Alec Baldwin, Harold Prince, Tina Fey, Patti LuPone and More Offer Elaine Stritch a Quotable Sendoff

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20 Apr 2013

Elaine Stritch
Elaine Stritch
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Elaine Stritch, the celebrated, Tony Award-winning actress who was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, played her farewell performance at the Café Carlyle the first week of April. Before she bids New York adieu for her home state of Michigan, Stritch is currently being honored with a new documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival. Playbill has a special surprise as well.

To mark the film premiere and Stritch's April 25 departure from New York City, Playbill.com has collected words from Stritch's friends and contemporaries, including Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince – as well as recent quotes from leading ladies including Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters and more - who share their encounters and feelings for the iconic actress.

On April 19 the Tribeca Film Festival began screening the premiere of "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me," a new documentary film by Chiemi Karasawa that delivers an intimate look into Stritch's on-stage and off-stage life.

Alec Baldwin
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Alec Baldwin:
"Among the greatest thrills of my life, right up with working with Anthony Hopkins & Julie Harris, was the chance to work with Elaine."

Rob Bowman
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Rob Bowman:
"I met Elaine thirteen years ago doing a workshop of a new musical called The Royal Family Of Broadway. Unfortunately, the show never took off, but we began a partnership that has changed my life. We've gotten together practically every day since, working on what must be hundreds of songs, shaping them until each arrangement is just right or tossing them out when they didn't quite make it. What I cherish the most, of course, are the times we've had hanging out, just being together. To say there have been many laughs comes as no surprise to anyone that knows her. I have learned so much from our no-holds-barred conversations about life, our joys and fears, good times and bum times. She has often told me that secrets are one of the most boring things she can think of, so anything that was remotely secret within me never stayed there for long with Elaine! And wow, all the walking, I think we've walked practically everywhere by now, this town and every other city we've ever played in. I remember when I moved to Chelsea a few years ago, she walked from the Carlyle, 76th & Madison, to my new place at 24th & 9th, we chatted for a few hours, then we walked back to the Carlyle together and worked for about five or six hours! I love hearing Elaine talk about the people she cares about, and her passion for those whose talents move her so deeply, and her urgency to let them know just how much they have affected her. I have heard the most fascinating and loving stories about her Mom & Dad and her family in Michigan, her friends and the most incredible stories about practically everyone people in show business - and rarely if ever have I heard anything unflattering about anyone. Thanks, Elaine. I love you."

Betty Buckley
Photo by Myriam Santos

Betty Buckley:
"Elaine Stritch is my guardian angel. She always just appears in my life, most synchronistically, when I need her counsel or guidance. It's amazing! Whenever I am in some existential despair or don't know which path to take she just shows up and sets me straight.

I used to do engagements at the Carlyle Hotel and she would sometimes venture down from her suite to my show and stand at the bar and from the back of the room and, in the middle of my set, offer me advice. My favorite quote of hers about my performances is "Betty, you need to make the martini dirtier! Add an olive or somethin'!'

Last year, as a part of my new show at Feinstein's "For the Love of Broadway," I did a song she originated in the musical Goldilocks and did a tribute to Elaine as my introduction to the song. We invited her to come. We had arranged a lovely table, and after some coaxing she arrived but insisted on standing at the back. She was dressed in a charming shirt, skirt, little shoes and matching hat. I did my tribute, and Elaine came forward to the stage and held court. It was wonderful!

I have seen her shows at the Carlyle and am always enchanted and overwhelmed at her glorious and fascinating history. It's always a privilege to see her. I love her abandon, her brashness and her heart. I love Elaine Stritch with all my heart and want to be just like her when I grow up."

Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth:
"The first time I met Elaine was when we were both playing Carnegie Hall. I ran out of hairspray and went next door to her dressing room to see if I could borrow some. She gave me some and told me I wasn't allowed to spray it near her. I went outside in the hall and sprayed the crap out of my hair. From that moment on we were friends. I idolize her and I hope to have a career with as much longevity as hers. Absolutely great!"

