Friday, May 8, 2015

Tommy Tune Tops Tonys with Tenth Win...But we Might Not See It Happen!

Tommy Tune accepting the first of his NINE Tony Awards( for See Saw) in 1974
I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.
Thornton Wilder

  My blog today is addressing the fact that at this year's Tony Awards, The Lifetime Achievement Award will NOT be presented during The Tony telecast. I would like to change that! Can you weigh in with your thoughts? Please add your comments at the end of this blog.Also PLEASE sign my petition. And LIKE our Facebook page.

In 1974, I was thirteen years old and was living in Conway, South Carolina and dreaming of living in New York and being a part of the Broadway scene.
That year, I made my acting debut (outside of school productions) with the
Tommy Tune wins his 2nd Tony for this! (for choreography)
local theatre company, The Theatre of The Republic. The show was  Mame. I was in the chorus and had two speaking lines but I was in heaven. This was the beginning of a path that would bring me to where I am today. I also made up my mind in 1974 that when I graduated from high school, that I would be moving to New York and I did! That year, Tommy Tune received the first of his NINE Tonys! Tommy Tune, Actor, Dancer, Singer, Choreographer and Director is the only person in theatrical history to win in four different categories and to win the same two Tony Awards two years in a row. He won his first Tony Award for See Saw. A Day in the Hollywood/ A Night in the Ukraine brought him his second Tony (Best Choreography).
Tommy Tune with his original Broadway cast of Nine.
1982 brought Nine and his third Tony (Best Direction of a Musical).
Tommy pulled double duty in My One and Only and was rewarded with his fourth and fifth Tony's (Best Choreography, Best Actor in a Musical).
Then he received his next two Tony's with Grand Hotel (Best Choreography, Best Direction of a Musical). The following year brought the Will Rogers Follies and his next two Tony Awards, (Best Choreography, Best Musical).

This year, he will receive a Lifetime Tony Award and yet the world will not see that happen! Shame on the powers that be that are creating this HUGE oversight!
Tommy is also the recipient of eight Drama Desk Awards, two Obie Awards, Dance Magazine's Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 1990 American Dance Award (presented by the National Academy of Dance); the 1990 Drama League Musical Theatre Award for Direction and Choreography; the Astaire Award in both 1990 and 1991, George Abbott Award for Lifetime Achievement, the University of Texas' distinguished Alumnus Award; and the Jean Cocteau International Style Award. He was also named to the Top 10 International Best Dressed List of 1992.
Tommy has shied away from Hollywood, appearing in only two films in his career.
He played Ambrose Kemper in the movie version of Hello, Dolly!, directed by Gene Kelly and starring Barbra Streisand; and, after working as assistant choreographer for The Dean Martin Show on television, he was featured in Ken Russell's The Boyfriend starring Twiggy. The two were reunited on Broadway in My One and Only.
Tommy Tune has been invited to sing and dance for three U.S. presidents, the Queen of England and the Royal Family of Monaco.
Tommy Tune at the recent Encores production of Lady Be Good (Courtesy: Stephen Sorokoff)
In 1991, he was inducted by Gwen Verdon into the Theatre Hall of Fame in Broadway's Gershwin Theatre.

The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® got their start in 1947 when the Wing established an awards program to celebrate excellence in the theatre.
The Broadway community embraced the Tonys from the beginning. While the awards ceremony in its early years was smaller than it is today, when more than 5,000 individuals attend the performance in Radio City and millions more watch it across the country on CBS, the annual gala dinner quickly became one of the highlights of the New York theatre season.

More than 1,000 guests attended the first Tony dinner in 1947.
When Isabelle Stevenson became The Tony's president in 1967, the Wing invited The Broadway League - then known as the League of New York Theatres - to co-present the Tonys just in time for the ceremony's inaugural broadcast on network television. For the first time, a national audience could watch the presentation of Tony Awards.

