InDepth InterView: Lorna Luft Talks Concert Return, Cancer Battle, Broadway, Hollywood & More
Today we are talking to the daughter of one of the most iconic performers in entertainment history, Judy Garland, who has made a name for herself in show business over the course of an impressive fifty-year career comprising starring roles on Broadway, major Hollywood films, long-running TV roles and memorable recording studio work as well as much, much more - the fascinating and gifted Lorna Luft. Discussing working with a number of Broadway/Hollywood heavyweights on a wide assortment of projects - among them, Michael Bennett, Neil Simon, Marvin Hamlisch, Barry Manilow, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Allan Carr, Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, Harold Arlen and many more - Luft imparts a priceless perspective in sharing sensational stories from behind the scenes of entities such as the original Broadway productions of PROMISES, PROMISES and THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG as well as GREASE 2, Blondie albums, FOLLIES in Ireland, a potential future HELLO, DOLLY! and more. Additionally, Luft offers up observations of the legacy of her famous family - namely, the cross-generational appeal of THE WIZARD OF OZ as well as performing with her superstar sister, Liza Minnelli. Most importantly, Luft clues us in on what we can expect from her return to the concert stage with two special solo shows scheduled for this month in New Jersey and Fire Island and how she has so resiliently endured and quickly recovered from her recent cancer diagnosis. Additionally, Luft recounts memories from some spectacular performances gone by - such as on the Tony Awards and Jerry Herman AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL - as well as comments on the contemporary performing arts renaissance that has come as a result of GLEE. All of that, reflections the unforgettable multi-award-winning TV film made from her best-selling memoir MY LIFE WITH Judy Garland: ME & MY SHADOWS which she personally supervised and much, much more awaits in this compelling, career-covering conversation! PC: Right off the bat, I have to say that ME & MY SHADOWS is one of the greatest musical biopics ever made - it's a true masterpiece. PC: Is there another book you'd enjoy writing? Would you ever endorse a more fictionalized account of the story of your mother's life? PC: Given you grew up in Hollywood, I'm curious how you view the internet-centric media culture of today versus then? It has changed a lot, has it not? PC: Tell me about working with Michael Bennett as a replacement star on the original production of PROMISES, PROMISES. PC: Uh oh! What happened? PC: Like a whirlwind, right? PC: A very visceral response. PC: Have you two spoken recently? PC: What a vivid memory. PC: Was it his idea to include "Over The Rainbow" at the end?
More information on Lorna Luft's upcoming concerts on August 31 at The Ice Palace in Fire Island is available at her official site here.
She's Still Here
LL: Thank you so much for saying that.
PC: Tammy Blanchard spoke so favorably about you when she did this column. Looking back, was that a Herculean process to get that project together when you did?
LL: Well, we worked very, very hard on that and I think that I had more personally invested in it than anyone else - obviously, given the source. I just felt that everyone was going to go on - and I said this to them at the time; Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Robert Allan Ackerman and the producers - I said, "You all are going to go on to other things, but this is how this is going to be remembered forever." So, I fought for basically everything - along with Robert Allan Ackerman. It was just so personal - to both of us. We wanted to make sure that the public would not only understand but that my children would understand and that it would be a film that would make my mom proud. Emotionally, it was a lot going on for me - and, of course, we had to tell the story but also deal with the powers-that-be at ABC, too. But, I can't complain - we won five Emmy Awards! [Laughs.]
PC: Meryl Streep herself called Judy Davis's performance one of the finest she had seen.
LL: Oh, it was! It was. And, actually, Judy and I have stayed friends since the film. Everyone who was involved with that, whenever we run across each other even now, it's always a bond that we all share. I respect, admire and love all the actors in that film. Tammy was so fabulous - so was Judy. And, I mean, look at Alison Pill - who plays me - and all she has gone onto since then, too!
PC: Indeed. What about a Blu-ray edition sometime soon?
