"If I could leave 'Sunset' tomorrow, I would" - Glenn Close (April, 1995)

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In the other thread, I mentioned some of the original newspaper clippings I still have from when "Sunset Boulevard" played Broadway in 1994 -97. One of them is the DAILY NEWS cover story from Tuesday, April 4, 1995  titled "Bullets Over B'way : Actress Glenn Close throws a fit after producer questions her popularity". 

What sparked the fury was when Close read a letter ALW penned to the cast and crew apologizing for reporting an inflated weekly box office to disguise the drop in sales while Close was on vacation in March, and praising the performance of her understudy Karen Mason. He called his decision to inflate grosses 'idiotic', but praised Mason for 'playing 16 performances with total standing ovations on all occasions'. (He pumped up the box office receipts by more than $150,000 per week during Close's two week vacation.)  According to sources from the production, Close was 'visibly upset' and stormed off the stage the previous Thursday after her evening performance, and headed to her dressing room to pen the letter. 

She wrote, "I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that my performance turned 'Sunset Blvd.' around. I made it a hit. It has existed on my shoulders...and yet a representative of your company went out of their way and lied to try to make the public believe that my contribution to this show is nothing, that Karen's performance is equal to mine and that my absence had absolutely no effect whatsoever on all the thousands of dollars that supposedly kept pouring into the box office. It sickens me to be treated with such disregard."

She continued, "If I could leave 'Sunset' tomorrow, I would. If I could leave in May, when my contract says I can, believe me I would. At this point, what is making me stay is my sense of obligation to all the people who are holding tickets until July 2."

At the end, she concluded, "We have been cruelly thrown into yet another traumatic controversy which will - once again - take a huge emotional toll on us all."

ALW was said to be distraught and shellshocked by the letter, which was publicized on Monday, April 3 in Variety. Close and ALW issued a joint statement the night before the Daily News published their story, saying they "expressed mutual dismay that a very private communication between them found its way into public hands" and assured their fans they "remained the best of friends".  Close referred to the blow-up as being a normal part of 'any close family where there are different opinions, and mutual hurt feelings from time to time'.

Close, of course, stayed with the show until July 2, 1995.

Updated On: 9/11/19 at 09:28 PM
ArtMan
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Reading that, she really dissed her understudy.  She should have kept her out of it and focused only on ALW.

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ArtMan said: "Reading that, she really dissed her understudy. She should have kept her out of it and focused only on ALW."

I don't know if she could focus on ALW without mentioning Mason, as his praise for Mason is what really stoked the fire in her. I think she wanted to make it clear she - no one else - is Norma Desmond. 

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Imagining Patti reading about all this drama gives me life.
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Nobody came out looking good.

Close was pushing 50, and like many "aging" actresses she had the right to be worried about where her career might be going, especially after giving up a year+ of film work for Sunset.

ALW's move was an attempt to show the world that Sunset wasn't "just" The Glenn Close Show.

There were so many bad producing things at Sunset by ALW and Edgar Dobie (who was running the American arm of Really Useful Group at the time), it's amazing that the show ended up being as good as it was.

 

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It wasn't that good.

This is just another example of ALW treating people like commodities and his own personal property without consideration for the effect his "wheezes" have on them.

Do you have to be a borderline sociopath to become a mega-player in the performing arts?

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Interesting in her recent London revival it was somewhat true that her absence had no impact on the box office because the greedy scamming producers took the money anyway and refused to offer refunds.
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ErmengardeStopSniveling said: "
ALW's move was an attempt to show the world that Sunset wasn't "just" The Glenn Close Show.
"

I agree 100% with you on this. With Close leaving in three months , this was his opportunity to tell the world his musical could stand on it's own, whether Close was in it or not. What better time than taking advantage of the fact that Close was on a two week vacation ? He had to keep selling tickets - which didn't happen as rapidly with Buckley or Paige in the show. 

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David10086 said: "I agree 100% with you on this. With Close leaving in three months , this was his opportunity to tell the world his musical could stand on it's own, whether Close was in it or not. What better time than taking advantage of the fact that Close was on a two week vacation ? He had to keep selling tickets - which didn't happen as rapidly with Buckley or Paige in the show."