Watching the annual Tony Awards was a ritual for me as it is and was for many star struck kids from all around the globe.
In 1974, Tommy Tune won the first of his NINE Tony Awards! The first was for See Saw! This was the 28th Annual Tony Awards and was broadcast by ABC television on April 21, 1974 from the Shubert Theatre in New York City.
Hosts were Peter Falk, Florence Henderson, Robert Preston and Cicely Tyson.
The theme was "Homecoming", where stars from TV and film returned to Broadway to help present the awards or perform.

In those days, there were themes and they were exciting to watch. The Tony telecast not only celebrated its present. but also celebrated Broadway's past and the road that led to that season.
Of course, in those days, the PRODUCER of the Tony Awards was Alexander H. Cohen and Bernard Delfont. These two men had a love of the theatre and respected its rich legacy.  

Alexander H. Cohen
Alexander H. Cohen produced the historic broadcast, which lasted only an hour, and organized a celebratory gala that followed immediately afterward. That year the Tonys moved from their traditional hotel ballroom setting to a Broadway theatre - the Shubert.
Cohen continued to produce the awards ceremony and the gala dinner for the next two decades, overseeing their national telecast on various networks on behalf of the League and the Wing. During his tenure, the Tonys became known as the finest awards program on television, incorporating live performances with the bestowal of actual awards. The Cohen era ended in 1987, and that year the Wing and the League created Tony Award Productions, a joint venture that has continued to produce the awards and their related events to this day.
In 1988, as I watched The Tony Awards, I realized that something was missing.
Due to its hostess, it was still an entertaining telecast.    The 42nd Tony Awards were held on June 5, 1988 at the Minskoff Theatre and broadcast live on CBS, hosted by Angela Lansbury. (Angela Lansbury has hosted or co-hosted more Tony Award ceremonies than any other individual: 1968, 1971, 1987, 1988, and 1989).
Sources: Tony Award website, Tommy Tune's website, and Wikipedia

I've asked a FEW friends to weigh in on the omission of the Lifetime Achievement Award during the broadcast. Here are a few of those comments:

The lifetime achievement award is "THE" highest honor for the Tony Awards. It is one of the most
exciting presentations of the evening. The fact that it will not be televised, is more than a disappointment, it is a discredit to the performer and to all of the fans. For those of us who have been long time Broadway performers and unable to be at the awards in person, the telecast is the only way that we can see this honor presented to our fellow actors. in addition, the world should be able to share in this celebrated presentation. This triumphant recognition should not go unnoticed and viewed by only a fragment of friends, family,  and fans.
 -Jimmy Ferraro,  Broadway Actor/Producer/Director

This is not just happening on The " Tony's "  But On The Grammy's, Oscar's and other shows as

well.   Imagine a Star who has given so much to this industry... Getting an award But It NOT being On The main Telecast ... this is what we are seeing... we MUST stop this... It's insane!   How will generations understand where greatness came from..... Julie Budd

That seems quite invalidating to the award itself since a lifetime of contribution is being awarded. It makes zero sense and seems highly odd, as if the decision were made in an effort to intentionally create a PR flap. Strange...
-Heidi Thompson, writer, producer, entertainer

Ethel Merman
The people who plan the awards ceremony need to remember that they should provide something for everyone that watches… And instead of trying to appeal to just the "younger crowd"- realize that the Tony awards are watched by a range of ages. To me one of the most wonderful things about Tony Awards from the past has been the fact that several of the telecasts represented a variety of decades. Make it the best show for the demographic that watches it already! Think back to when Merman got her lifetime achievement award...or The Lunts. Ethel did a whole medley!!! Please- the Lifetime Achievement Award deserves to be seen by all of the viewers who love the theatre.
-Jay Clark

Tony Winner Christopher Gattelli
I think more and more the telecast is more a big commercial than it is recognition for the artists and great work done by those people. 
They keep using Hollywood stars and even younger TV stars to try and bring a new generation to the telecast when the truth of the matter is, the people who watch the show are the people interested in Broadway. We already support the community. 
I was angry a few years ago when they didn't even award Best Choreography during the telecast. I had to see Christopher Gattelli, who won for Newsies, speech on YouTube!  (His first Tony Award. He's nominated a 3rd time this year.) Stop trying to sell Broadway and recognize the individuals who spend their life creating it.
Gavan Pamer, Director/Choreographer, Actor