LL: You're asking someone who doesn't know anything about that, Pat! I don't even know if I have a Blu-ray machine. All of that is up to the powers-that-be, but I think that if they wanted to release a new Blu-ray anniversary edition that would be really, really lovely.
PC: Your commentary on the previous DVD is exceptional.
LL: Oh, thanks! I'm so glad you listened to that - you never know when you are doing those kind of things.
LL: I think that if you are going to tell the story, you should tell the real story. Fictionalized? I don't think so. I think that there is another book in me, though - I definitely have another idea. I am constantly in contact with my editor over at Simon & Schuster - there is definitely another book in me, but it's not going to necessarily be about my family. I think that the book I am thinking about writing is really about other stories that I can relate to. That's the idea I have been kicking around. As you know, it takes a lot to write - basically, any time an author comes out with a book it has taken eighteen months out of their lives to write it.
PC: How do you think your mom would view the new Hollywood? Would she use Twitter? Would she approve of reality fame?
LL: It's crazy - it's so crazy. You know, when I was growing up there was a line in the sand and people respected that and now the line is no longer there. To be honest, I just don't understand the need to tell people you are on a corner having coffee or whatever you are doing at a particular time of a particular day. I don't understand that - I don't get it. I mean, my daughter is 22 so she is all into that so I see it that way - nut me, I still write notes; by hand! [Laughs.]
PC: Old habits die hard.
LL: Old-fashioned things like actually putting a pen to paper mean something to me - and, I have to say, when I am sending an e-mail or something my kids find it really terrifying! They say, you know, "Just let me do it - tell me what you want to say," and they offer to do it for me.
LL: Oh, it has - it has changed a lot. As I said, I am pretty technologically and electronically-challenged. I am. I mean, even with the television and the seventeen clickers - I have no idea what to do! I just stand there and I panic and I start pushing every button I possibly can and then next I am screaming for my husband. But, to answer your question, I think that all of this social media and the way everything works with that is really a double-edged sword.
PC: Why so?
LL: Well, I think that for getting the news out to people that it is fantastic. I think that's great. But, also, I think that then there is the other end of it, where people have put themselves out in social media and then when it all goes terribly wrong for them then they start crying about, you know, "Oh, people just won't leave me alone!" It's like, "Well, why did you do that then? Why did you put yourself out there like that?"
PC: A very instructive point.
LL: Yeah, I just feel like you have a choice and you have choices in life and you have to control what you want out there and what you don't want out there, and, if you do decide to sort of put yourself out there and make that deal, then, when it does go horribly wrong and you do make horrible, unflattering mistakes... I mean, I constantly see these people on television now saying, "No one will leave me alone," and I think, "But you did that!" So, I guess that's why I have the most respect for actors and entertainers who don't put themselves out there too much - I mean, I love it when I see an actor give a performance in something and I know nothing about them; nothing.
PC: It can enhance your experience of them as the character.
LL: I love it - for me, it keeps the mystery alive, you know? I want to just be a fan of the actor's work, nothing else.
LL: Well, it was my first Broadway show and I sort of wish that I knew at 22 what I now know at 60 in thinking about it.
PC: Why is that?
LL: Michael Bennett wasn't Michael Bennett yet, you know? Certainly Burt Bacharach and Hal David were. Certainly Neil Simon was.
PC: And David Merrick, of course. What was he like?
LL: Yes, and so was David Merrick - who, let me just say, I am really, really grateful to and I liked him very, very much; I know a lot of people don't and didn't, but he was really good to me. All I can go on is my personal experience with people and in my experience David Merrick was very kind and very generous to me during PROMISES, PROMISES - and I really liked him.
PC: Who was responsible for putting you into the show?
LL: Michael Bennett's assistant, Baayork Lee - she was the one who put me in the show. That was my first experience working with her.
PC: She was Bennett's right hand woman in many ways.
