Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Bernadette (Peters)!

Ms Peters


In "Silent Movie"

In "The Jerk"


1980 Vargas Girl Album Cover

The Real Thing

Playboy Cover 1981

Inside The Magazine

With Her Horse

In "A Little Night Music 2010

It is my great pleasure and honor this morning to celebrate the birthday of one of my very favorite singers, performers, authors, and actresses, Ms. Bernadette Peters!
Bernadette Lazzara was born at a very early age at exactly 10:15AM my time, which is the right time, here on the west coast of the United States of America.
She wasn't lucky enough to be born here though. No, she's a New York Girl, born in Queens. She is the youngest of three children. She has a brother, Joseph, and a sister, Donna. Her dad's name was Peter, and her mom, Marguerite... what a pretty name. Bernadette is too. Their ancestors came from a land far away called Italy.
Her dad delivered bread to other people and stores in a truck. Her mom put little Bernadette to work when she was three and a half by getting her on the T.V. show, Juvenile Jury (one of the first reality shows where kids got to send grown ups to prison). She also appeared on Name That Tune (an early musical influence) and The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour when she was five.
When she was nine she adopted her father's first name as her last upon receiving her Actors Equity Card as to not sound so ethnic, as that was a professional concern at the time, even for nine year olds. Besides she looks Irish.
That very month she made her professional stage debut in "This Is Goggle" (not Google), a comedy directed by the famous Otto Preminger. Pretty cool.
When she was ten she started on T.V., on NBC's Kraft Mystery Theatre in "A Boy Named Ciske." and in a vignette entitled "Miracle in the Orphanage", and "The Christmas Tree", a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, with Richard Thomas, who would later appear on "The Waltons," and the actresses Jessica Tandy, and Erin's friend, Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch of the West). She also started on the New York stage as Tessie in the New York City Center revival of "The Most Happy Fella."
As a teenager she attended Steven Tyler's (Arrowsmith) old school, the Quintano's School for Young Professionals. It's not there anymore. Tyler blew it up.
When she was thirteen she met a man who would become her long time musical accompanist, conductor and arranger Marvin Laird, while in the second national tour of "Gypsy." He was the assisstant conductor on that tour, and would step in for the main conductor if one of his batons broke. He thought of Bernadette at the time, "I heard her sing an odd phrase or two and thought, 'God that's a big voice out of that little girl,'"
When she finished high school she really got busy. She was just goofing off up until then. She appeared Off-Broadway in the musicals "The Penny Friend" in 1966, and "Curley McDimple" in 1967, and as a standby on Broadway in "The Girl in the Freudian Slip." She made her Broadway debut in "Johnny No-Trump" in 1967, and next appeared as George M. Cohan's sister opposite Joel Grey in "George M!" in 1968, winning the Theatre World Award.
At twenty she won her first Drama Desk Award for her performance as "Ruby" in the 1968 Off-Broadway production of "Dames at Sea." She starred in her next Broadway shows, Gelsomina in "La Strada," in 1969, and Hildy in "On the Town," in 1971, for which she received her first Tony Award nomination.
She got another Tony nomination in 1974 playing Mabel Normand in "Mack and Mabel." Clive Barnes wrote: "With the splashy "Mack & Mabel" ... diminutive and contralto Bernadette Peters found herself as a major Broadway star."
After conquering Broadway by the time she was twenty six, she moved forward with her plans toward world domination by moving here, to Los Angeles.
I guess my point up to now is that Bernadette is a product of the stage. Many are. I was myself. I'm a very good actor, if I do say so myself (if I can learn and remember my lines), and whenever I've acted in front of an audience it was in a stage production. I've never been on T.V. or a movie. I've come to grips with the possibility that I may never be on T.V. or in a movie. Many aren't (my mom was though. She was in the classic comedy, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," with my very favorite actor, Spencer Tracy). But I found working in the theatre very taxing. I mean you have to do the whole damn play again every freaking day. That's hard work! I personally don't get that much of a kick working in front of a live audience as others do. I couldn't care less actually. Actually, Id prefer not to if I could help it. So if I were a professional actor and I had my choice I'd always rather work in movies. Television if I had to, but that's harder than movies (sitcoms are just like acting on the stage, for instance. And hour long dramas, well they keep everybody quite busy trying to make a freaking hour long drama every week. Films are so much easier (that's why you'll never find Harrison Ford on Broadway).
I guess my point for the previous paragraph is... Bernadette just got tired of working her ass off all of the time on the stage for paltry wages, and decided to come out here, working in films and television, which are easy, and much more lucrative. I don't know why.
Film and television performances last forever as well. You'll always be young if you make a movie when you're young. I just saw "Taxi Driver," the other day. Contrast that Robert DeNiro with the one in "Meet the Fockers," Wow!
Anyway, Bernadette came out to L.A. in the early 70s to see about getting into movies and T.V. Unfortunately she met up with some unsavory characters like Steve Martin and Mel Brooks. Let's see what happened.
