UPDATE: In a, ahem, remarkable turn around, after Jordan Roth announced that his theaters would dim in honor of Joan Rivers, and after this blog was published, The Broadway League has reversed it’s initial position:
“Joan Rivers loved Broadway and we loved her. Due to the outpouring of love and respect for Joan Rivers from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide, the marquees of Broadway theaters in New York will be dimmed in her memory.” – Charlotte St. Martin, Exec Dir, The Broadway League
Tonight, at 6:45pm, Theater Lights on Broadway will dim in honor of Ms. Joan Rivers.
Why yes we can, Ms. Rivers – yes we can.
Rest In Peace.
The Fairy Princess has been reflecting on what it means to be a “theater person’ today, in light of The Broadway League’s decision to not dim the lights in honor of the passing of TONY Nominee and thrice walker of ‘the boards’, Ms. Joan Rivers.
This is what Joan said about Broadway in a recent interview with New York Magazine,
“If you don’t go to Broadway, you’re a fool. On Broadway, off Broadway, above Broadway, below Broadway, go! Don’t tell me there isn’t something wonderful playing. If I’m home in New York at night, I’m either at a Broadway or an Off Broadway show. We’re in the theater capital of the world, and if you don’t get it, you’re an idiot.”
So guess who doesn’t get it?
Apparently, The Broadway League.
“Under our criteria people need to have been very active recently in the theater, or else be synonymous with Broadway – people who made their careers here, or kept it up,” Ms. St. Martin said in an interview on Monday.
“We love Joan – she was very supportive of Broadway and came to a lot of show openings – but she hasn’t acted on Broadway in 20 years,” Ms. St. Martin added. “When you say Joan Rivers, you don’t think comedy, television and Broadway. You think comedy and television. It’s certainly nothing against her.“
The night before Ms. Rivers went in to that fateful surgery which helped end her life at the age of 81, she did a show – she did a full length act at The Laurie Beechman Theater in the West Bank Cafe. As that is, in fact, a theater, and the show was over an hour of solo performance, one could argue that she in fact, defined being ‘active in theater’. Her calendar was full, even at 81, she had a bunch of live shows coming up, in addition to possibly returning to Broadway, and shooting Fashion Police.
It’s hard to fathom why Ms. Rivers is being egregiously overlooked, but let’s look at who the lights have been dimmed for recently:
“Lauren Bacall had a distinct presence onstage and screen during a career that spanned decades,” said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League. “Along with her talent and memorable performances, her timeless beauty and witty intelligence will be remembered. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and fans.”
Ms. Bacall had 2 TONYS, 1 Honorary OSCAR, was a Kennedy Center Honoree, 2 Golden Globes, and 1 SAG Award and she had not appeared on Broadway since 1999 – dim the lights.
Robin Williams left us all, sadly too soon.
“Robin Williams was a comedic genius with limitless talent and stunning versaitlity who left this world far too early,‘ said Broadway League Exec Director Charlotte St. Martin. “He made an impact on everyone he met or entertained. Whether on screen or live on stage, his multi-faceted talent always created memorable performances. Robin Williams will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans”
Robin Williams appeared on Broadway twice – once in concert – Robin Williams Live On Broadway in 2002, and as an Actor in Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo in 2011. He also appeared with Steve Martin in Waiting For Godot at Lincoln Center.
A comedic genius with 2 Broadway credits, 4 Golden Globes, 1 Oscar, 3 GRAMMYS, 1 EMMY, 2 SAG awards – dim the lights.
“Elaine Stritch’s big personality was matched by her big talent,” Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement. “Collaborating with some of Broadway’s greatest playwrights and composers throughout her lengthy career, her signature numbers and singular style created a memorable legacy.”
Elaine Stritch had 4 TONY Nominations, 1 TONY for Best Special Theatrical Event, and 3 EMMYs – dim the lights.
So, The Broadway League will, as they should, dim the lights for someone who is known on screen, known on television, and known to be a comedic genius, with a career that spanned decades but they won’t dim the lights for Joan Rivers, who was, actually all of those things combined?
Seem odd to anyone else?
Now, you could argue, of course, that Joan Rivers received a TONY Nomination, and that, perhaps is the criteria? They will not dim the lights for her because she did not win? That could be the ‘line in the sand’, one supposes.