LL: Yes, she was. I mean, thinking about it now, we were all just taking baby steps back then, at the time - it was all new; it was all still fun. You know, PROMISES was the first all-electronic show and everything, too. It was such a great experience - and a great show to learn with, too. But, then, there was the night that Michael Bennett came to see the show... [Clears Throat.]
LL: First of all, in the hair department they usually put the same pieces on all the people who play the role - they didn't make specific wigs or pieces for each actor who did it. They didn't really change any of the wigs or costumes for me - sizes, yes, but they didn't change the style of anything. So, they put this very, very long fall on me - like Jill O'Hara had had when she did it - and so he knocked on my door... well, he didn't really knock, he sort of banged on it and I opened the door and the very first thing he said was, "What the hell is that on your head?!" And, I said, "Hello? Pleased to meet you!"
LL: Yeah! That's the first thing he said, though. Then, he said, "They have made you look so young that it makes Sheldrake look like a child molester!"
PC: What a line!
LL: Yeah, and, he just keep going - you know, "Oh, I'm calling an emergency rehearsal!" He was really, really... he was angry. So, then, he told me what he thought of my performance. "You're too nice. I want to work with you on this, that and the other and we are going to give you the chance you didn't have to work on this and learn this show and have it directed for you. I am calling a rehearsal right away." And, so then, as he was leaving, I said, "Who was that?!"
LL: Right! He never even said, "Hello, I'm Michael Bennett!" [Laughs.] It was crazy.
PC: What a superb memory.
LL: After that, though, I am happy to tell you that he and I became friends. He really sympathized with the fact that I had been put into this show by stage managers and all of that and I never got the chance to basically go through the time and character study and have the learning process that you have when you do a show from the beginning. Basically, they handed me the script and a guitar and said, "OK. See you in two weeks!"
PC: Not a lot of time in the saddle.
LL: No. Also, in speaking of Michael - and, let me just say, I do not use this word a lot - was truly, truly a genius. He was complicated. He was very funny. And, he could be so sweet and so wonderful and so much just like that person who always want to hang out with - and, then, he could be a tyrant.
PC: He was such a visual artist - the wigs always set him off it seems in the stories I know.
LL: He had such an eye - such an amazing eye. He could envision everything - he knew exactly what something should look like; exactly. He had an eye and he knew what every detail should be - the period and the way it moved; everything. He knew all of that. And, I have to say, when I went to see the revival of it, I really had such an emotional reaction! I mean, when they started to play the overture I burst into tears!
LL: Yeah! It just brought back so many memories and such wonderful, wonderful times that I would have loved to just hold on to and put in a bottle. I was so pleased that they had done a revival of PROMISES, PROMISES. I remember going into Kristin [Chenoweth]'s dressing room afterwards and her saying to me, "Oh, I was so nervous that you were out there!" and, I said, "Oh, God, I was nervous just sitting there!" [Laughs.]
PC: The feeling was mutual.
LL: It was - it was. But, Kristin was so genuinely kind and so, so wonderful in the show - she told me a wonderful story that Neil Simon had told her about the show and it was just a lovely meeting. I think that everyone who has done the piece takes a bit of those characters home with them. For instance, years and years ago I ran into a guy in New York and he was talking about his dog and I said, "Oh, what's your dog's name?" and he said, "Miss De La Hoya," and I fell out my chair.
PC: Of all the names!
LL: I know! I know. He said, "Do you wanna know where it came from?" and I said, "No, no - I got it." [Laughs.]
PC: Is Neil Simon how you got involved with THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG, as well?
LL: Yes. It is. Once Neil saw you and once you had worked with him on a show and all of that, he kept you in the back of his mind. I am so grateful to him - so, so grateful. I loved being able to stand on a Broadway stage in two shows and say his words eight times a week.
LL: Unfortunately, we haven't, but I wish nothing for him but joy every single day.
PC: In speaking of THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG, I am sure you have many Marvin Hamlisch memories, yes?
