tommy Tune reflects

Tommy Tune doing the letter "H" from the song "You Gotta Have Heart"

Tommy Tune doing the letter “H” from the song “You Gotta Have Heart”

At age 74, Tommy has a youthful energy that comes from the love of his craft. He simply radiates joy. The audience was riveted by the insight and advice Tommy gave, many times reinforcing that our own uniqueness should drive our determination to forge forward and take chances and leaps of faith. Richard steered the ‘conversation’ masterfully. In ending the evening Richard with his usual warm charm, asked the audience to participate in asking questions of Tommy which added to the bond that had been created with both Tommy’s and Richard’s fans.  It was an evening not to be forgotten, thank you Richard!
"What Becomes A Legend Most?" 1994 ad poster

“What Becomes A Legend Most?” 1994 ad

 
poster

Tommy Tune and Richard Skipper saying good night

Tommy Tune and Richard Skipper saying good night


Photo of the day: NOVEMBER 29, 1974 THE PERSIAN ROOM AT THE PLAZA HOTEL

THE PERSIAN ROOM AT THE PLAZA HOTEL, 1974: Where were you 38 years ago on November 29, Friday night, 1974? I was 18 years old and took my friend Amy Hernandez to see a drag revue at the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room, one of the most magical places within the Plaza. For more than forty years, from 1934 to 1975, the Persian Room was the place to be in New York City. An unparalleled array of performers graced its stage—everyone from the incomparable Hildegarde Shirley Bassey, Ethel Merman, The Mills Brothers, Kay Thompson (mother to Eloise), Eartha Kitt, Bob Hope, Liberace, Diahann Carroll, Julie Wilson, Andy Williams, Josephine Baker, my dear Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich’s last New York appearance.
It was done in high Persian style in deep iridescent tones of blues, greens and purples – nowadays we would view the decor as high camp/kitsch, but it was divine! The entrance looked like a golden gate to a palace. Today it is where the main lobby of the hotel is on the left side as you enter the Plaza Hotel, with sadly not a hint of it’s decadent past.
Amy Hernandez’s mother owned an east side townhouse bar and restaurant called ‘The Beef & Bourbon’ and the bourbon, her mom’s (and Amy’s) favorite drink of choice, flowed freely. Amy had an uppity twin sister named Carol who never liked anything I had to say and would just say “Oh Hans…”.
‘Manhattan Follies’ was the talk of the nightclub world and I just had to go! Impersonated that night were the then staples: Dietrich, Garland, Ross, Channing, Marilyn and Mae and that new sensation Bette Midler. The headliner was up and coming drag star Craig Russell who would go on to make the hit 1977 film called “Outrageous!”
The room still had a ‘cigar & cigarette girl’, a shapely woman with a tray strapped under her bosom selling smokes for high prices (Lena Horne started out as one). A Weegee-like man went from table to table with a huge old fashioned flash camera an offered souvenir photographs.
Some of the photo’s fun details:  I am wearing a black and white polyester Marilyn Monroe print dress shirt with an awfully huge white poly tie. The suit is black velvet bell bottomed and huge platform shoes (that you can’t see here) that had silver stars on them. The program pictured here on the right, is next to me by my seat. Amy’s polyester print blouse was black and white to match me. Note my index finger is extended on my lap because I am trying to show off a silver ring in the shape of a man’s head wearing a turban which I felt was appropriate for the evening’s occasion. Amy and I didn’t know we were partaking in history because sadly the ‘Manhattan Follies’ was the last and final show to play at The Persian Room.
The 1970’s was a glorious era. My era. A decadent era of nightclubbing, dancing, glitz and glamour. Studio 54, Xenon, 12 West, Ice Palace and the Paradise Garage. Huge shoes, hair sprayed hair, big eye glasses, bell bottoms and that wonderful disco music.
Where where you November 29, Friday night 1974?…