Of course she had already been on Television when she was ten in that Hallmark production. In 1970 she reprised her role as Josie Cohan in a T.V. movie of "George M!" this time with Red Buttons. In Los Angeles she began getting roles on T.V. as well that didn't have anything to do with singing. I'll mention the shows and movies I'm most familiar with because this is not a freaking encyclopedia, and my Internet isn't working properly and I have to do this from memory. Okay, here goes:
In 1973 she appeared on "Love, American Style," in the episode "Love and the Hoodwinked Honey." She was actually hoodwinked without a stunt person. What a trooper!
The next year she got her first part in a theatrical film, "The Longest Yard," with Burt Reynolds, about football in prison. She played the wardens secretary, I believe, who wanted some alone time with prisoner Burt. She got it.
A remake of this film was made a few years ago starring Adam Sandler. I don't know why.
She appeared on "Maude," and "All in the Family," and "McCloud," a T.V. show with Dennis Weaver that was a rip off of Clint Eastwood's "Coogan's Bluff." In 1976 she got another movie role in "W.C. Fields and Me," and that's when she met up with that Mel Brooks character, in "Silent Movie," which was about silent movies (an explanation for my lovely ex-case manager Erin... there was a time, long ago, that movies did not have sound. They hadn't figured out how to put sound on film yet, and they didn't have video. These movies are now called Silent Movies, and were shown in theaters accompanied with music. Text, similar to today's subtitles, would indicate what the actors were saying to each other). No one spoke in Mel's "Silent Movie," except for one person, the famous mime, Marcel Marceau. Bernadette was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance.
In 1977 she appeared on "The Muppet Show." You know you've made the big time when you get a spot with the Muppets. Hey, and she earned an Emmy nomination for guest starring. How cool is that. Here's the entire episode in three parts:
That guy Steve Martin lured her into a romantic relationship fresh off of The Muppets, and starred opposite her in 1979's "The Jerk." Here's a clip:
Since they were going out and all, they made another film in 1981 called, "Pennies From Heaven," which got her a Golden Globe Award as Best Motion Picture Actress in a Comedy or Musical.
By 1981, she was so popular and so pretty (for a girl) that she got on the cover and in a photo spread in Playboy.
Now I've seen that particular issue (December 1981) as there was a fascinating article concerning Fourier transforms in it and I've seen her spread. I am happy (not really) to report that our wholesome friend, Bernadette did not appear nude in the photos, but modeled various lingerie designed by Bob Mackie. Good girl (damn it!).
In 1982 she starred with Albert Finney and Carol Burnett in the film version of the musical, "Annie." She would appear many times on Carol's own television variety show over the years.
Why here's a couple of clips of Bernadette and Carol in their soap opera version of "The Exorcist."
And a clip of Bernadette singing "All That Jazz," on the Carol's show from 1975. What a cutie!
In 1982 Bernadette returned to the New York stage after an eight year absence in one of her few non-musical stage performances, the off-Broadway Manhattan Theatre Club production of the comedy-drama "Sally and Marsha," for which she was nominated for another Drama Desk Award. She has continued switching to live thaetre and films and T.V. throughout the rest of her career, the poor confused girl.
She starred with Clint Eastwood in 1989's "Pink Cadillac." She played Circe, in the 1997 television version of Homer's "The Odyssey," Cinderella's step mom in "Cinderella," appeared on "Frasier," and "Ally McBeal," in 2001, appeared with three generations of the Kirk Douglas family in the 2003 film, "It Runs in the Family," in which she played the wife of Michael Douglas's character.
She's been on "Will and Grace," "Law and Order, SVU," "Boston Legal," "Grey's Anatomy," a recurring role on "Ugly Betty." Hell, the woman's been on everything!
She even has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Live Theatre. I don't even have one of those.
Last March she starred in "Coming Up Roses," playing a former musical-comedy actress with two daughters. A stretch for her.
Bernadette finally married in 1996 to investment adviser Michael Wittenberg, at the home of her friend Mary Tyler Moore. We are all saddened to report that he died tragically in a helicopter crash while on a business trip to Montenegro in 2005. He was only forty three years old.
Bernadette has been nominated for the Tony Award seven times, and won twice. She has also been nominated for the Drama Desk Award eight times and won three times.
She has been cast in the role of Sally Durant Plummer in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts production of the Steven Sondheim musical, "Follies," which is scheduled to run at the Eisenhower Theatre from May 7 through June 19, 2011. I invite you to go see her. Perhaps I'll see you there.
Wow, not bad from memory, huh?
The above is only a small representation of her remarkable career on stage, and in films and T.V. Clearly an over achiever she is also an accomplished author of children's books. A recording artist (six solo albums (Erin, those round plastic things they used after silent movies, and before CDs)). Concert performer, here she is singing "Fever,: which I can't watch as it gets me too hot:
If all this wasn't enough, all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her continued good health and fortune in whatever she does, and a very happy birthday!
Happy birthday Bernadette!


  1. Endless Happy Birthdays to this Belle, this Bella Donna of Queens.

  2. I love this blog, but you forgot one very important show she was in. Bernadette sent my heart into happiness as The Witch in Into the Woods.