LL: Of course - I grew up with Marvin!
PC: Of course - Liza's best friend. Do you have an absolute favorite story?
LL: Oh, I don't think I do, but that's only because Marvin was in my house for so long and so often that he really was like another brother.
PC: How wonderful.
LL: It's true!
PC: Do you remember him tinkering with tunes that would become recognizable songs of his later on in life during those early years?
LL: Well, I remember one night in particular that I'll never, ever forget - oh, God, I wish we recorded it! [Sighs.] First of all, my best friend is Barry Manilow and Liza's best friend was Marvin, so, one night, Barry, Marvin, Liza and I were in Liza's apartment and Barry was playing something and then Marvin said, "Oh, really? Have you heard this?!" And then Marvin started playing, too, and you had the two of them doing this play-off of songs...
LL: It was just one of those nights that you sit on the couch with your jaw on the floor. Now, this was way before "Mandy" or anything had happened in Marvin's career - these were just two really incredibly gifted musicians that were sitting at a piano just having a good time playing music. I remember at one point Liza and I just looking at each other and saying, "Can you believe we are watching this? We are having such a good time!" And, I will always remember that evening. As I said, I just wish that somehow we had brought along a tape recorder or something like that.
LL: Marvin was so incredibly sweet - and his talent was endless. Another thing about him is that he was always the same person - whenever I saw Marvin, he was always the same person that he was when he was growing up around my sister. You know, that sort of awkward, geeky sort of person at the piano who was so, so incredibly funny - so funny. Marvin never forgot where he came from - that's who he was.
PC: The Everyman genius.
LL: Yeah, yeah - I mean, look, this business can change you. When you start to believe your own publicity or what people are saying about you it can be so dangerous. So, I am so appreciative of the time I got to spend with Marvin and I am glad he came up in the time that he did - he worked really, really hard to get what he got. No one gave Marvin anything - he worked for it. I think that when you really want something and you work for something and you have that kind of musical passion for something that it keeps you grounded - it reminds you of where you came from.
PC: Do you feel you got breaks because you are Judy Garland's daughter or did you have to work and fight harder?
LL: I think that I was able to get in the door because of that, but, then, once I got in the door much more was expected of me than the person who was behind me who wasn't related to anybody. I always say that it all equals out - and, it does. It really does.
PC: One of the greatest Tony Awards moments is your duet with Liza from the early 1990s. Who did that arrangement?
LL: Billy Stritch did that arrangement.
LL: I remember that Liza and I worked on it a little bit, but I think Billy really did it - so, yeah, I think that was his idea.
PC: What are your memories of that night?
LL: Well, when you work on the Tonys, people who are in the theatre and have done it know that it is honestly like being shot out of a canon.
LL: Yes. People would be behooved to realize that you get one day - that's it. You get maybe one rehearsal the day before - maybe - and then it's, "OK. On your marks. Go!" It's really scary. But, to answer your question, when I look at that clip now I honestly don't even remember! It was so fast - remember, I was doing GUYS & DOLLS at the time and I think we were in Toronto, so I flew down from Toronto for one day and did the show and flew back the next day to do the matinee, or something crazy like that.
