Elaine Stritch, the durable, acerbic star of Broadway, cabaret, television and films, died Thursday at home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89. During Stritch’s 70-year career she appeared in everything from the 1952 revival of “Pal Joey” to 1970’s “Company” to the recent NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” and made two Stephen Sondheim songs, “The Ladies Who Lunch” and “I’m Still Here,” her anthems. And she rarely minced words.
In an interview with WWD in November 1969, shortly before she started rehearsals for “Company,” she talked about working with child actors, playing Aunt Polly in the Pixie Judy Children’s Theatre production of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” She said it was “part of her desire to experience many things in life.” She found she was “absolutely hung up on the kids….They’re the easiest people to get along with, and they can spot a bad adult actor right away.”
She also talked about directors: “The director is one of the most valuable people in theater. He must be creative, be a chance-taker, be nuts about people and have a certain humility. I’ve seen actors made into mincemeat by insecure directors.” She named George Abbott, Harold Clurman, Noël Coward and Bertolt Brecht as among her favorites.
In an interview in WWD’s Beauty Biz in February 2007, she was asked about health and happiness, and said, “Well, number one is attitude. We all have choices and you can make up your mind how you’re going to feel in a day. I don’t care what circumstances have dealt you, you can choose to say, ‘All right, I’m going to take this — on the chin, in the a–, wherever — but I’m going to take it.’ So if you start with that and resolve to learn from it, and be grateful for it, you’ll most likely realize there’s an important reason for it. It’s like that Biblical phrase, ‘All shall be revealed.’ I say my prayers every day, and I’m not sure about anything. But I do ’em because I feel it’s very good discipline, and it relieves me a little bit.”
“I’m an absolute stickler about any kind of plastic surgery. I think it’s bullsh–. I wish women knew that they didn’t have to go into the closet, beautywise. I have lots of signs in my face that I’m the age that I am, and I love it.”
“I force myself to get out and walk three to four miles a day. I love to window-shop, and I love to have a destination. If I have a fitting down at [Broadway costume house] Matera’s on 18th Street, I’ll walk all the way down from [my home at] The Carlyle hotel. Sometimes I’ll even walk back, depending on how strenuous the fitting was. That’s a good walk!”
At a screening of the documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” in February of this year, Stritch, who had moved back to her Michigan hometown, admitted to WWD that she missed Gotham. “Of course I miss it,” she said. “It’s New York, who couldn’t miss New York? C’mon.”