Completely ridiculous!!!!!.. Tommy Tune made me wanna tap dance!!!.. Now I have a longtime career.. The Rhythm Kings .. My One and Only.. Hello Dolly!, Busker Alley!!!.. Shame
- Jack Bloeser

Steve Kmetko
 Outrageous! Who made this decision... the Tony oversight committee? Ridiculous!
-Steve Kmetko, entertainment television host and reporter

Steve tells me that he interviewed Tommy twice. Once when Tommy was getting ready to do Busker Alley and the second time when he performed in Broadway at the Bowl.  He reprised It's Not Where You Start It's Where You Finish from See Saw. 

 Are the Tonys sinking to the level of the Academy Awards now? What's next? Giving acceptance speeches from your seat to save time? It's a stupid idea.
-Stephan Artist,  Art Deco Society of California

 I would LOVE to hear Tommy Tune's speech. Network people do not understand theater people.I was in the audience the year Eileen Heckart received hers. She did accept the award during the PBS portion, I believe. I remember her giving a very brief "thank you" from the podium. It may have even been presented prior to the broadcast.
-Michael Pierce,  a musician and theater lover who wishes theater people would produce the Tonys, not network people.

 To do that to Mr. Tune is an horrifc, not just oversight, but quite mean spirited. In a career that is something like 50 years, Tommy Tune has contributed greatly to the advancement of musical theater as we know it today. As I recall, one of his earliest appearances was in the chorus of "Baker Street" to directing and choreographing such musicals as "Nine" and "Grand Hotel". This isn't just an oversight, it is mean-spirited and not giving him his time in the spotlight that he so richly deserves.
-Ron Greenfield, Aspects of Entertainment

This is not the first time: Eileen Heckart, Gwen Verdon, Alfred Drake. And, as I recall, they stood in the audience during the old PBS pre-show!
-Steve Newport, Artistic Director at MC 2 Productions in Coral Springs, Florida

My opinion on this matter, is that NOT presenting during the telecast is really a dis-service to the
honoree--and the audience!  I enjoy those moments on the shows where we relive some of their biggest moments, and look back on all their an audience member, I do WANT to see that!
-David Meulemans, an accomplished performer, as comfortable on the big stage as he is in the most intimate of venues. Classically trained. 

Tommy Tune won't be in the main telecast? What a loss. So talented and handsome. So deserving of prime time!
-Jamie deRoy

I think a lot of the excitement associated with the Tony Awards is because of the great actors that have won them in the past.  Not to remind us of the history of the Tony via a montage of the Lifetime Award Winner is a mistake.  It's not all about the financial business, it's about show business.
-Stephen Sorokoff

My usual response is that actors shouldn't compete. Art isn't a competition. But Lifetime Achievement? Why would they NOT want to include the person being so-honored? (Unless it's Nathan, and his enemies can't stand it.) Honestly, Richard, if I think about what Broadway has become in the last 15 years, I get heartsick. With THOSE reviews, Honeymoon in Vegas closed? If you want to know why producers are only reviving classics now, look at the numbers. Would YOU want to risk $25M on a new script? But that's the problem. It's too expensive now to take artistic risks, and without artistic risks, Broadway will become a floor in the Museum of the City of New York soon, with only historians
coming to visit. But…back to your question…if you want to honor someone for a lifetime of achievement on Broadway, but you don't want to say so on television…well, that sounds like politics to me.
-Don Stitt, actor and playwright who has been featured in four Broadway musicals, appeared 20 times on the Late Show with David Letterman

What a shame…LifeTime Acheivement is just that! takes a lifetime to navigate this difficult industry of Entertainment. The unlikely incredible career of a Tommy Tune is certainly most worthy of airing on National TV so that the modern day fast paced underinformed public can really see and hear a real entertainment success story…after all there is nothing real about reality tv most of the time where there are people that are famous for just being
with producer Daryl Roth
famous. Few get there without a lifetime of real training and talent! Much respect Tommy Tune!
Marina Kamen aka MARINA

 THE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD is one of the most important awards of the Evening. It is the highest accolade one can received and there is nothing that can be higher than this. There are so many other awards that one does not give a damn about. How can this be overlooked and treated so badly. Alexander Cohen would have never allowed this. He is turning over in his grave. 
-Maryann Lopinto, photographer works with performers theatre  researcher

Tommy Tune has devoted a lifetime to the theatre and deserves and should be celebrated DURING this year's Tony telecast!