Today we are talking to the daughter of one of the most iconic performers in entertainment history, Judy Garland, who has made a name for herself in show business over the course of an impressive fifty-year career comprising starring roles on Broadway, major Hollywood films, long-running TV roles and memorable recording studio work as well as much, much more - the fascinating and gifted Lorna Luft. Discussing working with a number of Broadway/Hollywood heavyweights on a wide assortment of projects - among them, Michael Bennett, Neil Simon, Marvin Hamlisch, Barry Manilow, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Allan Carr, Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, Harold Arlen and many more - Luft imparts a priceless perspective in sharing sensational stories from behind the scenes of entities such as the original Broadway productions of PROMISES, PROMISES and THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG as well as GREASE 2, Blondie albums, FOLLIES in Ireland, a potential future HELLO, DOLLY! and more. Additionally, Luft offers up observations of the legacy of her famous family - namely, the cross-generational appeal of THE WIZARD OF OZ as well as performing with her superstar sister, Liza Minnelli. Most importantly, Luft clues us in on what we can expect from her return to the concert stage with two special solo shows scheduled for this month in New Jersey and Fire Island and how she has so resiliently endured and quickly recovered from her recent cancer diagnosis. Additionally, Luft recounts memories from some spectacular performances gone by - such as on the Tony Awards and Jerry Herman AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL - as well as comments on the contemporary performing arts renaissance that has come as a result of GLEE. All of that, reflections the unforgettable multi-award-winning TV film made from her best-selling memoir MY LIFE WITH Judy Garland: ME & MY SHADOWS which she personally supervised and much, much more awaits in this compelling, career-covering conversation!
PC: Right off the bat, I have to say that ME & MY SHADOWS is one of the greatest musical biopics ever made - it's a true masterpiece.
PC: Is there another book you'd enjoy writing? Would you ever endorse a more fictionalized account of the story of your mother's life?
PC: Given you grew up in Hollywood, I'm curious how you view the internet-centric media culture of today versus then? It has changed a lot, has it not?
PC: Tell me about working with Michael Bennett as a replacement star on the original production of PROMISES, PROMISES.
PC: Uh oh! What happened?
PC: Like a whirlwind, right?
PC: A very visceral response.
PC: Have you two spoken recently?
PC: What a vivid memory.
PC: Was it his idea to include "Over The Rainbow" at the end?
PC: Head-spinning. PC: What do you think of the current WIZARD OF OZ renaissance? Do you think the modern Depression we are in plays into it all? PC: It seems almost unconscionable to do so when looking at it like that. PC: Congratulations on your successful recovery from breast cancer, by the way! PC: Did you find people from your past sent condolences and notes of goodwill or did most keep their distance? PC: What a beautiful way to put it. PC: What a quote! PC: One more thing I have to ask: is it really true you did some background vocal work on Blondie's EAT TO THE BEAT?
LL: It was. So, when people say, "Oh, what do you remember?" I can honestly say - like I am saying to you now, Pat - "I don't remember!" [Laughs.]
PC: It's a blur.
LL: I don't know what I remember anymore! It was all so fast - all I remember, honestly, was just being in the moment onstage and singing with my sister, having such a good time.
PC: Do you have memories of singing with your mother at the Palace or are you too young to remember that?
LL: Oh, of course I remember that! Of course. How could I forget it?!
PC: Tell me about Harold Arlen arranging that special WIZARD OF OZ medley just for you.
LL: Well, you're right - he came in and did that just for me. He was right there with us, working with us on it. I mean, you have to remember that to you it might be "Oh, my God! Harold Arlen!" But, to us, it was just "Oh, it's Uncle Harold!"
LL: My brother Marvin, Uncle Harold - yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what it was like.
LL: Well, that's interesting you say that, but I think it's basically about: when you have a perfect piece like THE WIZARD OF OZ is... I mean, the film itself is perfect - perfectly cast, perfectly written and perfectly shot; even with all the challenges that they had in making it and that it shouldn't probably have been, it still is. And, when you look at it, the thing that stands out for everyone - 8 to 80 - is the honesty. You honestly believe those characters. You believe my mom. You believe Bert [Lahr]. You beliEve Ray [Bolger]. You believe Jack [Haley]. You believe Maggie Hamilton. You believe them because they all give the most honest performances they possibly could have - all of them. That's what I think has made it last - that, and the message. The message of the film is so simple - it is about home; it is about courage; it is about knowledge; and, it is about love. So, when people say, "What is the real meaning behind it, though?" I say, "Take it at face value - that's the meaning behind it." That's what made it such a film for every generation.
PC: It is truly timeless like perhaps no other film ever.
