ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Linzi Hateley Remembers Blood and Backstage Disasters in Carrie

By Seth Rudetsky
27 May 2014

Seth with Linzi Hateley
Actually, not quite. Her Mom first asked her what kind of business it was. (Barbara said, "As if I was going to start a porn company!") When she heard it was for bags, her Mom agreed and thus was born Vera Bradley. Barbara and her friend were both in their mid 40's when they started it (with $500 total) and it's now worth a multi-million dollar company! We celebrated her 75th birthday a few weeks ago, yet she's still heavily involved in the day-to-day aspects of the business. But not the stuff she's not good at. Barbara was very clear when I asked to give some advice for people starting out: Focus on what you're good at and get someone else to do the other stuff. She told us that she's great at design but terrible at math, so she's always had someone else do that for her. Barbara thinks it's a problem that parents usually focus on what doesn't come easily to kids (like getting them math tutors) instead of encouraging and fostering what they're good at (like getting them into an after-school arts program!).

Of course, I immediately felt guilty that James and I are always yelling at Juli to do her homework but then got excited when I remembered we're sending her to camp at French Woods this summer. They have incredible facilities for kids to explore tons of art forms (visual, music, rock, theatre, circus) and Juli is so excited to go ever since she saw this amazing video that shows everything they have. By the by, Barbara later said that she had a little business before Vera Bradley. Since she did such a good job wallpapering her house, she was asked to do the wallpaper for other people in her homestate of Indiana. She decided to name her company "Well Hung." That's when I realized Barbara had a lot of nerve being shocked when her mother asked if she was starting a porn company! PS, her husband objected to that name, so she changed it to "Up Your Wall." Barbara also told us that she had a close friend die of breast cancer, so her company started a foundation for research. Every year they have a golf tournament and no matter what they raise, the company donates one million dollars. It's actually happening next week and you can find out more information at VeraBradley.org.

Linzi Hateley and Barbara Cook in Carrie.

On Thursday, I had Linzi Hateley at Seth's Broadway Chatterbox and I got to feed my obsession for the original production of Carrie. Linzi's a big star in the West End but got her start in Carrie. And she's making her 54 Below debut this Tuesday! Linzi told us that she was 16 and in theatre school when she heard they were looking for awkward girls to play the title role in Carrie. She went in and sang and then she came back for a dance call with the choreographer, Debbie Allen! She danced up a storm (even though Carrie never really dances) and, on her 17th birthday, found out she got the role! She was short and a little overweight and was so happy that, finally, she was more suited for a lead role instead of all the other tall/stunning girls in her school who always got them.

Carrie was originally done for the Royal Shakespeare Company (like Les Miserables) and the mom (portrayed by Piper Laurie in the film) was played by Barbara Cook. Linzi remembered that even though Barbara worked very hard on the role, it was obvious she was not happy with the show — especially when a piece of scenery swung by and almost decapitated her! The director wanted to try different ways to get Linzi covered in blood during the famous prom scene, and since this was the '80's, they used lasers. It definitely didn't work, so then they had the bad kid, played by Gene Anthony Ray (known for playing LeRoy in "Fame") walk up to her and place a bucket of blood over her head — but it wasn't filled with blood. It had two sponges in it and they simply hit her cheeks. It wound up making her look like she applied a heavy dose of blush. I guess that's a good reason to kill her whole school. Finally, they asked if she minded getting a bucket of blood dumped on her, and she told them that's exactly what she wanted. The show in England didn't get great reviews, but audiences came and loved it.