BWW Interview: Actress Barbara Minkus Remounts 18 MINUTES OF FAME This Month in LA
Remarkable actress/singer Barbara Minkus has been delighting audiences for over 50 years on Broadway and on television. Her autobiographical play 18 Minutes of Fame has been a hit with both LA and New York audiences for a few years now and pro that she is, Minkus makes changes to it regularly. In our chat, she tells our audience how it got started, what she's done to improve it for the next remounting in July and how very much the show means to her.
I have seen this wonderful show 18 Minutes of Fame 3 times, and marvel at how you change things each time you mount it. It's about your life from the time you were a little girl. Have you made specific changes for this new production in July? If so, what is different?
I have made many changes since the shows you saw... For example, I deal more deeply and truthfully about my mother involving me in her affair from the time I was 11 to 18.. And ... I share the real story about Danny Kaye and how he treated me when he found out I was signed as a regular cast member on The Danny Kaye Show...He was not the nice person that he wanted people to think he was.
I relate more truthfully now with the story about my 1st Broadway lead in The Education Of Hyman Kaplan which opened the night Martin Luther King was assassinated. Of course the impact of such a beloved role model for all Americans was more important than a Broadway show but it was also an extremely pivotal point in my life.. it's as if it was yesterday...and I start to tear up...That little girl's dream was lost that night...and opening on Broadway in a musical was my dream since I've been little...The last preview felt like my dream was coming true; it was a peak moment for me when I heard the applause after my big song in the show "When Will I Learn"... In contrast opening night felt like the exact opposite when the audience returned from intermission. Everyone in the cast could tell something was wrong and 1/2 the audience had left.. "When Will I Learn" didn't get much of an applause...it is a moment in my life I wish I could forget...I chose to run away from NYC after Hyman Kaplan closed because my heart was broken .. I chose to run away from NYC and come to Los Angeles to escape the sadness and reality that sometimes what we want in life doesn't happen ...but it was more important for me to "pick yourself up...brush yourself off...and start all over again"...which is what I did...and eventually met and married the man of my dreams here...
You have a more recent troublesome experience, correct?
A current example of "picking myself up and starting all over again" is ...when I found out while I was doing the recent Pico Theatre 18 Minute's Of Fame shows that 3 days before my last show on June 9th, the Pico Theatre had to close down suddenly due to extensive termite damage...Hence, there was no last performance of my show on June 9th ...I was devastated...but I knew I could find another temporary theatre quickly and I did... within 4 days
I reached out to several local theatres, and was invited to come and do my show at The Braid in Santa Monica... I made sure everyone who was suppose to come to The Pico June 9th show was refunded quickly and fully for their tickets ....I contacted each person and invited them to come back and see the show at the Braid Theatre on July 13th and 21st...
The famous Therapist Carl Jung said "There are sinkers and swimmers ...The sinkers go down with disappointments and don't come back up ...the swimmers come right up"...That's what 18 Minutes Of Fame is all about ...coming up from sad and unexpected experiences and going on...
I live by the saying "when one door closes... another one opens."
Are the songs the same or have you added any new ones?
The songs are for the most part the same...I no longer sing.."That's Life" which comes out from the Martin Luther King story...I talk sing it with the impact of the reality that at that moment in my life ...every thing changed for me...
You have a divine talent for being able to naturally segue from story to song and vice versa. What do you personally like best about doing this show?
I love telling my stories and feeling how the audience relates to them in their own lives...I love keeping the show open to new insights and ideas...
Do you have one favorite moment from the past that stands out above any others?
I auditioned for The Playboy Club in Chicago when I was 18 and weighted over 200 lbs...I wanted to be as "glamorous as the bunnies" so I wore 3 inch heels thinking I'd look taller and thinner... I sang "Get Happy" for the audition ...(which is a song I started singing at 3 years old and which I open my show with now)...but then... when I stepped out onto the wooden dance floor in those 3 inch heels, I tripped and slid across the entire dance floor and couldn't get up ... so I sang "Get Happy" sitting on the floor ...The Playboy Club agents couldn't stop laughing thinking I did this as part of a "comedy opening bit" and I was immediately hired as a comedienne ...with no comedy act.
I went to NYC to have an act written by Phillip Dela Pena ( a cousin of one of my mother's friends) but I never did the Playboy Club Contract because Julius Monk heard me sing "Get Happy" in NYC around this time and I stayed to be one of the stars in his review "Bits and Pieces" at The Plaza Hotel.
Many years later when the Playboy Clubs weren't as popular, I did appear here at The Sunset Boulevard Playboy Club...I told my audition story at the show...and the audience roared...
The story about this show actually comes from the Fund Raiser you reviewed me at at St Mark's Church in Glendale over 4 or 5 years ago...I invited Arnold Margolin the producer of "Love American Style"... I was on for 5 years.
We met for coffee a week later in NYC thinking he was going to compliment me about the show; but instead he said "Barbara there are many older female singers who sing as good as or better than you...but no one tells a story like you...and then sings a song about that story...and that Barbara is what your show should be about"...and...here I am 4 years later doing 18 Minutes Of Fame which I co wrote with Susan Morgenstern who also directed the show... and Arnold's advice keeps coming up for me with every performance of the show..
Have you done any cabaret appearances in NYC or here recently, apart from this show or is this your top priority?
I am only concentrating on doing 18 Minutes Of Fame. Many years later when the Playboy Clubs weren't as popular, I did appear here at The Sunset f Fame" in hopes that the word of mouth will spread...and maybe someday, I can do it in NYC again Off Broadway...I have unfinished business in NYC since Hyman Kaplan which I have never been able to resolve... and maybe I'll never get that opportunity ...but at least I'm enjoying every moment of my life now balancing my love for performing, my love for my husband, children, and now grandchildren...and my love helping others by listening to them and telling them a story from my life which might relate to what they are dealing with...I realized long ago that most people want to feel that they aren't alone...and I'd like to believe that I can help them through a song or a story feel like they matter...
Remember, most have 15 minutes of fame, Barbara Minkus has had 18. See her at The Braid 2912 Colorado Avenue, #102 in Santa Monica CA Saturday July 13 at 8 pm and Sunday July 21 at 5 pm.
Visit 18minutesoffame.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838- 3006.