Elaine Stritch–who won a 2002 Tony Award for her acclaimed one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, but whose acceptance speech was cut off by the strains of the Tony orchestra–admitted that she was very disturbed by her treatment on the CBS telecast.
"I'm very upset," said Stritch, speaking to a roomful of theatre journalists backstage at the Tonys. "I know CBS can't let people do the Gettysburg Address up there, but I think they should have given me my time. For a woman my age, to be cut down like that has spoiled it for me. And I mean that. It spoiled it. I timed my speech and it came out right. "
In her speech, the actress managed to thank her producers, director George C. Wolfe and co-writer John Lahr, before the Tony broadcast went to commercial. Stritch's last words, heard sans microphone, were "Please don't do this to me!"
In the press room, the stage veteran was near tears. "I wish I could rise above this," she said, in confessional speech which resembled an excerpt from her one-woman show, "but I can't. I can't play it that way. It's taken too long, and I can't pretend anymore. They rang down the curtain before the show was over. I didn't want to blow it and that's what I did. I blew it. I wanted to accept my prize with grace and I blew it."
Stritch quoted a Sondheim lyric which she said had significance for her she had hoped to mention on the Tony stage: "What's hard comes easy, what's natural comes hard." Stritch also used her time before the press to refute a story in Cindy Adams' gossip column that she had refused to sit for a Vanity Fair photo shoot with her fellow nominees, Barbara Cook, Bea Arthur and John Leguizamo. "It was a four and a half shoot and I can't do a four and a half shoot and then go to theatre and perform for three hours. That's why I didn't do it."