BWW Feature: At Home With Linda Purl On Mother's Day
Audiences have been having a love affair with Linda Purl for more than a few years now, be it on Broadway, on screens big and small, or in music rooms. An actor who is always in demand, Ms. Purl was working right up until the shelter in place order cause her to retire to her home out west, where she continues to work on her craft and her life - that is because Linda Purl is on a neverending quest to see, to create, to experience.
I've known Linda Purl for years, but not socially. We first met when she, blindly, accepted my invitation to be in my volume of photography "The Sweater Book." Arriving, a stranger, in the home of an actor I had always admired and one of the great beauties ever was intimidating, but Linda Purl put me at my ease, gave one of the great photoshoots (with her infant son) and immediately thereafter began calling her celebrity friends to tell them to do my book! It was a humbling and unforgettable experience.
Some years passed. I was in the Tower Records at Lincoln Center, browsing, and a voice on the PA system was singing the Burth Bacharach classic "A House Is Not A Home." I found myself hypnotized by the deep, rich, mellifluous voice and heartbreaking interpretation. I asked the man behind the counter who was singing and he told me it was Linda Purl. Who knew? I bought every CD that had a Linda Purl recording, even if it was just one number on a STAGE benefit recording. During a subsequent trip to Los Angeles to work on The Sweater Book, I learned Linda was singing in a nightclub and knew that I had to go. The evening was so stunning, so exciting, so perfect that after the show I (rather drunkenly) blithered on and on to Linda like a starstruck fanboy, but, true to form, she couldn't have been more gracious and kind. In all these years, I have only missed two of Linda's New York appearances, one at The Green Room 42, and one at 59 E 59. She remains one of my true favorites -- as a matter of fact, the first dance at one of my weddings was to her recording of "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me."
So when I emailed Linda, asking for this interview, her immediate affirmative reply did not surprise me... though I might have blushed a little. Still a fanboy, after all this time.
This interview was conducted digitally and has been reproduced as received, to give readers a true feel for Linda's storytelling intent.
Name: Linda Purl
First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club): 1984, Tom Rolla's, The Gardenia in Hollywood
Most Recent Cabaret Show: Taking a Chance on Love
Website or Social Media Handles: @lindapurl. https://www.lindapurl.com/
Linda, thank you so much for taking part in our At Home With series for Broadway World Cabaret. You are self-quarantined out west, where there are wide-open spaces to move about, aren't you?
Yes, I am. I'd been living in NY and doing a play (Mr. Toole by Vivian Neuwirth at 59 E 59) with the single most wonderful cast. On March 12, with a couple of hours notice, along with every other performance meant to happen that night, we closed. I flew to my home in the west 72 hours later. I felt like Scotty had beamed me up. You can look at the landscape here and fool yourself into thinking that everything is as it was, which of course it isn't. I'm taking great solace seeing the promise of spring push its way into existence.
Is your isolation period one of activity and productivity, or one of introspection and reflection?
All of the above. I imagine everyone, to greater and lesser degrees, is experiencing their own processes of introspection and reflection... so what usually seems like a solitary practice now actually feels companioned. Kind of fun.
You are one of the most enduring actors in the business of film and television, yet your music has been a major focus for a while now - what is it about music that brings you so much reward?
Gosh..so many things, so many aspects of joy. Tedd Firth for starters. I mean really! Outrageous that so much talent can be in one individual. Smart, nuanced, supportive, sophisticated... just so darned good. The community at large is glorious. So full of diversity on every level. The journey of it is ongoing, the learning curve never stops. Awfully name droopy of me but the divine Rosemary Clooney once said: "Keep singing baby, the music will never let you down." She said it to me as a means of encouragement in a particularly low moment. I knew it was an important life note that she'd shared... the truth of it continues to reveal itself.
Your work in music has taken you to many cities and countries - do you find that different demographics respond differently to various types of music?
Not really...but I think that's a tribute, not only the chord of universal truth the Great American Songbook strikes but also the musicians I get to work with. They lift up, energize any crowd.
Do you ever find the need to alter shows for particular cities?
