Tony Memory 1982: A Call from the Vatican

Tony Awards   Tony Memory 1982: A Call from the Vatican Veteran press agent Judy Jacksina has hilarious memories of an incident involving the Tony Awards telecast on CBS in 1982. She worked on Nine, the Maury (Titanic) Yeston musical based on Fellini's film 8 1/2 and directed by Tommy Tune.

Veteran press agent Judy Jacksina has hilarious memories of an incident involving the Tony Awards telecast on CBS in 1982. She worked on Nine, the Maury (Titanic) Yeston musical based on Fellini's film 8 1/2 and directed by Tommy Tune.

"Clive Barnes wrote that we were so fresh that you could smell the wet paint on the stage," recalled Jacksina. "He had no idea how on the nose he was. The night before we were backstage painting right up to curtain. The ladies all wore very expensive shoes and we were going 'Watch it! Watch it! Don't step there.' Tune got the idea to bring in fans to quick-dry the paint."

The show received 12 Tony nominations -- three were in the Featured Actress category: Karen Akers. Liliaine Montevecchi, and the late Anita Morris.

Dreamgirls had earned 13 nominations, but because it came in at the last minute and the paint was still fresh, so to speak, Nine, the last show of the season, stuck in voters's minds and won Musical and Score.

As mistress to Guido (played by Raul Julia), Anita Morris performed a provocative number in a skin-tight flesh colored costume, "A Call from the Vatican." "In no time," said Jacksina, "Anita's number become hugely -- no, internationally -- famous. And controversial. The controversy wasn't because of the song, but how she'd been directed and choreographed to do it. Of course, it didn't help that she was doing erotic calisthenics on a small white box and naked underneath her black lace outfit.

"Now, we're no fools. We tell CBS this is the number we want to present on the telecast. Their reply was 'Not until we send in our Standards and Practices folks to take a look.' Tune calls me and says to meet these two women in the lobby and escort them to their seats. They weighed in at the mean age of 60. That took us for a minute. But this was serious, so I showed enormous respect. They had their hair pulled back and nets over their buns. They wore long A-line skirts, cardigans that buttoned up the front, and, shall we say, very sensible, sturdy shoes. What the English would call their walking shoes!"

Jacksina felt doom circulating through "my red and white corpuscles. My heart was thumping the theme from Jaws. All I could think was, 'This is not good!' Forget everything else, I thought, these women have never been in a pair of high heel shoes!"

She and Tune greeted them and then met them after the show. "We stood waiting for them with great apprehension. They came out and said, 'You'll be getting a letter' and off they go into the night. I looked at Tune and said, 'The blood has completely stopped in my body.' And he replied, 'Oh, Judy, that's not good.'"

A few days later, the letter from CBS arrives. "It listed in a succinct and well-ordered manner what we -- we! -- had to leave out when Anita did the number. We -- we! -- could not rub our -- our! -- nipples. We -- we! --could not rub the inside of our -- our! -- thighs."

The letter went on to state that Morris could not move horizontally on the box in a lascivious manner.

"The list was endless!" said Jacksina, laughing. "It was perhaps one of the most erotic pieces of literature I had read."

The result was that on the Tony telecast the comparitively innocent "Be Italian" was substituted.

Jacksina, it might be noted, is press agent for this season's controversial The Life, which has more than its shares of erotic costumes and bumps and grinds. But, she says, "CBS hasn't sent in the troops -- yet."

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