OFFBEAT: Limited opportunity to see new Elaine Stritch film doc

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-04-15T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Limited opportunity to see new Elaine Stritch film docBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

When stage, film and TV legend Elaine Stritch brought her Tony Award-winning Broadway one-woman stage show to the old Shubert Theater in Chicago in 2003, I recall how my then-columnist colleague Molly Woulfe and I competed to score an interview with then-79-year-old Stritch.

Alas, her Broadway in Chicago publicist David Rosenberg informed us both, that she was only doing a limited number of media interviews and unfortunately, we didn't make the list.

Stritch, who turned 89 on Feb. 2, is still making waves, and I say with a smile we should expect no less from this great dame of entertainment.

Take my advice and devote a three-hour window of time this week to pay a visit to one of my favorite remaining one-room movie houses to see Stritch on the big screen. She is the subject of a new 90-minute documentary called "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me." Released to limited theaters Feb. 21, it's already played Chicago and now, this weekend will play The Vickers Movie Theatre, 6 N. Elm St. in Three Oaks, Mich, just off the 94 Expressway near New Buffalo. It's likely the last opportunity to see it. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. CST Friday, 2:30 and 8 p.m. CST Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and $8 for seniors age 60 and older. FYI: (269) 756-3522

I took my parents Chester and Peggy to see it Monday night and all three of us are amazed at this tough broad's staying power to survive the high hurdles of both personal and professional life. Originally from Detroit, Stritch was raised in a devout Catholic family. Her uncle was the late Cardinal Samuel Stritch of Chicago, who died at age 70 in 1958. She was married to Chicago's John Bay, heir to the Bay's English Muffin fortune and has very publicly discussed her bouts with alcoholism. This is the same lady who was almost cast in the role of Dorothy on the hit NBC TV sitcom "The Golden Girls," but says she blew her audition and the role then went to Bea Arthur.

The woman behind the pipes for the famous song "The Ladies Who Lunch," agreed to do a 1966 summer stock tour of the Clare Booth Luce play "The Women," also starring Gloria Swanson, Marge Champion, Dagmar and Marilyn Maxwell. Because Swanson (who received $3,000 for the run) and Champion demanded special billing and consideration, the final scene required Stritch to sit alone on stage until her co-stars made their "grand exit." When a fed-up Stritch decided to subtly lampoon her lament of this staging instruction during one of the performances, she said the other actresses teamed-up to get her fired. (Stritch also admits that while she agreed to not drink during her contracted runs, she would send herself flowers accompanied by bow-wrapped bottles of champagne to her dressing room. And though the champagne looked to be sealed and "just on display," she would saw off the cork so she could remove it and replace it to sneak guzzles while continually refilling it with more booze).

This documentary is candid and follows the actress from her home at the Carlyle Hotel in New York to her rehearsals, and even shows her memory lapses and frustration with forgetting her lines and lyrics on stage.  It also includes interviews with Hal Prince, George C. Wolfe, Nathan Lane, Cherry Jones, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, James Gandolfini and John Turturro. It concludes with her niece arranging to have Stritch move from NYC to Detroit to be cared for with a hint of retirement.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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