Until you remember that Broadway dimmed the lights for James Gandolfini, although he was nominated for GOD OF CARNAGE in 2009, he never won a TONY award.
He appeared 2 other times on Broadway in ON THE WATERFRONT in 1995 and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in 1992. And, without putting it too bluntly, he was best known for his work on Television in HBO’s The Soprano’s. Television? Oh dear, whatever will Charlotte St. Martin say?
“James Gandolfini was a consummate actor who brought individuality to each role and inspired a true connection with the audience. Whether on screen or on a Broadway stage, he made every role believable and seemingly effortless,” said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to his family and friends, and certainly to all of his fans who felt as if they knew his characters.“
So, no, Broadway League, you cannot argue the “she only had a nomination and 3 appearances on Broadway” because, well – so did James Gandolfini, and you dimmed the lights for him.
He was a great theater person.
Joan Rivers was also a great theater person.
In fact, all of the above mentioned people were great theater people – being a theater person is not just appearing in a show.
It is being generous of spirit by continually supporting the efforts of others -
for example, attending a show….
Attending a show where you know that Broadway Producers are going to use your image and your name to sell more seats at their show and make money off of it – money that you, personally will never see.
Producers that are all in The Broadway League.
“She would go to shows multiple times and bring people, was a major fan of anything Broadway. Most of our conversations were about what she saw or what I was going to see, or I had seen – she was always recommending what show to watch. Our last trip she yelled at me to see HERE LIES LOVE.
One of her favorites was Jerry Herman, she thought he should have written the music for ROCKY…or ANY Broadway show. Of course she loved Broadway, she starred in her own Broadway show that she wrote! Nominated for a TONY!”
– Dan Glosser, longtime friend & pianist
Being a Theater Person means raising money for charity - she was one of the first celebrities, if not the first celebrity, to come out in support of raising money and awareness for AIDS prevention and treatment. She was on the Board of God’s Love, We Deliver, and delivered meals to those in need herself on Thanksgiving.
She supported Guide Dogs for the Blind, a school which helps connect guide dogs to those who are in need of canine assistance due to blindness or low sighted ability.
Ms. Rivers served as an honorary Director at The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, having experienced that particular loss in her life. These mentioned were but a few of her many, many charities.
Being a theater person is having to surround yourself with it’s music and texts constantly and wear them like a coat even in your darkest hour.
“Joan was so devoted to New York Theater. She went to absolutely EVERYTHING and having done Broadway 3 times, often said it was the toughest, most rewarding place for any actor to work. She was planning a return to Broadway with a remount of her show, “Sally Marr & her Escorts”. She insisted that every loved one who came to town go to at least one show – her treat, naturally – each visit.
When I sat with her while she was in a medically induced coma, the Original Cast Album of OKLAHOMA was filling the entire Intensive Care Unit. At one point, I couldn’t take it any longer and I changed the cd to A CHORUS LINE – I secretly hoped she’d wake up and tell me again about going to it’s Opening Night.
For the Broadway League not to dim the marquee lights for Joan is an insult to the memory of one of the New York stage’s most passionate advocates and talented performers.”
-Tony Tripoli – Head Writer, Fashion Police
Being a theater person is knowing that if you make it look easy, everyone will think that they can do what you can do ‘no problem’, when you know it took thousands of hours, endless preparation, and a combination of luck and talent that is different in everyone who succeeds.
Being a theater person is getting back up when they knock you down, and smiling while doing it.
“Joan Rivers is the top of the pyramid when it comes to comedians – male or female. She was also a devastatingly underused actress. Over the years, I had the great fortune to meet and work beside her several times. Beyond being funny, she was incredibly warm, caring, and full of life and love.
The world, not just the people in showbiz, have suffered a huge loss, and I for one, would dim every light in the world to honor the great Joan Rivers. Shame on the Broadway League for being too dim to realize what a disgraceful decision they have made. In the end, Joan herself probably would have laughed and said “Oh F*uck em if they’re too dumb to realize they could’ve saved a few bucks on the electric bill!”