LL: It is. And, I know it is coming out in 3D for the 75th anniversary of the movie, and, for me, I am very protective of it. So, when I see the take-offs and the sequels and everything, I feel like: if you are going to disrespect it, I am not going to be your fan. If you are going to praise it and do it in a way that praises the original story and the original film as a timeless, classic piece, then I will definitely be there to support it. But, honestly, my feeling is that you are never, ever going to do anything to equal the original - nothing is ever going to touch it. Nothing is going to come near to the perfection of THE WIZARD OF OZ.
PC: It's impossible.
LL: Totally impossible. I mean, one night years and years ago, Steven Spielberg said to me, "That is the movie that made me want to be a director." And, you can tell because just look at the end of ET with the rainbow going over them! [Laughs.]
PC: Indeed! An outright homage if there ever were any.
LL: Oh, yeah - it's like, "Really, huh? I wonder where you got that idea, Steven!" [Laughs.] But, that's his little homage. And, when people do things like that it absolutely warms my heart because they are basically saying, "Thank you. This inspired me." But, when people try to say that they have a new vision for it - let's say they put it onstage and they add things to it and add new songs to it and all of that; I think to myself, "Are you really going to take a paintbrush to the Sistine Chapel?!"
LL: Exactly. Exactly.
PC: So, it's safe to assume you are not a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's recent stage version that includes a number of new songs?
LL: I think to myself, "I guess they thought that they could take a paintbrush to the Sistine Chapel." [Pause.] I just sit back and think to myself, "It's up to the public now to enjoy it or not." But, for me, personally, when I heard they were going to be doing that I just thought, "Really?! Wow."
PC: Incredulous - again!
LL: Yeah. Yeah.
PC: I was curious to know how you got involved with the Sam Mendes film of Rufus Wainwright's Judy Garland tribute?
LL: I got involved with that basically because I was told that Rufus was going to do it and I knew that Rufus had a whole group of young fans that may not have known what the original concept of my mom's recording of that show was and I wanted to bring new fans to it. You know, it brought a couple of new generations of people into buying my mom's Carnegie Hall album - sales went through the roof after that.
PC: It sparked a revival, in a sense.
LL: Yeah! All of a sudden, after Rufus's concert, all these new people who had never heard it before were suddenly saying, "Oh, we want to hear this now!" and this, that and the other. So, Rufus was very, very nice and very kind and very, very, very easy to work with.
PC: Will you be reprising any of your mother's songs in concert coming up in your return concert gigs in New Jersey and Fire Island?
LL: Well, as you probably know, I have a whole show for those called SONGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME. For these shows coming up, they are going to be very, very intimate, so, unfortunately, I can't get forty musicians onstage to perform with me.
PC: So, just a combo?
LL: Yeah, I am going to have three players - but we're gonna try to make them sound like thirty! Basically, the show that I am putting together and doing a few places coming up is a tribute to the composers that I have done over the years and the numbers of theirs I have been able to do. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to going back to work. As you know, I have had a rough couple of months... [Big Laugh.]
LL: Oh, thank you so much for that - I am so happy to be back.
PC: Did you go the chemo route?
LL: Oh, yeah - I did chemo; I went through the whole nine yards. Let me tell you, Pat - I rock a wig, a scarf and a hat better than anybody these days! [Laughs.]
PC: If you have to have chemo, make it fabulous somehow, right?
