Hoping this finds you well. Here in New York, it's a rainy day. The above quote is attributed to Nanette Fabray. That quote doesn't apply to how I feel about her. I love her. Always have. Today is Nanette's 91st birthday. She is slightly older than Carol Channing...by 3 months.
Did you know that Nanette was Gower Champion's first choice to play Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!? He thought she had the spirit that Dolly demanded and needed.
According to John Anthony Gilvey in his incredible book on Gower Champion, Before The Parade Passes By, Gower asked Nanette to undertake some exploratory sessions with him to prove that she was right for the part. After their work together on Make a Wish, she felt he should be familiar with her abilities, so she declined. And the wheels started moving in another direction...
You know my heart belongs to Carol but it is a shame that Nanette never played this role!
She began her career performing in vaudeville as a child and then became a musical theatre actress during the 1940s and 1950s, winning a Tony Award in 1949 for her performance in Love Life.
She became a household name during the mid 1950s as comedy partner to Sid Caesar on Caesar's Hour for which she won three Emmy Awards. From 1979-1984 she starred as Grandma Katherine Romano on One Day At A Time.
Fabray overcame a significant hearing impairment to pursue her career and has been a long-time advocate for the rights of the deaf and hard of hearing. Her honors representing the handicapped include the President's Distinguished Service Award and the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.
The family resided in Los Angeles and Fabray's mother was instrumental in getting her daughter involved in show business as a young child. At a very young age she began studying tap dancing with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson among other teachers.
(unconfirmed). She spent much of her childhood appearing in vaudeville productions as mainly a dancer but also a singer.
She appeared across such stars as Ben Turpin.
Fabray's parents divorced when she was nine years old but her parents continued to live together for financial reasons many years after. During the Great Depression, her mother turned their home into a boarding house which Fabray and her siblings helped her to run.
In her early teenage years she attended the Max Reinhardt School of the Theatre on a scholarship. She also attended Hollywood High School where she graduated in 1939.
She entered Los Angeles Junior College in the Fall of 1939 but withdrew after only a few months. She had always had difficulty as a student in school due to an undiagnosed hearing impairment which made learning significantly difficult for her.
She eventually was diagnosed with a hearing problem in her 20s after an acting teacher encouraged her to get her hearing tested. Of the experience Fabray said, "It was a revelation to me. All these years I had thought I was stupid, but in reality I just had a hearing problem."
At the age of 19, Fabray made her feature film debut as one of Bette Davis'' ladies-in-waiting in
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939).
She appeared in two other motion pictures that year for Warner Brothers, The Monroe Doctrine and A Child Is Born, but failed to gain a long-term studio contract.
She next appeared in the stage show Meet the People in Los Angeles in 1940 which then toured the United States in 1940-1941.
was the Master of Ceremonies for the event and the famed host, reading a cue card, mispronounced her name as "Nanette Fa-bare-ass."
After this embarrassing faux pas, the actress changed the spelling of her name from Fabares to Fabray.
Artur Rodzinski, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, saw Fabray's performance in Meet the People and offered to sponsor operatic vocal training for her at the Julliard School.
She studied opera at Juilliard during the latter half of 1941 while performing in her first Broadway musical, Let's Face It! with Danny Kaye and Eve Arden.
(Carol Channing was Eve Arden's understudy in this show!)
She decided, however, that she preferred musical theatre over opera and withdrew from the school after attending for only five months.
She became highly successful as a musical theatre actress in New York during the 1940s and early 1950s, starring in such productions as By Jupiter (1942), My Dear Public (1943), Jackpot (1944), Bloomer Girl (1946), High Button Shoes (1947), Arms and the Girl (1950), and Make a Wish (1951).
In 1949 she won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Susan Cooper in Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner's Love Life.
She received a second Tony nomination for the role of Nell Henderson in Mr. President in 1963 after an eleven year absence from the New York Stage.
In the mid 1940s Fabray worked regularly for David Sarnoff and NBC on a variety of programs for the Los Angeles area. In the late 1940s and early 1950s Fabray made her first high profile national television appearances performing on a number of variety programs like The Ed Sullivan Show, Texaco Star Theatre, and The Arthur Murray Party.
She later became a household name serving as Caesar's comedy partner on Caesar's Hour from 1954–1956, for which she won three Emmys.