-Scott Nevins, Bravo’s The People’s Couch
Joan Rivers was the epitome of what it means to be a theater person – she loved it, she lived it, she wrote it, she experienced it. She did the Broadway ‘8 shows a week’ time step, and she also did television, and she wrote books, and she also did charity work, and she did films. She was also a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.
Her comedy was caustic and rough at times, yes, but so was Elaine Stritch’s – and the lights were rightly dimmed for her – The Fairy Princess was there. It was special and moving, because ordinary New Yorkers and tourists and Broadway professionals stopped and looked at her image and said their own personal farewells. My group had people who were very close to her, and it comforted them.
Do not Ms. Rivers’ friends and family and extended audience deserve similar comfort?
Did she swear? Yes.
So the f*#!k what?
Ms. Rivers surely could not have cursed more than David Mamet, and though no one wishes it, when the time comes, do we not all agree that Broadway will dim the lights in his honor?
They F*#!kin’ better!
Was she a saint? No. Are any of us? Do not we of the theater salute and embrace all our colorful people with all their eccentricities?
Yes, we do.
When did we of the theater start scorning people who started in the theater and went on to other things?
When did we become that small and petty? When, Broadway League?
When did we toss people out of our little group simply because they became successful in another area? The woman began her career starring in a play opposite Barbra Streisand!
The Fairy Princess would like to remind The Broadway League that dimming the lights takes….
This woman promoted Broadway, appeared on Broadway, was nominated for one of Broadway’s highest honors and we, of The Broadway cannot turn off the lights for ONE MINUTE?
“In the ever changing world of Broadway, the ‘rules’ for the TONY Awards change every year due to ‘unique circumstances’ and a changing art form. Why all of a sudden is The Broadway League clinging to an interpretation of a random rule – especially when it comes to honoring such an Ambassador of Broadway – it is beyond me.
By the way, what are we talking about here? Someone pushes a button and then pushes it again sixty seconds later? She gave us 81 years, I think we can give her 60 seconds.”
-Erich Bergen, JERSEY BOYS the movie, Madame Secretary
The Fairy Princess would like you to look at this next photo – (she found it on the web, Melissa, don’t yell at anyone) it is the program of Joan River’s final service
Only a true theater person would ask to be saluted by The NY Gay Men’s Chorus singing “Nothing Like a Dame“, segue to multiple TONY Winner Audra McDonald singing “Smile“, then bring in TONY Winner and the tallest Aussie to grace our stages, Hugh Jackman to sing a song Peter Allen wrote for Judy Garland, and finally, end with a bagpipe salute of “Give My Regards To Broadway”.
To quote that Peter Allen song:
So put your hands together and help her along
All that’s left of the singer
All that’s left of the song
Stand for the Ovation
And give her one last celebration
Quiet Please, there’s a person up there
And she’s been singing of the things
That none of us could bear to hear for ourselves
Give her your respect, if nothing else
While Jujamcyn President, Jordan Roth, has announced that his theaters will dim their lights in honor of Ms. Joan Rivers tomorrow, Tues. Sept 9 at 6:45 pm, as of this writing, none of the other Broadway theaters have announced their intention to do so.
Oh – nicely done Mr. Roth, you Sir, are a man of the theater!
The rest of The Broadway League needs to catch up – your arguments as to ‘why not’ simply do not make sense – you can honor men who have appeared on Broadway exactly the same amount of times as Ms. Rivers, or who have had exactly the same type of fame, but you cannot honor Ms. Rivers?
Not ONE MINUTE for a career that spans over 40 years?
81 Smacks of The Wand to The Broadway League for using some made up excuse that is probably based, in part, on sexism and jealousy, to deny Joan Rivers ONE MINUTE of theatrical respect that we, The Broadway Community, should give her.
She left us asking us to “Give her regards to Old Broadway”, cannot Broadway give her regards in turn?
Cannot Broadway give her ONE MINUTE of regard?
‘Shouldn’t just everyone go to The Broadway League Facebook Page and ask them to dim the lights for Joan? Shouldn’t they?”
- Jim Caruso, Cast Party
So from The Fairy Princess, and in Honor of Ms. Joan Rivers, please-
Kiss our (##*!?#)Fan, Tan Fannie!
And DIM THE DAMN LIGHTS!