ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Drama at Disaster! and Backstage Stories from Joan Rivers

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11 Nov 2013

The Birdie rehearsal script

On "Seth Speaks" I interviewed Gary Blake who worked as a gopher for David Merrick back in the day. And I mean the early '60's! I asked him about Merrick's extravagance and he remembered that he once had to go into Merrick's office and noticed there was paperweight with his name on it. The paperweight was literally... a bar of gold. Merrick never actually spoke to Gary (just a lot of glaring in the elevator), but Gary was almost fired by him! Why? Because Gary was rushing through the offices and when he opened one door, he felt it bang into something. What was the something? Gower Champion's knees! Gary could see David glowering in back of Gower, but Gower smoothed things over by telling him, "Don't worry, young man. I'm fine!" And then he danced a little jig to prove it. Phew! And speaking of Gower, Gary also gophered for the producer Ed Padula during Bye Bye Birdie. Gary's parting gift to me was an original rehearsal script! It's on typewriter paper (!) and has cross-outs with new lines written in pencil! And the word "teenager" is hyphenated ("teen-ager"). It's amazing!

On Friday, I went to a recording studio in the Brill Building. Why? Because I was asked to be a voice on an animated pilot starring Susie Essman, Michael Urie and Joan Rivers! Normally, cartoon voices are all recorded separately. The exception, as far as I know, is The Simpsons. When I interviewed Yeardley Smith (Lisa), she told me that they did the shows together, like a radio play. Thankfully, we were all in the same studio and I had the best time. Everyone was so funny and Joan was regaling us with tales from her life. She mentioned she had just gone to the restaurant owned by Lady Gaga's parents!

Joan said she went with Cindy Adams and Barbara Walters. Of course, she had to comment on how old they all are and she claimed her table consisted of "the three witches from Macbeth." Lady Gaga wound up joining them and Joan said she now tries to make Melissa (Rivers) jealous by constantly mentioning,"Stephanie... Oh, I'm sorry…you know her as Lady Gaga." After the session, Joan was talking to Michael about Buyer & Cellar and she mentioned her history with Barbra Streisand. They both did a play together many years ago when Barbra was still in high school! They couldn't find a guy for one of the roles in the show, so Joan suggested that she and Barbra be lesbians instead. 'Natch. This was before Joan changed her last name and when Barbra still spelled her name "B-a-r-b-a-r-a". To this day, whenever they see each other, Barbra always greets her with "Hello, Joan Molinsky…." and Joan says, "Hello, Barbara with all the A's…"


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