Right, and as anyone who's ever produced a star-driven musical knows, sales usually tank after that original star leaves. Of course, there are other ways to do that (90% of the world does not give a damn about Broadway grosses), and entertainment attorneys will tell you that if you have a star in your show, you need to be able to recoup before that star's exit date.

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ArtMan said: "Reading that, she really dissed her understudy. She should have kept her out of it and focused only on ALW."

Karen Mason was her standby, not her understudy.  She only performed when called upon.  She wasn’t in the cast in any other role.  

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BrodyFosse123 said: "ArtMan said: "Reading that, she really dissed her understudy. She should have kept her out of it and focused only on ALW."

Karen Mason was her standby, not her understudy. She only performed when called upon. She wasn’t in the cast in any other role.
"

I didn't know that.  But I still say including her in her comments was wrong.  She was there to do a job.  Now whether or not "Karen's performance was equal to mine" is really the opinion of the audience members who saw the show the nights she performed.

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ErmengardeStopSniveling said: "Right, and as anyone who's ever produced a star-driven musical knows, sales usuallytank after that original star leaves. Of course, there are other ways to do that(90% of the world does not give a damn about Broadway grosses), and entertainment attorneys will tell you that if you have a star in your show, you need to be able to recoup before that star's exit date."

So business-wise, it was a well-planned strategic move on ALW /RUGs part to keep the momentum alive for their musical. Both by praising Mason's performance over a two-week period, and by claiming the box office never dipped. 

It may not be the most honest or ethical way of doing business, but it's strategic. And he almost got away with it.  Then again, this front-page story probably helped sell out the rest of Close's run. 

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I completely understand and support her position. It's unclear to me if that was a private letter that was published or one she wrote to a publication. If it is a private letter, then all of what she says is completely justified in confidence, even the dig at Mason. In a private conversation, she has every right to say another performer is not as valuable as her. As an actress in Hollywood, she needs to market herself. If she is seen as the main factor a show is selling, that is very important to have on record. And she was the only thing packing the house at the time. The show quickly folded after she left. 

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#14
Posted: 9/14/19 at 4:27pm

Bettyboy72 said: "The show quickly folded after she left."

Not true - Glenn’s last performance was early July 1995 and the show closed late March 1997. It ran almost two years after she left. 

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Updated On: 9/14/19 at 04:27 PM
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Posted: 9/14/19 at 5:46pm

GiantsInTheSky2 said: "Bettyboy72 said: "The show quickly folded after she left."

Not true- Glenn’s last performance wasearly July 1995 and the show closed late March 1997. It ran almost two years after sheleft.
"

Agree, but it is also true that business was never the same.  I have always thought that SB was ALW's best score; nevertheless, it was Close that sold every seat.

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Posted: 9/14/19 at 8:31pm

Jarethan said: "GiantsInTheSky2 said: "Bettyboy72 said: "The show quickly folded after she left."

Not true- Glenn’s last performance wasearly July 1995 and the show closed late March 1997. It ran almost two years after sheleft.
"

Agree, but it is also true that business was never the same. I have always thought that SB was ALW's best score; nevertheless, it was Close that sold every seat.
"

I guess I misspoke but I was referring to the fact that the grosses never bounced back after she left. Glenn was a white hot actress at the time. She was probably taking a pay cut to do the show. She was delivering an electric performance and was selling out many shows a week. Although many people I know consider Buckley as delivering a superior performance that was consistently well sung, she never sold tickets. Andrew was desperate to not let the public know the musical wasn’t the thing packing them in and in the process insulted his star. 

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#17
Posted: 9/14/19 at 10:50pm

Bettyboy72 said: "I completely understand and support her position. It's unclear to me if that was a private letter that was published or one she wrote to a publication. If it is a private letter, then all of what she says is completely justified in confidence, even the dig at Mason. "

It was indeed a private letter. She wrote it the evening of March 30, 1995 when she found out what ALW did - sending false box office receipts to VARIETY, and praising Mason's performance. She was upset when VARIETY got a hold of that private letter and went public with it (so did the NY Daily News).