A teeny bit. Not that I'm terribly blue in the cities... but I do tone down some of the patter in the provinces... don't want to offend.
Have you taken up any new projects or quests to learn new things during the quarantine?
YES! Gardening like a madwoman... poor plants, I hope they make it. Been writing... not that its any good but the process is fun. Been painting... ditto. Dreadful but fun. My biggest project is a tree. I had a dream... go with me here... a vision really of a big blue tree, a while back that has stayed with me. Leafless and rooted in water. Go figure. When I got home to Colorado, a fairly large tree in my yard had died over my months away. At first, I thought to cut the tree down but with time on hands, I instead had it trimmed and have now painted it blue. There's a brick wall behind it that I've started to paint as a seascape. Its Colorado but I promise I'm not smoking anything... much... I've found it to be a very meditative process and so far the deer and the wild turkeys don't seem to mind it.
I'd love to hear about your new CD that's coming out.
Thank you!! We recorded it late last fall at Oktaven. Gabe Moffat engineered it in LA. Tedd Firth of course at the helm, with the incredible Ray Marchica on drums, Dave Finck on bass and Nelson Rangell on reed as a special guest for two numbers. That makes me a very lucky, very grateful girl. Deborah Grace Winer is a pal and colleague. Since we met eleven years ago (through Rex Reed, thank you Rex!) I've never even considered doing a new act or album without her. Here's how we work... I come up with a harebrained idea, a theme. She somehow avoids rolling her eyeballs and graciously says she understands. She then endures an endless ramble from me, sort of like throwing clay on the wheel. We call it "the splat." I have a few tunes in mind but not the full roster. Miss Deb has an encyclopedic mind that apparently holds the entire Classic Pop canon and then some, from which she can pull the exact song to say the precise thing you want. In this case, the splat had to do with posing the question of if we can manifest our dreams? The arc went something like this.... want to dream, define the dream, chase the wrong dream, fail, dream some more, and see if it doesn't come true. Something like that. When we first started talking about what the show/album might be, we were a year or more into the current administration and I was very much wanting to put to the test in my own life if we really have the power, or some power to change our reality. Thinking along those lines, and with Deb's ever-inspiring help, we came up with adding tunes like Pure Imagination, You Fascinate Me So, Darn That Dream, Try Your Wings, and eventually the title track of Taking a Chance on Love.
You and I saw each other at the Amanda McBroom/John Bucchino show - you were with a young artist named Jackson Teeley and I was with a young artist named Ari Axelrod, who you know. You act as a mentor to up and coming artists like Jackson and Ari - why is that important to you?
First of all... wasn't that an amazing show? Caviar and champagne. I'm inspired by both Ari and Jackson. They're important artists, each with something to say through their work. They're authentic, true to their beautiful selves, they move me. Young people such as they give me confidence that for all the challenges we face, the world will be just fine.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your son, Lucius?
Where do I begin?? Truly. Being a Mom is the greatest privilege of my life, hands down. I also got incredibly lucky with him...I don't remember anything terrible about the twos or the teens.
Linda, in your experience, do more people remember or forget that you actually played two different roles on Happy Days?
Definitely forget. What a fun show that was to have done. Life-long friendships are still in bloom from those days. My son now works at Paramount too... talk about full circle!
Linda, how do you stay so fit?
Well, thank you! I'm not sure I do but the effort is there. NY life helps, what will all the walking, which I'm greatly missing. Colorado has trails in abundance. I'm grateful for the beauty in each...and moving in either place brings me deep joy. Early on, I met Bill and Jacqui Landrum, dancers turned choreographers turned pilates/gyro teachers extraordinaire. Their classes and discipline have informed each stage of my adult life.
I'm so grateful to you for this interview and all you do as an artist and a person. I can't wait to hear the CD!
What an incredibly generous thing to say. Good Lord, how I love this community. Stay safe and well. And we'll all meet again in the new normal.
All photos provided by Linda Purl except those below shot for The Sweater Book by Stephen Mosher
The photo above appears in the published version of The Sweater Book, the photo below was the photographer's alternate choice.