Fabray left the show after a misunderstanding when her business manager, unbeknownst to her, made unreasonable demands for her third season contract, and Fabray and Caesar did not reconcile until a few years later when both became aware of the facts.
Fabray appeared on several series as the mother of a main character: on One Day At A Time she was Ann Romano's mom, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show she was mother to Mary Richards, and on Coach, she played mother to real-life niece Shelly Fabares.
She also made appearances on The Carol Burnett Show, Burke's Law, Love, American Style, Maude, The Love Boat, What's My Line?, and Murder, She Wrote.
Her brief, eponymous 1961 comedy series was cancelled after 13 episodes.
On the PBS program, Pioneers of Television: Sitcoms, Mary Tyler Moore credited her well-known "crying" takes to mimicking Fabray's style of comic crying.
In 1953, Fabray played her most famous screen role as a Betty Comden -like playwright in MGM's The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire and Jack Buchanan.
Their performance included a classic musical number, "Triplets", that was eventually included in That's Entertainment, Part II.
(1994) among others.
Happy Birthday Ruby...I mean Nanette!
And now on to another Ruby. This one kept her original name!
Actress Ruby Dee is 87 today! Ruby Dee (born October 27, 1924) is an American actress, poet, playwright, Screenwriter, journalist, and activist.
Ruby Dee's acting career has spanned more than fifty years and has included theater, radio, television, and movies.
She has also been active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Ruby Dee has been in numerous films, plays and musicals, perhaps most famously the original Broadway production and subsequent movie of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.
Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Gladys Hightower and Marshall Edward Nathaniel Wallace, a cook, waiter, and porter.
After her mother left the family, Dee's father married Emma Amelia Benson, a schoolteacher.
Dee grew up in Harlem, New York.
She attended Hunter College High School and went on to graduate from Hunter College with degrees in French and Spanish in 1944. Dee is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Her parents, Marshall and Emma Wallace, moved the family to Harlem in New York City when Dee was just a baby.
In the evening Dee, her two sisters, and her brother read poetry aloud to each other. As a teenager Dee submitted poetry to the New York Amsterdam News, a black weekly newspaper.
Later in life, Dee admitted that during those years she was a shy girl but that she always felt a burning desire to express herself.
Ruby Dee was raised during the golden age of Harlem.
After high school, she attended New York's Hunter College, graduating in 1945.
Expressive and literate, Dee was drawn to the theatre while still a college student.
Dee acted in small Shakespearian productions and landed a role in the play, South Pacific in 1943.
She also began to study with the American Negro Theatre, where she would meet her future husband, Ossie Davis.
They would fall in love during a cross-country tour of Anna Lucasta.
Dee made several appearances on Broadway before receiving national recognition for her role in the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story.
Her career in acting has crossed all major forms of media over a span of eight decades, including the films A Raisin in the Sun, in which she recreated her stage role as a suffering housewife in the projects, and Edge of the City.
She played both roles opposite Sidney Poitier. During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films as Gone Are The Days Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping pave the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.
In 2007, she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for American Gangster.
She appeared in one episode of The Golden Girls' sixth season. Dee has been nominated for eight Emmy Awards, winning once for her role in the 1990 TV film Decoration Day.
She was nominated for her television guest appearance in the China Beach episode, "Skylark". Her husband Ossie Davis (1917–2005) also appeared in that episode.
In 1995, she and her husband were awarded the National Medal of Arts.
They were also recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.
Dee made several appearances on Broadway before receiving national recognition for her role in the 1950 film The Jackie Robinson Story.
Her career in acting has crossed all major forms of media over a span of eight decades, including the films A Raisin in the Sun, in which she recreated her stage role as a suffering housewife in the projects, and Edge of the City. She played both roles opposite Sidney Portier.
During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping pave the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.
Over the next decade, Dee appeared in several plays and movies including A Raisin in the Sun and Davis's play Purlie Victorious. In 1965 Ruby Dee became the first African American actress to appear in major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut. Her musical satire Take It from the Top opened in New York in 1979.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Dee made numerous appearances on television including roles in the Play of the Week and in several series.
In 1968 she became the first African American actress to be featured on Peyton Place. In 1970 she starred in the critically acclaimed play Boesman and Lena.
On February 12, 2009, Dee joined the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus, along with the Riverside Inspirational Choir and NYC Labor Choir, in honoring Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday at the Riverside Church in New York City.