-Peggy Herman Klatt, vocalist

Ellen Easton remarked, "If it is true that the producers of the TONY Awards will not be presenting the

Lifetime Achievement Award to nine time winner, Tommy Tune, during the CBS telecast on camera then it is a mistake of Herculean proportions.
One who has contributed as much to the theatre community as Tommy Tune deserves to be honored with more than a few second sound bite.  The audience deserves better as well.
Instead of insipid presenter banter, use the airtime to showcase the prodigious triumphs of Tommy Tune  that, to date, have yet to be surpassed by none.
Tommy's multitude of fans will want to see him honored on camera.  To the young people watching around the globe it just might be the inspiration  that jump starts the career of the next big talent to carry the torch on the Great White Way.
Hey, Mr. Producers....give Tommy his due with dignity...ON CAMERA please!"

-Ellen Easton, Red Wagon Press

Can't believe they are missing one of Broadway most prolific performers to ever be honored.......LIVE!
with Tommy and Shubert
He deserves it as well as the TV viewers.

-Bryon Sommers

Lifetime Achievement is something that should be PUBLICLY honored in front of your peers. It's a major accomplishment and should be presented to him live on stage!
-Elizabeth Richmon Garlick

Please sign the petition linked below if you agree. We CAN be heard. Tommy Tune, and every Lifetime Achievement Tony Award winner, deserves to be acknowledged and have their award presented LIVE during the TV Broadcast. I find it unconscionable that someone who has earned what is surely the most distinguished of all Tony Award honors should be reduced to a sound bite. Even more so when precious air time is wasted with stupid and irrelevant song parodies and time given to TV or film personalities who have yet to set foot on a Broadway stage. Let alone last year's wasted air-time presenting a song to plug a Broadway musical that had not even gone into rehearsal yet, which subsequently opened this season to unanimous critical pans.
 Those of us who work in the theatre may not be this year's hot new TV sensation or headliners in the latest boffo box office blockbuster film, but we are the ones who dedicate our lives to this business and the Broadway we know and love. We deserve better. And so does the TV audience. Including the general public, those who watch the broadcast because they do know and recognize and respect us, as well as those of us who also dedicate our lives to the theatre, and most especially the kids out there watching who dream of one day appearing on a Broadway stage and need to see their idols. We all deserve to see the people who really represent and ARE Broadway acknowledged on screen LIVE! That's why they are watching, that's why we are all watching, that's what it's all about, folks. In what world does it make sense for a LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Tony Award winner to receive the least recognition of all on national television or anywhere else? The Academy Awards, The SAG Awards, and every other awards show of merit manages to find not only time for an acceptance speech, but time to include retrospects of these distinguished artist's careers. This gross oversight on the part of the producers of the Tony Award's television broadcast has been an embarrassment to the theatre community, as well as an insult to the viewers, for far too long. It's about time it was corrected. It's time all of us who care about Broadway to come together and take a stand and demand this change be made NOW. Let it begin by giving Tommy Tune, this year's distinguished winner of The Antoinette Perry Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement", the respect and national recognition that should go hand in hand with such an honor. He deserves it. And so do we all.
Tony Award Nominee

To the producers of this year's Tony's, imagine a musical montage celebrating nine Tony Awards! Our history needs to be does Tommy Tune's! 

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
 Please join Gretchen Reinhagen in NYC June 7th! Part Two of Reinhagen Redux
This June Gretchen returns to the Metropolitan Room with part three of her
favorite shows, three of her favorite musical directors, over three months,
singing three times the tunes.

Directed by Barry Kleinbort

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

IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
Tommy Tune, 1977

Reserve TODAY for Julie Budd at Metropolitan Room May 14th ALMOST SOLD OUT!!!
To contact Richard Skipper,