LL: Right! Right. I mean, you have to stay positive when you get sick - in my situation, I went through the surgery and then I went through four months of chemo therapy after that. I went through the whole nine yards and I was very, very, very lucky to have the amazing doctors and team around me that got me through a tough time - a really tough time. No matter what anybody says, cancer is hard - it's tough to endure. It's up to you how you deal with it and how you fight it and what your attitude is - it's all up to you. You have to make those choices - you have to decide, you know, "Am I gonna let it get me?" Because it is so easy to just curl up and become isolated. So, you have to say, "No. I am going to get up and put make-up on and go out every single day, even if I don't feel well or I feel sick." You have to say, "You are not going to get me." That's what I decided to do - to have that attitude; even when it was really not easy to do. I think that that is what made my recovery faster, though. I know that there are probably a lot of women out there who read your column and have gone through or are going through or will go through what I am going through and I just join them in respect and solidarity and hope and admiration - and humor. I never lost my sense of humor - and, neither did my children or the little team that I have around me; I think that is so important. I mean, we would be rolling with laughter all the time - and that is really important. What I was looking forward to most during all of this, though, was August - that's when I knew I was going to be back to work and stepping onstage again. I knew I would be stepping onstage again.
LL: No, they didn't. I think that's what happens, though - there was a certain period of time after I got diagnosed where the phone didn't ring and I would see people and they would come up to me and say, [Whispers.] "Oh, how are you?!" and, I would say, "I'm fine!" And, they'd say, "Oh, we didn't want to bother you," and, I'd say, "Wait a minute, you bothered me before this? You never bothered me! You didn't bother me before cancer and you're not bothering me now - it's OK; I'm going to be OK." It was like, "Cancer hasn't changed me. I am still me."
PC: Are you dedicating any song in particular to your struggle and successful recovery?
LL: No - and the answer is no because every single song I will be singing will take on a brand new meaning.
PC: You have to do "I'm Still Here" - especially since you have done FOLLIES!
LL: [Laughs.] Yes, I did do FOLLIES - you are right. I did a concert version of FOLLIES in Ireland once. That was a lot of fun.
PC: Have you ever worked with Sondheim one-on-one?
LL: I have only met Steve once I think and it was just in a brief moment, but I do remember having to call him once because I wanted to change some lyrics to one of his songs from DICK TRACY, "Back In Business". I did that song in the show I did when I came back after having my daughter. And, so, I wanted to sing that and I just wanted to change two words or something and he was very generous and nice and said, "Of course! Absolutely! You just can't record it or release it with the changes," and I said, "Of course. Of course," because that's standard practice. He was very, very, very nice and I have nothing but complete and true - if you want to say, fanatical - respect for Stephen Sondheim. I just find him to be... there are no words to really describe what he has given to us, not only as artists but as audiences, as well - generations and generations of us. He's a true, true genius - just like Michael Bennett was.
LL: It's true. The very first show I ever saw - I was 7 - was WEST SIDE STORY and I will never, ever forget it.
PC: I am compelled to ask: having starred in the original film, what do you think of the idea of GREASE 2 onstage, such as it recently was seen in Australia?
LL: Are you serious?! They really did that down in Australia?! I didn't know that. Wow - that's so funny.
PC: Do you look back fondly filming that, all these years later?
LL: Honestly, I have to tell you, Pat: I had so much fun doing GREASE 2. Pat Birch [the director] and I are still joined at the hip in other projects and all of that. I really had a great time making the movie and made great friends on that movie that are lifelong friends that I cherish to this day. I mean, we weren't going out to make GONE WITH THE WIND when we made it - we were going out to make GREASE 2.
PC: You knew what you were taking on and what the project was.
LL: Exactly. When the movie came out and it wasn't the hit that the first one was, I always thought the big reason for that was that they waited too long - they waited seven years after the first one to do the second one. But, hey, listen - I was proud to wear that Pink Lady Jacket and I have a lot of respect for all of the powers-that-be around GREASE 2. I loved working for Robert Stigwood. Allan Carr was an old friend of mine that I absolutely loved - and, let me tell you, nobody loved show business more than Allan Carr!
LL: It's true! He was truly a character. He was one of those people that went to the movies every single day as a kid and said, "I want to be a producer." And, then, he did it - he followed his dream and made it come true. [Pause.] Allan Carr lived his dream. And, Allan and I were very good friends. As for looking back at GREASE 2 all these years later, whenever I see that it is on TV I still check it out and I still laugh. Every time. My children, on the other hand - especially when they were growing up - were sometimes like, "Yeah that's really cool," but sometimes they were like, "Please don't tell them you were in that movie," because their friends would say to me, "Weren't you in GREASE 2?" [Big Laugh.]
