August 02, 2006
Q: Your Tony-award winning "At Liberty" was a tour-de-force. Tell us how you conceived and developed it.
A: "This is my life! That's how I got ready for it! And luckily John Lahr was interested in working with me, so we sat down and we tried to put my life together."
Q: You studied acting with Marlon Brando, among many others who achieved stardom. Did he make an immediate impression on you? Did you think he would become as famous as he did?
A: "Yes he did! He was an absolutely stunning young man. He was a stunner and very attractive and I was 18 . . . so you could bet your bottom dollar I thought he was wonderful. As far as talent is concerned, the very first day in school I knew that he was brilliantly talented. The important thing is I went to the New School and studied with Erwin Piscator and Stella Adler was one of my teachers and Luther Adler and Harold Clurman."
Q: You are often described as "brassy." Is that an appropriate label?
A: "I think it's a boring label!"
Q: You come from a prominent Catholic family — your father was an Archbishop of Chicago. Did you attend Catholic schools? Were you a cut-up? I was wondering if the nuns made you put chewing gum on your nose!
A: "Yes I went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart for 12 years, but your father can't be an Archbishop for Christ's sake. I went to a wonderful, wonderful scholastic Convent of the Sacred Heart and it was a brilliant school and I got a wonderful education."
Q: A lot of people don't know you were the original Trixie on "The Honeymooners." How did you get the gig?
A: "They saw me in something and they knew I was right for it. Jackie Gleason saw me in summerstock."
Q: What was it like to work with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney?
A: "Oh, [Jackie Gleason] was a wonderful guy and he was very honest with me when they fired me . . . well they didn't fire me . . . they didn't take me on when the series was picked up, because he told me I was too much like him. I thought that was wonderful. They needed one straight person. Everybody couldn't be funny. Somebody's gotta feed and somebody's gotta get the laughs. And Jackie was funny and Art Carney was brilliant."
Q: D.A. Pennebaker made an award-winning documentary of "At Liberty" for which you were awarded an Emmy. He lives here in Sag Harbor and has for many, many years. Did you enjoy that experience?
A: "Yes, I did very much. Next question."
Q: I saw your show. You have great legs. Do you work to keep in shape?
A: "I get exercise but not to keep [in shape]. I exercise because I'm a diabetic. Next question."
Q: I read you are fast friends with Liz Smith. She also has a place out here. Will you be visiting?
A: "She doesn't have a place out there and no, I will not be visiting."
Q: You have been nominated for four Tonys for a variety of roles. Do you have any preference between dramatic acting, singing, dancing or comedic roles?
A: "No I don't have a preference, it's the quality of the work, whatever it is. That's what's important to me. OK, are we done?"