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Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

Linda Purl Teams Up with Billy Stritch November 7 at 7 pm.

Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

Linda Purl has the kind of career that actors dream of. Since she began in the 70s on the daytime drama Secret Storm, she has rarely had a period in which she was not working. She has appeared in films like Crazy Mama, Visiting Hours, Mighty Joe Young, and Fear of the Dark. She has appeared on Broadway in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Getting and Spending, and Off-Broadway in The Baby Dance. With over 50 television movies to her credit, she is a perennial presence on the small screen. She has had recurring roles on Matlock, Murder, She Wrote, The Office, Homeland, and The Oath, among dozens of others. She has the distinction of having played two different characters on the classic sitcom Happy Days. In Season 2, she played Richie Cunningham's girlfriend Gloria. Eight seasons later she played the Fonz's fianceé, Ashley.

And yet like most actors, her career has been on a temporary hiatus due to the pandemic. But this week, that comes to an end as Linda Purl joins forces with the marvelous Billy Stritch for IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at the world-famous Birdland Jazz Club. Despite being friends for many years, this is the first time Purl and Stritch have done a full show together. They will be joined by Ray Marchica on drums and David Finck on bass. Any opportunity to see Stritch perform is not to be missed and paired with Purl's gorgeous jazz contralto, it promises to be a very special event. I had the great good fortune to sit down with Linda Purl recently to talk about the show, her career, and her quarantine courtship with fellow television veteran, Patrick Duffy. Here are some of the highlights.

[This interview has been lightly edited for content and clarity.]Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

Ricky Pope

Welcome to Broadway World - I'm so excited to talk to you, and I'm very excited about your show. I'm a huge fan of yours and I'm a huge fan of Billy Stritch. So this is a perfect opportunity to see you both

Linda Purl

Oh, thank you very much, Ricky. Thanks.

Ricky Pope

All of your fans know you so well from all of your work on television and film and on stage. Talk to me, though, about fans who aren't quite as familiar with your musical work. What can they expect from this show?

Linda Purl

Well, let's see, I have terrific musicians with Billy, of course, and Tedd's Firth's arrangements, and Ray Marchica on drums, and Dave Finck on bass. I mean, these guys are, each of them, maestros in their own right. So any time I get a chance to work with any combination of the above it is a really deep privilege. And so much more meaningful, now that we've all been away for this while. So I think the whole thing is kind of emotional, as we come out of hibernation. So that is the point of the evening: to celebrate that and what we've been through and what we're regaining as we come back to our lives. The actress in me leans entirely towards the Great American Songbook because they are like one-act plays - each one has a story, has a character behind it in my mind, and so that's what I'm drawn to. And then Ted's arrangements and Billy's extraordinary skill takes them into a jazz feel. That's where we live musically.

Ricky Pope

Is this the first time that you've worked with Billy?Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

Linda Purl

Unbelievably, it is. We have tried so many times because Tedd works with so many fantastic people, Billy too. So it has never worked out. I mean we've done a whole bunch of Cast Party things together, never a whole evening. I'm so excited. I mean, Billy's been a friend for years and it's been a series of "almosts" for about 15 years. And finally, we found it.

Ricky Pope

How lucky for all of us. Now, tell me, how did you spend your quarantine time. What were you doing in all those months?

Linda Purl

I had been doing a play in New York and then that just ended, as it did for everyone. So I went back to Colorado where I have a place and I thought, "I'll just be here for a little while." And it wasn't the case at all, as we know. In that space, out in Colorado, you could almost pretend like nothing had changed because you could look at the stars at night and see the moon coming up and down or get under a tree or take a hike during the day. And it was normal, you know? It was very grounding and very helpful

Ricky Pope

How lucky.

Linda Purl

Then this crazy life thing happened where a dear old acquaintance of mine, we just started to FaceTime. Just like, "Isn't this weird? This is strange." And then that grew to Zoom. And then before long, we were Zooming every night. And at some point, it just turned a corner into the possibility of a romance. So after three months of these nightly Zooms, he got in his car and drove to Colorado. And we've been together ever since. So that was a big life change that I don't think would have happened without the pandemic. You know, we wouldn't have had that length of time. He was living in Oregon. I was living in New York. We were both very contented, but suddenly with this tectonic plate shift for all of us, things listened and this conversation happened and it evolved organically and in a very big Victorian manner.

Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

Ricky Pope

Now that's amazing, isn't it? I think the Victorians might've been on to something. So talk to me about your music. When did you discover jazz? When did your love of music begin?

Linda Purl

Both of my parents are to blame. Their turntable was always going with either Broadway or jazz. There was a lot of Jobim. There was a lot of Rosemary Clooney. There were a lot of Broadway chestnuts. I grew up in Japan. My parents fully embraced living in Asia. They lived there for 30 years. But the music was a real connection to their American selves. And so my sister and I were the recipients of this. There was always music going. So that was very influential. My music director for quite a few years was Ron Abel, who was chosen family. I think I had a feel for wanting to go more toward jazz. And Ron and I spoke about that. Anyway, about 12 years ago, Rex Reed introduced me to Tedd Firth. And that was it! In a way, I feel like Ron raised me musically in the world of cabaret. I learned so much, lessons I carry with me, always, from him. Tedd was just a natural progression. He lives somewhere in the music, and so you just feel like you're connected to that when you get to work with him. What he has opened up and made possible is thrilling for me.

