Lights dimmed over long legs


Elaine Stritch once quipped, “I don’t think there’s any thrill in the world like doing work you’re good at.” If she was right, she led a life filled with thrills. Stritch, a mainstay of Broadway theater, died this week, at age 89.

Obituaries for the star of stage and screen have flooded across the media. USAToday described her as an, “actress, singer, long-legged and sharp-tongued force of nature.”

The San Francisco Gate said Stritch was a, “brash theater performer whose gravelly, gin-laced voice and impeccable comic timing made her a Broadway legend.”

Stritch had an interesting fashion trademark. With long legs Stritch gave black tights under a long white dress shirt a kind of refined, yet sassy, sexiness. She wore the look even late in life. On her, as they say, it worked.

Stritch’s career spanned eight decades. While she appeared in movies and on television — for which she would receive three Emmys — many will remember her as Alec Baldwin’s unforgiving mother on “30 Rock.” Stritch was best known for her work on stage, particularly in her confessional and frank one-woman memoir, “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty,” and in the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company.” Stritch worked well into her late 80s, most recently as Madame Armfeldt in a revival of Sondheim’s musical “A Little Night Music” in 2010.

News of her death evoked many fond and funny memorials from luminaries of stage and screen. Liza Minnelli called her “a true trail blazer. Her talent and spunk will be greatly missed by so many of us.” Lena Dunham, star of HBOs comedy, “Girls” said via Twitter, “May your heaven be a booze-soaked, no-pants solo show at the Carlyle.”

As the signal honor of her craft, Broadway’s marquees went dim in her memory on Friday.

For all her accomplishments on the Great White Way, she proved to be a powerhouse on television and the movies as well. Stritch’s films include “A Farewell to Arms” (1957), “Out to Sea” (1997), Woody Allen’s “September” (1987) and more recently, “Small Time Crooks” (2000). A guest spot on “Law & Order” in 1990, won Stritch her first Emmy. She got her second Emmy in 2007 for her recurring role on “30 Rock.”

She also had a memorable career in England, where she enjoyed similar successes on stage and television.

Perhaps Stritch’s most notable performances revolved around the script she knew best: her own life. In “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” the actress recounted many of her personal triumphs and travails. Written by drama critic and author John Lahr, the performance gave Stritch a perfect platform to reminisce about dating Marlon Brando, understudying Ethel Merman, and her battles with alcoholism and diabetes.

Interestingly enough, Stritch never received a Tony Award in an acting category, but she did collect multiple nominations, and “Liberty” earned the actress a trophy for “special theatrical event.”

As recently as April 2013, she revisited the Café Carlyle for a five-night farewell engagement before leaving New York City for her native Michigan.

Stritch’s immense talent, sassiness and larger-than-life persona had a huge impact on Broadway, film and television. She could do it all, and we’re glad she did.