Remember - this was a few years before the internet happened. Can you imagine if that took place today? Every single site would be exploiting this. 

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Posted: 9/15/19 at 12:32am

David10086 said: "ErmengardeStopSniveling said: "Right, and as anyone who's ever produced a star-driven musical knows, sales usuallytank after that original star leaves. Of course, there are other ways to do that(90% of the world does not give a damn about Broadway grosses), and entertainment attorneys will tell you that if you have a star in your show, you need to be able to recoup before that star's exit date."

So business-wise, it was a well-planned strategic move on ALW /RUGs part to keep the momentum alive for their musical. Both by praising Mason's performance over a two-week period, and by claiming the box office never dipped.

It may not be the most honest or ethical way of doing business, but it's strategic. And he almost got away with it. Then again, this front-page story probably helped sell out the rest of Close's run.
"

He LIED about the grosses and inflated them and not insignificantly.  Which shows you CAN lie about grosses, much as some would have you believe otherwise, and happily I will not see the response that I know is coming :)  Thanks to Robert Diamond for the handy-dandy tip.

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Posted: 9/15/19 at 1:52am

Exactly- if it had been true that the show was selling as well without Close, he might have had a defence.  But it was a lie.  Not his first, either.

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Sunset on ALW#20
Posted: 9/15/19 at 6:18am

And then ironically Betty Buckley came in and blew Close off the stage so fast all Hog-eye saw was a flash zooming past him.

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Sunset on ALW#21
Posted: 9/15/19 at 9:32am

I went to the Saturday Matinee the week Glenn came back from vacation...and she was out sick...I saw Karen Mason...who in my opinion was the 2nd best Norma behind Betty Buckley. Not knowing Karen was key to the performance...I could watch the show and not think of her as anyone but Norma....she also had an incredible voice..I will always say Betty gave the best all around performance...but Karen was incredible. Glenn in the original was bat**** crazy from the first entrance...no arc just nuts and overacting. Her singing was always average. Having seen Betty in London prior I had seen how the transition into madness made much more sense. I saw Glenn again in the revival and she was magnificent...she wasn't nuts from the beginning and as I told Betty , she must have watched Betty and learned that the slow decent made much more dramatic sense... I love this show . I also think that the show closed because you first had ..the movie star ..this sold tickets....then the broadway star ..this sold tickets...then you brought over a great british star...no one outside of theater even knew who she was...this didn't sell tickets...I believe they should have brought in another top Star and did the Chicago thing of rotating and it would have ran for years

 

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Sunset on ALW#22
Posted: 9/15/19 at 10:36am

If I remember correctly, Mason led the first national tour of 'Sunset' which closed early. Was that because she wasn't getting good reviews, and not selling tickets? 

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Sunset on ALW#23
Posted: 9/15/19 at 11:13am

Karen Mason did not lead the us tour

it was LInda Balgard . The show really did need name recognition on tour as it was so expensive initially..(using basically the same sets as broadway) the scaled down version with Petula Clark travelled much better and cheaper.. Linda on the recoding I have is not really pleasant to listen to..

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Sunset on ALW#24
Posted: 9/15/19 at 4:27pm
I was just reading a few more articles from during this time, and this came from a Variety article:

“While insisting that Mason deserves support, Close added, ‘She certainly does not deserve lies.’”

So, she really wasn’t dissing Mason’s performance, just being realistic that the portrayal was not equal (which doesn’t necessarily imply “better/worse”, just different.)

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Sunset on ALW#25
Posted: 9/15/19 at 4:37pm

David10086 said: "If I remember correctly, Mason led the first national tour of 'Sunset' which closed early. Was that because she wasn't getting good reviews, and not selling tickets?"

The original tour was massively expensive to run due to the cost/time of both the load in and load out. I remember reading at some point that it would need to do a minimum of three weeks in most venues to just cover the costs related to the load in and out, and at that time without a star in the role most venues weren't able to sell it for that long, let alone the up to six weeks they were hoping to be booked for. The producers were assuming that it would generate Phantom/Les Mis levels of hype on the road (those tours could sell a venue for six weeks at that time), but the public interest out on the road just wasn't there.

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