Monday, July 16, 2012

Celeste Holm: My very own Fairy Godmother!

"Impossible things are happening every day"
-Fairy Godmother in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella

 It is Monday, July 16th in a VERY HOT New York City. The world is also a little sadder because one of the greatest actresses has left her earthly existence, Celeste Holm.

However, due to her amazing body of work in all areas of entertainment, she will ALWAYS be with us.
Depending upon your age, she may mean different things to different people. For many of a certain age, she was the original Cain't Say No girl, Ado Annie in Oklahoma! For movie buffs, Karen in All About Eve, High Society, The Tender Trap, Three Men and a Baby,  and Gentleman's Agreement for which she won the Academy Award among many other great films.
She also was a major advocate for the arts and other organizations and defined what it means to donate your name, time, and energy. Holm was also known for her untiring charity work – at one time she served on nine boards – and was a board member emeritus of the National Mental Health Association.

Celeste as Mame
But for me, my love of Celeste started with the annual TV showings of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. She was and will forever remain my favorite Fairy Godmother. As much as I enjoyed Edie Adams, Whitney Houston, and on stage Eartha Kitt at Lincoln Center and Suzanne Douglas at The Paper Mill Playhouse. No matter who has played her, Celeste is the one for me. As a kid growing up in Conway, South Carolina, I dreamed of something bigger and better. As a kid, I lived for the annual showings of Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz. Kids who own DVDs of both productions will never know what those of us who anticipated these annual showings felt. Most kids looked forward to Christmas and Easter. I looked forward to these. My family and friends can attest to the excitement I showed each year when the commercials started to promote the "event". I was so obsesses that I only watched the shows on those networks in hopes of seeing the commercials. The first broadcast was on February 22, 1965, which I saw!,and it was rebroadcast eight times through February 1974. When it stopped airing, I was very disappointed to say the least.
I moved to New York City in the summer of 1979, thirty three years next month!
Nancy Anderson, Me Celeste, Frank at The Iguana 11/11/2009
Frank, Me, Eileen Fulton, Celeste, Dana Lorge Iguana 12/23/2009
Shortly after moving to New York, St. Malachy's, the actor's church, did a series of talk back sessions hosted by Harold Kennedy. This was around 82 or 83. Through these talk back sessions, I met Margaret Hamilton (a MAJOR thrill!), John Fontaine, Helen Hayes, Farley Granger, AND Celeste Holm among others. I can still picture Celeste dressed all in purple from head to toe. She was the epitome of a movie star and she was as nice as she was beautiful. She gladly signed autographs but she requested a donation for Unicel in exchange for that which I thought was very classy. It was also around this time that I discovered the Rodgers and Hammerstein Library at Lincoln Center. I would go in and listen to my favorite recordings and became familiar with shows I wasn't that familiar with. I spent hours there. One afternoon, I found Cinderella! I didn't even know that there was a cast recording of it. After listening to it and reliving my childhood, I decided to call CBS to see why it wasn't shown anymore. After being told that it was "old hat and that 'modern audiences' would not be interested", I started brainstorming. What could I do to get this brought back to television? Just for the heck of it, I looked Celeste Holm up in the phone book. There was a Holm, C. in the white pages on the upper West Side! Could it be her? I took a deep breath and called. That unmistakable voice answered the phone! I explained my reason for calling and apologized for disturbing her. She said there was no reason to apologize and that she was quite flattered that I was even interested. We had a nice chat about Cinderella, acting, and my being in New York. She couldn't have been nicer.

Celeste and Frank at one of my shows

Celeste's Oscar, Golden Globe and a few other awards
Although, I saw her several times over the years only in a professional capacity, it wasn't until 2002, when we appeared in a showcase together that I started to know Celeste socially. It was also at that time that I met Frank Basile. He was Celeste's companion and in 2004, Frank married Celeste. Although there was a huge age difference, it was obvious that there was no division in the love they shared.Anyone who thinks differently didn't know either one. Although she was in failing health over the past few years, Celeste would also rally back. She and Frank showed up at my shows when she wasn't in the best of health or when the weather was horrendous because she didn't want to let me down. It came as a huge shock to me yesterday when my friend Glen Charlow called to break the news. I will truly miss the birthday parties at Celeste's and Frank's. I will also miss the many times that I would walk on stage to see the two of them cheering me on. Now the impossible has happened. Celeste has moved on to the next realm. but THANK YOU Celeste for
 the magic you brought to my life.

Celeste Holm in 1998. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
 The marquees of Broadway theaters in New York will be dimmed in her memory on Wednesday, July 18, at exactly 8pm for one minute.

"We live by encouragement and die without it - slowly, sadly and angrily." - Celeste Holm

 Funeral arrangements for Holm are incomplete. The family is asking that any memorial donations be made to UNICEF, Arts Horizons or The Lillian Booth Actors Home of The Actors Fund in Englewood, N.J.

Thank you Celeste Holm for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics?
If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be... Carol Swarbrick's Memories of Hello, Dolly!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!


Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Richard:
    I've just read your blog about Celeste's death and had to write to you. You see, Celeste was MY personal fairy godmother too--from the time I was thirteen years old and began a correspondence with her, based on my own love of Cinderella and her role in it. So your blog really touched me a lot. I grew up on a farm in a tiny little town in Virginia and being personal friends with a famous person was NOT the norm, so I felt very important! I first met Celeste when I was a junior in high school and was invited to be her guest at Mame in Baltimore, Md. Even more than Cinderella, that show was a "change=your=life" experience for me. And then, during the subsequent years, I had the opportunity to see her again in other plays and we continued to correspond. As you can see below, I teach at a university in Virginia, but before teaching Spanish, I was a gymnastics coach, and one of the definite highlights of that career was the time Celeste and her then-husband Wesley Addy came to see one of our competitions at East Stroudsburg, Pa, then went with us to the home of one of our gymnasts for dinner and an amazing visit with us. I've attached a photo from that competition!
    The saddest thing for me is all that Celeste apparently suffered during the last years of her life, both physically and emotionally. Since I never met her last husband and don't know what really happened, I certainly can't comment on who was right, wrong, etc. But I DO know that it seems to be Celeste who suffered the most in all this, and that is indeed very sad.
    Thank you for all the kind words you wrote about Celeste. Ever since Sunday, I haven't been able to stop thinking about all the wonderful memories I have of her and of how I will miss her. It's nice to read how someone else was touched by her too.


    Ruth Budd

    Dr. Ruth L. Budd
    Associate Professor of Spanish
    Longwood University
    Farmville, Va. 23901