My Afternoon with Betsy Palmer!
|Betsy Palmer in Hello, Dolly!|
Betsy Palmer on appearing with Joan Crawford in Queen Bee
I hope that you had a creative weekend and are gearing up for an even more creative weekend. I have been immersed in the world of Hello, Dolly! Over the weekend, I've spoken with Eve Arden's son, spent Saturday afternoon with Sondra Lee (we are getting together again on Thursday), and yesterday, I spent the most incredible afternoon with Betsy and her daughter, Melissa.
I'm happy to report she is as beautiful as ever.
I've actually met Betsy on more than one occasion.
She actually spent the evening on my arm at Chita Rivera's opening night for Chita's autobiographical show a few years ago.Betsy has also been to see my show twice. She falls into the "small world" category in my life.
My partner Danny's cousin's partner, Antonio, is very good friends with Melissa, Betsy's daughter. Betsy is 86 years young and proud of it. She was born in 1925.
A few weeks ago, I launched my new website celebrating Hello, Dolly! Melissa happened to be at Rich and Antonio's, saw the site, and questioned why her mom was not included. I explained that it was a work in progress and that I would love to interview Betsy.
We set up yesterday and it was a wonderful afternoon. Today's blog is the result of our afternoon.
Betsy is a very much in the moment type of person. She was not one to save her press-clippings.
The photos were saved in Melissa's scrapbooks! Betsy was a very lucky woman. From the moment, she arrived in New York to be an actress, one thing led to another. Her career unfolded with one thing leading to another. She just desired to be a working actress. Her stage career eventually led to film and television. To millions of baby-boomers, Palmer will forever be associated with her work as a panelist on such TV game shows as I've Got a Secret; a later generation of televiewers will most readily recall her as Virginia Bullock on the 1989-90 season of Knot's Landing.
Her memories of Dolly are vague beyond remembering how much she loved working with Max Showalter, her Horace Vandergelder, and appearing mostly in theatres in the round.
Being in the round, of course, is totally different from being in a proscenium theatre.
She said first of all, you HAVE to keep moving so that everyone in the audience sees your face.
The audiences are a lot closer. They are usually right down where your feet are.
|Betsy Palmer and John Ireland in Queen Bee|
She said Max was a doll. Max Showalter (June 2, 1917 – July 30, 2000) was an American film, television, and stage actor, as well as a composer, pianist, and singer. One of Showalter's most memorable roles was as Jean Peters' character's husband in the 1953 film Niagara. Showalter is also credited as Casey Adams.
She also worked for David Merrick but NOT on Dolly. She and Lloyd Bridges replaced Lauren Bacall and Barry Nelson in Cactus Flower on Broadway produced by David Merrick. She was the ONLY one who ever gave him a present.
It was a holiday or a birthday...or even, maybe, opening night, she doesn't recall the circumstances. He was cool about it, he didn't do flip flops. The woman who was his secretary told Betsy that she was the only actor who ever gave this man a gift.
Betsy said he treated her great. She said she couldn't have asked for a better producer. She liked him. Carol Channing loved him as well. He was always Mr. Merrick. Betsy did the same.
She never called him David.
When she did Dolly in a proscenium theatre, she vaguely remembers Gower's original staging. In the round, everything had to be modified. In the round, oftentimes, you begin a scene at the beginning of an aisle. That could also be your exit. By the time you make it to the stage, you keep moving so the audience can see you. They are always seeing either your face or your backside. It's always a challenge to appear in the round but she enjoyed it.
Now, about Betsy beyond Dolly. She was born in East Chicago, Illinois. She grew up there never believing in her wildest dreams that she would grow up to be in the theatre. From the time she was in kindergarten, her teachers always putting her on the stage. She was comfortable there.
It always worked out but she didn't really think much about it. Betsy's mother worked in a business college. Betsy's father was born in Bohemia, formerly Czechoslovakia. She had a brother who has passed on. Melissa, her daughter, is her only living family.
Next stop, New York. Hollywood was never Betsy's "camping ground". She never really cared much about making movies. She always loved the stage. It was alive and fresh. Betsy went to the Neighborhood Playhouse. She worked with Sanford Meisner... who "hated women". He did, however, treat Betsy with respect because he saw that she was sincere.
Betsy always LOVED the live media of the theatre and eventually live television...leading eventually to LOTS of game shows.
|Betsyon I've Got a Secret with host Garry Moore and three of Bing Crosby's sons, 1961.|
Audiences loved her and eventually Allen Funt came calling and Betsy did Candid Camera throughout the seventies. All she really wanted to do was be an actress. All of these other perks was just icing.
Again, Betsy LOVED live television. She said your life was on the line. You had to sink or swim.
|Betsy in Friday the 13th|
I love Betsy Palmer and yesterday was a day I will always cherish!
NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!
|with George Marcy and Carol Lawrence|
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...My night with Dancers Over 40!
Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!
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