Christine Ebersole

Christine Ebersole:
"Very early on in my career I got what I thought was such a high compliment. Somewhere back in the 80's I was doing a benefit and I sang a song that this person had written and they said, 'Oh, she's like a young Elaine Stritch.' And I thought, 'Oh my God, that is such a high compliment!' I've always had such an affinity for her and I've always loved her and adored her. I think she's such a fantastic entertainer. I hope that I'm doing what she's doing when I'm her age – if I get to be that lucky."

Tina Fey
Photo by Theo Wargo/NBC

Tina Fey:
"There is no one else who could have played Jack Donaghy's mother. No other actress could hold the screen with Alec Baldwin like that. Also, she provided all of her own fur hats, which was good."

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka:

"Performing in A Little Night Music was one of the biggest blessings in my life, for countless reasons, but one of the best results was my friendship with the legendary actress, Elaine Stritch. When she performed At Liberty in Pittsburgh four years ago, I was a senior at Carnegie Mellon; I saw the show and stayed after to get her autograph. The line was roughly a hundred people, and I was at the very end. All I can say is that it was like being a kid waiting in line to meet Santa, and the Santa Claus was absolutely terrifying. When it got to be my turn to meet her, I took one look at her silver hair and large glasses, and chickened out. I never got that autograph, but when she joined A Little Night Music, I got so much more.

She is one of the most fascinating individuals I have ever met: full of life, courage, humor, pain, knowledge, intuition, and love. With all of the incredible press around her final show at the Carlyle and her exodus from New York, I joke with her that she is more famous now than she ever has been in her entire life. Every actor should announce they are moving to Birmingham, Michigan - it will be the best thing that ever happened to their career!

Walking down the street with her this week is like being in the presence of an international superstar - cameras constantly flashing and crowds forming on every corner to watch her slowly make her way to the bus stop. Yes, she still rides the bus. I am sad to see her leave NYC on the 25th, but I know it's not the end. We saw a poster of Elaine Stritch: At Liberty yesterday, and she pointed to it and said, 'I'll do that again.' It took me a few hours to realize she was talking about the outfit in the poster, not the show."

Patti LuPone
Photo by Ethan Hill

Patti LuPone:
"She's one of a kind. And is deeply influential. Her larger than life interpretations have left their indelible mark on the roles that she's created. It's a challenge, to say the least, to reinterpret them."

Pamela Myers

Pamela Myers
"Let me begin by saying, I just love Elaine. She has been wonderful to me and my son Max. She is the most honest and arresting performer, and unusual person, that a young singer who wasn't yet an actress, could have the good fortune to meet. I was fresh from Ohio and green as grass when I got Company. Elaine was like some rare, eccentric bird-like Auntie Mame to me. I learned my work ethic from watching her and listening to her on stage every night. Elaine was still drinking then and sometimes she tore through 'Ladies Who Lunch' and other times she was so vulnerable it was brutal to listen to her. She made it alright to be scared, but was always elegant. She NEVER missed a performance and when Marlene Dietrich visited us backstage for two days, Elaine let her wait on her, picking up her dressing room. I loved that so much! I don't think anybody has a better sense of humor or wit."

Phyllis Newman
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Phyllis Newman:
"Elaine Stritch is dangerous. On and off stage. She is filled with talent, that's clear. But you're never sure what she's going to do with a song, a scene, or even a line. So you best keep your eyes on her, lest you miss something. Marlon Brando was like that – the really greats are like that. I know, you know what I mean.

We worked together on the spectacular Follies in Concert at Avery Fisher Hall. After one of the rehearsals, she came up to me and said, 'You know kid, you gotta learn to take stage.' I was stunned. When I rehearse I'm working, not performing. Cut to the show – a smash. Everyone killed (as they say), I too, killed BIG. After the show she said to me, 'I guess you learned.' She and I really do laugh together. They filmed a little of one of our exchanges on the DVD of Follies in Concert. [She's] dangerous, completely original [and] achingly funny. I think the kid has a big future."