PC: To admit it or not admit it, that's the question - at least when it comes to GREASE 2!
LL: And, also, let me add how much I love Olivia [Newton-John]. Every time I see her, I am reminded how she is so unbelievably nice and so talented and such a smart and kind woman - I absolutely love Olivia Newton-John. You know, it was almost the same team that did GREASE and GREASE 2, so we will always have that bond - and I think that's wonderful.
PC: What do you think of GLEE and the awareness it has brought to the performing arts in the last few years?
LL: Listen, I think GLEE is so great. I know for a fact that the kids work so hard on that show and you can tell. Also, I was so saddened to hear about the loss of Cory [Monteith] - he was so talented. I love GLEE - I look at it and I know how hard they must work every single week to do that show. My hat just goes off to them - all of them. I curtsy to them. They work incredibly, incredibly hard on that show.
PC: And they brought the Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand duet to a whole new generation, as well, of course.
LL: I know! I know. And, honestly, what else can I say to that but, "Thank you!" There is nothing more I can say than that. And, listen, it has given a whole new generation a dream - a dream of going into a vocal group like that; and, because of GLEE, vocal groups are on fire! It's so wonderful that kids can go and maybe find their voice through that - maybe music is what they want to study and they find that out there. You know, a lot of kids say, "Oh, I don't know what I want to do," well, now they do! Now there are vocal groups that are really popular and there are more music programs and more awareness for all of that and you have to say that that is because of GLEE - it's all because of GLEE. That's going to give a kid some kind of activity that they can use their voice for and really express themselves by doing. As I said, I tip my hat to GLEE and thank them - they honestly have saved lives.
LL: Yes. I did - that's me. [Laughs.] Debbie Harry is a wonderful, wonderful artist and a friend of mine. Yeah - that's me! Believe it or not.
PC: So, it's safe to say you are excited about your two return engagements coming up, then? We're so happy to have you back onstage!
LL: Oh, that is so kind of you. I just can't stress enough to people how important it is to get back to work, Pat - I cannot wait! I have been looking forward to these dates for so long - through everything. And, I have to say, I had the greatest time at Fire Island in the 70s - I loved it and I have such great memories, so I can't wait to go back. Honestly, I am so happy to be back.
PC: Do you have any roles you are desperate to play in the immidiate future? What about HELLO, DOLLY! You are so perfect for the lead role in that show.
LL: I'm waiting for the call, Pat! I am waiting for the call. [Laughs.]
PC: It's unfortunate it did not work out last year when you were scheduled to do it.
LL: Yes, I was going to do it and then I had a bad accident - a really bad accident. But, yes, I would still love to do it - I'm ready! Jerry Herman has been my friend for a long, long time, so I would love to do the show and have him see it.
PC: You are sublime in the Jerry Herman AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL.
LL: Oh, you saw that? Thanks for saying so - I love Jerry.
PC: This was so fascinating and a true treat. Thank you so much for this today, Lorna.
LL: Thank you so much, Pat. Thank you for asking such fun and nice questions. I can't wait to see the audience out there again! Thank you, thank you, thank you, hun. Bye bye.
PC: What do you think of the current WIZARD OF OZ renaissance? Do you think the modern Depression we are in plays into it all?
PC: It seems almost unconscionable to do so when looking at it like that.
PC: Congratulations on your successful recovery from breast cancer, by the way!
PC: Did you find people from your past sent condolences and notes of goodwill or did most keep their distance?
PC: What a beautiful way to put it.
PC: What a quote!
PC: One more thing I have to ask: is it really true you did some background vocal work on Blondie's EAT TO THE BEAT?
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