Ricky Pope

Tedd is my favorite musician working in New York right now. Every time I see one of his shows, it's just something magical.

Linda Purl

Yeah. He's so versatile. And of course, he's got no ego, that's the thing. I asked him once "What is your thought process when you're accompanying someone? How do you know?" and he said, "Well, it's breath." He said he basically breathes with you. But then every time you're breathing he has a palette of choices. Does he fill in the silence? Does carry the silence? Does he echo what you've just done? Does he introduce what you're about to sing? And all of this happens with the depth of his spirit, in the spur of the moment. He works in tune, chameleon-like, with the singers he works with.

Ricky Pope

That's a very comforting thing for a singing actor, isn't it? To know that somebody is acting with you? I just listened this week to Taking a Chance on Love, the new album that you did with Tedd. It's gorgeous, just gorgeous tunes. What was the inspiration for this album of torchy love songs?

Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

Linda Purl

You know, it's curious. So with the help of Deborah Grace Winer, who is a wonderful writer and so knowledgeable on many fronts, not the least of which is the American Songbook... with Deb and Tedd's help, I just proposed this. I thought if it's true that we can manifest our dreams, sort of metaphysically, then what is that process? How do you articulate the dream? How do you motivate the dream? What if it's the wrong dream? What if the wrong dream comes true? Then what? So the song choices stem from exploring the fact that we, all of us have the capacity to manifest our dreams...but only if you take the chance.

Ricky Pope

Right.

Linda Purl

You know, I read a wonderful book. There was a fellow who had ridden across the Atlantic at some point, and he made it. During an interview, he was asked "On those horrible days, when you had to pull the tarp or the whatever, encapsulate yourself in your little rowboat, and you were being bounced upside down, twisted every which way in the middle of an Atlantic sea storm, what did you do when you thought surely this is it? Did you call out to God?" And he said "No. I would reach for the oar," which was anywhere, beneath him, above him, you know, banging him in the head.

Ricky Pope

Yes.

Linda Purl

And he said if he could just grab that oar and make the motion of thinking a stroke, he said, that's where he would find his God. And that really spoke to me in the sense that you have to make the effort as opposed to saying "Oh, I hope it happens." So that was the genesis behind choosing, taking a chance, you know, that some effort is required on our part.

Ricky Pope

There's something to be said for taking control of your own destiny, isn't there? Are you a person who likes to be in control or are you a person who sort of rides the waves?

Linda Purl

Oh, at this stage of life I don't feel in control. I mean, COVID, hello.

Ricky Pope

I don't think anyone feels they're in control right now. You're right.

Linda Purl

Yeah, but I do feel we do our own due diligence to the extent that we are able to cognize that. I like to think that it has some effect. But control? Absolutely not. You know, shit happens. We've seen fabulous things happen and horrendous things happen to the most wonderful people, Just at the moment you think you have some control, life will take care of that and throw you a curveball.

Ricky Pope

Well, you don't seem to be doing too badly. I'm a huge fan of Hacks. Congratulations on all of the acclaim and all of the awards and all of the hoopla about the show. I think it deserves every bit of that. Is working with Jean Smart as amazing as it seems?

Linda Purl

Absolutely. She's an extraordinary...everything. Woman, talent. Deeply generous and soulful woman. Yeah.

Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

Ricky Pope

This is a semi-serious question. You have worked with some amazingly iconic television performers over the years. If we were having a television smackdown of icons who would win, Henry Winkler, Andy Griffith, or Patrick Duffy?

Linda Purl

Wow. Those are hard. Oh, goodness. I can't. Everyone is so different and each one had their own joy. Gosh. So there was a memorial celebration recently for Cloris Leachman They invited many people to do little video tributes and I too I got to do one. I was 19 when I worked with Cloris, I played her daughter. That was so influential. She was a creative force. I was so lucky to work with her then. I thought, oh, that's how you're supposed to be on a set. That's how to begin as an actress. That's how to be a team player. That's how to be spontaneous. I mean, having that mentorship and that example embedded at such an early age. So I would say Cloris. That was monumental for me to have a chance to work with her.

Ricky Pope

What an amazing actress and what a wonderful example to have before you at the beginning of your career.

Linda Purl

You bet.

Ricky Pope

I'm having so much fun talking to you, but alas, our time is up. I'm so looking forward to seeing the show and watching you ride the waves and grab the oars.

Linda Purl

Thank you so much. Now I'll look forward to meeting you in person and Patrick will be there too. So I'll introduce him to you.

Ricky Pope

Oh my goodness. That's my dream come true. Thank you for talking to me.

Linda Purl

Thank you very much.

Interview: Linda Purl of IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! at Birdland Talks about Music, Life and Riding the Waves

IN THE MOOD: SONGS FOR JUMPING BACK INTO LIFE! will be performing at Birdland on Sunday, November 7 at 7 pm. For reservations and information, go to birdlandjazz.com. To learn more about Linda Purl, visit her website, lindapurl.com or follow her @lindapurl on Twitter or @lindpurl on Instagram. For more about Billy Stritch, check out billystritch.com. Linda Purl's music, including her album TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE, is available on Spotify and all other streaming platforms.



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