Kelli O'Hara
Photo by Monica Simoes

Kelli O'Hara:
"I remember opening at the Carlyle in April of 2009, heavy with pregnancy and jittery with nerves. Having never done much cabaret, I was relieved to hear supportive yet very present laughter coming from the back of the room. Squinting through the darkness, I recognized the sound and shape to be Elaine Stritch (how could I not?). Having drifted down from her home on one of the higher floors of the same building to catch my show, she was perched there, lending a hand to a newbie. I later received a congratulatory letter from her under my hotel room door. I keep it with fondness."

Elaine Paige

Elaine Paige:
"I remember my opening night of Sunset Boulevard on Broadway. A woman I didn't recognize was standing in the doorway of my dressing room. Her hair was in rollers, no scarf covering them. I thought a bag lady had got in and was lost! I went to see if I could help, the woman said to me, 'Can you tell me where I can find Elaine Paige?' I replied, 'I'm Elaine Paige.' She looked me straight in the eye and said, 'You can't be Elaine Paige, you're too short to be a star!' We became, and have remained, good pals ever since. I shall so miss her and our chats over tea at the Carlyle every time I visit New York... It just won't be the same."

Bernadette Peters
Photo by Andrew Eccles

Bernadette Peters:
"The first time I saw Elaine Stritch was when she was starring in Company and when she was doing 'The Ladies Who Lunch,' I thought, 'WOW! What is she doing and how is she doing that?' It was just so startling and so amazing! I'll never forget that performance.

Then, of course, working with her [in A Little Night Music]. I've never known anyone who was more supportive of other actors. She's so terrific and I truly love her a lot!"

Lonny Price
Photo by Monica Simoes

Lonny Price:
"I first saw Elaine on my 11th birthday when my grandmother took me to see the original production of Company. She scared me then, and she scares me now. In the best way possible. Kidding aside, Elaine is a consummate singing actress–her performances are dangerous–singular and thrilling. She is a flavor unlike any other, and to bathe in the wit and intelligence of it, just listen to Sail Away and you will be blown away. One of my favorite recordings of all time is her singing Noel Coward's 'Something Very Strange' from that show. Moves me every time. 'There's something so alive. And vulnerable. And sometimes, yes scary.'"

Harold Prince
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Harold Prince:
"At the first preview of Company in Boston, when she rose to sing 'The Ladies Who Lunch,' she went up after the first line and repeated it a number of times. Then, she put her hand in her mouth and gummed the rest of the song. Steve Sondheim and I (and my wife) were sitting in the middle of the house and we obviously slid down in our seats. I called a rehearsal early the next morning for 'Ms. Stritch' in her dressing room. Of course, no rehearsal was needed. I simply said: 'Don't do that again.'"

Emily Skinner

Emily Skinner:
"The first time I met Elaine was backstage at James Joyce's The Dead. She pushed open my dressing room door, stuck her leg up on a chair, hiked her skirt up, and said something like, 'Hi. I need to shoot up my insulin,' which she then proceeded to do. I was completely enamored."

Stephen Sondheim
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Stephen Sondheim:
"Surprising though it may seem, I don't really have any anecdotes about Elaine (not for public consumption, at any rate)."

Mary Testa
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Mary Testa:
"One of the first things I ever saw her do was 'Zip' at Rainbow and Stars. She used just the absolutely least amount of gas, and traveled the greatest distance imaginable."

Barbara Walsh

Barbara Walsh:
"While in previews for Company in the fall of 2006, I had a luncheon with Elaine at the Carlyle. We were both being interviewed for an article in The New Yorker that actually never ran. Anyway, upon meeting me she said, 'Oh, you're too young for Joanne.' (I was in fact older than her when she originated it.) We got along well, although she drove the interview and she told me she didn't want me to know when she was coming to the show.

So one night shortly after the luncheon, I'm looking out at the audience as I could often break the fourth wall during the performance, and who do I see right smack on the aisle, five or six rows back? Elaine Stritch in the whitest of white suits! I wasn't bothered at all, just thrilled. After the show, I heard the unmistakable voice on the staircase and greeted her on the stair landing. She looked at me and said, 'Wonderful, you were just wonderful.' A moment I'll never forget."