Under the direction of Maurice Peress, they performed Earl Robinson's "The Lonesome Train: A Music Legend for Actors, Folk Singers, Choirs, and Orchestra" in which Dee was the Narrator.
In 2003, Ruby Dee also narrated a series of WPA slave narratives in the HBO film Unchained Memories, according to IMDB.
In 2007 the winner of the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album was tied between Dee and Ossie Davis for With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together, and former President Jimmy Carter.
She was nominated for an Academy Award for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for her portrayal of Mama Lucas in American Gangster. She won the SAG award for the same performance. At 83 years old, Dee is currently the second oldest nominee for Best Supporting Actress, behind Gloria Stuart who was 87 when nominated for her role in Titanic.
This was Dee's first nomination.
Happy Birthday, Ruby!
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And Events I Highly Recommend!
|Me, Linda Amiel Burns, Sidney Myer, Jerry Laird. PHOTO CREDIT: Jerry Laird|
Tuition includes a 2-hour professionally taped high def DVD.
Linda Amiel Burns personally conducts each workshop. THE SINGING EXPERIENCE in its 34th season, (established 1977) was started to give aspiring cabaret and musical theater performers the opportunity to explore their talents, conquer fear, and develop self-confidence by learning the "tools of the trade" through great coaching and actually performing before audiences in a supportive, nurturing and non-competitive environment.
For Registration and information call 212 315 3500 or email Linda@SingingExperience.com.
Award-Winning Local Playwright to Stage Public Readings
Of New Play on Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya
Rockland County, N.Y. – Public readings of 60 minutes from a new play by award-winning playwright, Angelo Parra, based on the correspondence between composer Kurt Weill and actress Lotte Lenya (both Rockland residents), are scheduled at Penguin Repertory Theatre and at Rockland Center for the Arts (ROCA). A brief talkback session will follow both readings.
This excerpt from the new play, with the working title of “Passing in the Night,” was composed under an Individual Artists grant by the Arts Council of Rockland and with the cooperation of Penguin Rep Artistic Director Joe Brancato.
Kurt Weill wrote the music for “Threepenny Opera” and “One Touch of Venus,” among other major musical works. Stage and screen actress Lotte Lenya performed extensively in Europe and in America, and was nominated for an Academy Award for “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.”
If you'd like to attend the readings which, with a short feedback session afterwards, should run around 80 minutes, please let them know ASAP. The seating is limited, particularly at ROCA, so - please let me know which reading and how many seats you need.
GREAT NEWS!!!!!--- JOHN O'HURLEY (Seinfeld, Dancing With the Stars and others.
O'Hurley has also been the host of Purina's annual National Dog Show every Thanksgiving since 2002) has joined the performers roster for the Zani's Furry Friends Benefit on November 26 and the Laurie Beechman. GET YOUR TICKETS! With Emily Buttner, Sean Harkness, Amy Ralske, Len Cariou, Phil Geoffrey Bond, Mark Janus, Eve Weiss, Tanya Moberly, Bill Zeffiro, Elena Bennett, Jonathan Russell, Peter Napolitano, David Vernon, and Deb Berman! See The Variety Show does exist!
Have your voice heard – You can make a difference!
I have been fortunate enough to call among my friends several celebrities. The one thing that I've gleaned from them beyond their bodies of work is their humanness.
Thank you to all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you ALL have given to the world!
REMINDER: Nov 12
LOCAL 802 MUSICIAN'S HALL,
322 West 48th Street, NYC
An Afternoon Celebrating The Legacy of Jerry Herman
I am hosting and my guests are Klea Blackhurst, Ken Bloom, Marge Champion, Amber Edwards (Words and Music, the award winning documentary on Jerry Herman), Sondra Lee (Hello Dolly!'s original Minnie Faye), Miles Phillips, Donald Pippin, Lee Roy Reams with John Fischer on piano.
Thank you for joining me on these nostalgic journeys!
I've added a new aspect to my blog.. I am now answering a question on video that YOU send to me. You can ask me ANYTHING and I will answer your question on video within my blog. Send your questions to
"Richard, for supporting the ARTS and calling attention to the STARS of yesterday. You are a STAR in your own right!! With admiration and friendship"
Thank you to all who have encouraged me! Thanks to all who have tried to stifle my art. I have learned from ALL of you!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!
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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com