Then it was Korea and Okinawa, then London...Judith was in London for six
months (Mary and other stars for 10 months) after which she joined Betty Grable in Las Vegas to finish out her contract...a few months there and then some major cities. Then after her contract was over, she went back to New York. She believes it was 1968 when she was asked to replace Mary Jo Catlett (the original Ernestina Money) on Broadway with, at the time, Betty Grable, then on the nine months bus and truck tour with Dorothy Lamour. Those were her three Dollys-and she had a few weeks in the summer of 1970 with Marilyn Maye at the Kansas City Starlight theatre. Judith tells me that all of her Dollys were terrific.
She learned more about stage work than you could any other way by watching Mary Martin nightly. Mary Martin knew where every light was, she never missed a show, even when she wasn't feeling well, she signed her autograph for every person waiting at the stage door, and she was SO supportive of all of her cast members.
She desired everyone around her to be great...during the first rehearsal of their opening number, Judith did a take to Mary, and Mary said, "Honey, do that to the audience", as she turned her head to face the audience instead of her, "and you'll get a laugh every show." And she did! Several years later, Mary called Judith backstage on opening night of an off-Broadway play she was doing, from Texas, to tell her "to break a leg".
Betty was very friendly. She even had us at her home in Vegas. Liberace was there. When they were in Chicago, Betty's frequent Hollywood co-star, was there doing a show and gave an opening night party at his hotel room for them. Betty did miss a few shows. Dorothy Lamour was very nice as well, traveling with her husband by car. She was a very midwestern part of the company as opposed to playing the star.
Judith says Gower was great.
He was very open to taking chances, hiring Judith...a young kid who'd never been in a musical in her life, having just graduated from college and coming to New York only a few months before Gower saw her! He was a great director and allowed her to do things differently from the first Ernestina...as long as she was funny. He wasn't afraid to let the actors channel the characters their own way.
Judith still remembers her opening night in Minneapolis...staring at the poster outside with her name on it! The show itself is a bit of a fog...but she does remember getting her laughs!! And taking her first bow in front of a huge audience!!! And of course her first night on the Drury Lane stage...hard to ignore the history associated with that place...She was trodding the same boards and a century of wonderful actors...there was a story about the playwright Richard Sheridan being locked in the dressing room (Mary Martin's dressing room) to force him to finish a play! The theatre gave Judith a program from July, 1835 when she left...it's in a frame on her wall right now. And then there was her first night on a Broadway stage at the St. James Theatre...she couldn't believe it! Had to keep pinching herself!
Judith's closing night in London was sad, as she had to say goodbye to her company...Mary gave her a lovely antique coin purse with Dolly etched on the front and a little piece of crochetted on the inside that she had done with her character's name. Judith doesn't recall her closing nights with Betty and Dorothy...just that while it was sad to say goodbye, it was exciting to look towards the future.
Judith said she learned from Dolly how to be totally involved with her fellow actors, how to project to the furthest seat in the balcony, how to love what you're doing! This was the one and only musical Judith was ever in...She moved on to comedy/drama/straight shows. Mary's example has always followed her.
Judith's worst experience was when President Johnson came to see the show in Dallas and without her knowing it, the secret service removed her shotgun from stage right ( In the opening number, I Put My Hand In, she gives a shotgun to Dolly who points it at a couple forcing the guy to take the girl) , so Judith gets set for her entrance...no shotgun! She goes out holding a pretend shotgun, her eyes saying to Mary, "I have no idea where the gun is"...and it turned into a fun moment, as Mary immediately realized what had happened, took the imaginary gun from Judith, aimed it at the couple and shot.
Judith has loved all of the Dollys she has worked with or seen, but she loves Mary's best.
Judith told me that Jerry Herman was at their rehearsals and was very nice. She LOVES his music! The first time she heard the score was when she came to New York during her senior year in college. It was her first time on a plane and her first time out of Oklahoma. She went to see her friend Ron Young in the show. She was in love with it. She thought, "This is what a musical should be."
The WORST major change that Judith has seen in this industry since doing Hello, Dolly! is that people don't know how to project anymore. She says if she sees one more microphone is someone's face, she'll throw up. I'm with her all the way.
NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!
Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
Tomorrow's blog will be..Kevin Spiritas
Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING and HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com