Changing The World One Pansy At A Time!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Curtain Up

While perusing my local newsstand today I was struck by the cover of the theatre newspaper BACKSTAGE; the Bible for actors in New York. I recalled trying to be one of those actors & barely having enough left over from my tip money to purchase the paper. I only noticed this copy because the startling American theatre legend, MARIAN SELDES was staring back at me from the cover.

The Tony Award winning actress is a national treasure, if not a household name. And there isn’t a soul working in the theatre or on its periphery as I did, who does not have a Marian Story. Miss Seldes is always so wonderfully dramatic that she makes MARGO CHANNING look like a chorus girl. It was said of Miss Channing (the character made famous by Bette Davis in the film, All About Eve) that “Margo compensates for underplaying onstage by overplaying real life!” But the very thing about Miss Seldes is she just…is! She is the same person off the stage as she is on it. The actress character that DIANE WEIST played (& won an Oscar doing do) in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway is said to be based on Miss Seldes.

A friend of mine once told me of a time he was in a restaurant in New York and a famous producer was dining there as well. The producer was having an awful experience with a tryout of a sequel to a musical. Suddenly a very tall & regal woman in a cape (!!) swept into the dining room & thrust some sort of religious medal into the hands of the producer and exclaimed: “I’m praying for you!” And exited!...MARIAN!

Here’s my Marian story: After months of drama, it is decided that I will leave New York & will come to Los Angeles and join my then partner, Michael Jeter, who was working on a television series after great success in the theatre. I sold everything I had in New York. (which wasn’t much!) and I arrive at LAX not without some serious trepidation. All is made well as I exit the gate & see the smiling face of my beloved, waiting to pick me up. “Ah! Yes! This is why I came!” He is so happy I am here! The smile grows broader. I notice an older couple walking beside me. The gentleman is in a wheelchair, accompanied by a very striking tall woman. I keep walking. (In those pre 9/11 days you could meet your passenger directly at the gate) Michael is now almost jumping for joy! “Wow!” I think. “He is really so excited to see me!” “I definitely made the right decision!” Just as I am about to put down my bag & embrace Michael, the tall woman cuts in front of me; arms outstretched and declares: “MICHAEL, DARLING!” “Garson! It’s Michael! Can you believe it?” Well no Miss Seldes I actually cannot BELIEVE it. I have thought & dreamt of this exact moment for months & now you sweep in & I’m pushed to the side like an after-thought. Finally Michael remembers exactly what (whom) brought him to LAX and quietly says: “Charlie! may I introduce Marian Seldes & her husband, Garson Kanin!” “How do you dos” are exchanged all around. And of course I suddenly remember that Marian had married the actress Ruth Gordon’s widower, the famous screenwriter, GARSON KANIN, some months earlier. Kanin only wrote all of the famous screenplays for the films that teamed KATHERINE HEPBURN & SPENCER TRACY. I literally wanted to die. My big moment of triumphant arrival… dashed! When I sullenly complained to Michael moments later in the car; he said: “Seriously Charlie!” “Far greater talents than you or I have been UPSTAGED by MARIAN SELDES….you should think of it as an HONOR!” And trust me, I now do!


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