On Monday, Broadway’s one night off, seemingly every Great White Way star made their way to The Al Hirschfeld Theater (current home to Tony-winner “Kinky Boots”) to pay tribute to Broadway’s first ‘broad’ Elaine Stritch, who passed away on July 17 at her home in Birmingham, Michigan, at age 89; a few months following the release of Chiemi Karasawa’s documentary on the actress, “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” which offered a peek into Stritch’s final years.
The show, “Everybody, Rise! A Celebration of Elaine Stritch,” directed by George C. Wolfe, who staged her Tony-winning show “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” was an emotional two hours at the theater, punctuated by a lot of knowing laughs, some song and huge applause for the speakers and performers, who included Nathan Lane, Alec Baldwin (via a prerecorded video), New York gossip columnist Liz Smith, Broadway star Bernadette Peters and Stritch’s nephew Chris Bolton.
We can’t recreate the magic of being there for the invite only event, so we did the next best thing. Below are the most memorable things said about Stritch by some of her colleagues and friends at the tribute:
“Elaine Stritch walks into a bar. A bar with which she is not that familiar. She strides up to the bartender and says, ‘I’d like a bottle of vodka and a floor plan.’ I hope that’s a true story. In some ways, it sums up how she lives her life, with determination, a belt of booze, and a hope of figuring out a right path for herself.”
“Elaine on ‘Waiting for Godot’: Oh Nathan, if that play isn’t funny, it’s one long fucking night in the theater. Elaine after seeing ‘The Addams Family’: Whatever they’re paying you, it’s not enough.”
“Her birthday gift to me was a baby picture…of her.”
“She often used the statement, ‘I have diabetes,’ like a machete in conversation.”
“Elaine left me some money in her will. Astounding. It had a message: ‘For you to take Barbara Walters to dinner.'”
“Some people thought Elaine was mean, that she was a toughie, because as she grew older, she grew less nice to idiots.”
“At the theater, we always had seats in the aisle where she could then keep her shopping bags full of pharmacy and deli. Always in the very quietest moment, she needed to test her blood, or take a swig of OJ. The noise really was phenomenal. She was undaunted.”
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka:
“She lives to be the center of attention. She’s the only woman I know who could go to a Broadway show as audience member, and still manage to steal the entire show. She would wait to laugh at a joke until everyone else was done laughing, so that we would hear she thought it was funny. She cheered and clapped first after every musical number so that we would know that she approved.”
“It wasn’t easy being Elaine Stritch. I once asked her, ‘How in the world, at age 17, did you gather the courage to leave home, to go to New York and pursue a career on the stage. She said, ‘Chris, I had to express myself. If I didn’t, I’d have exploded.'”