Speaker 1 I'm as interested in. Hearing about your career as a singer, because that's what the crosscurrent of your work with Richard Rodgers, tell me what you always wanted to be a singer. Did you just come upon it? At some point?
Speaker 2 I came upon my desire to be a singer. I think about the age of six and my career really was predominantly about theater, musical theater all of my life until the emergence of television in nineteen sixty seven. And all of a sudden I was in Los Angeles. And television has been a major part of my life since that time. But prior to that other thing that I wanted was the stage. And I did have flowers, which was a lovely experience with Truman Capote and. Peter Brook and Balanchine and wonderful friends in the next experience, of course, was with no strings with Richard Rodgers, which was an entirely different kind of experience, but beautifully exciting and artistic and to be a part of that creative process from the very beginning, because he decided when he saw me on a television show called I Think I was called. Was it called The Late Show or The Johnny Carson Show Tonight Show with.
Speaker 1 Let's stop one second because you have one hair.
Speaker 2 No. Because you want to start that one again, Richard Rodgers saw a performance of mine on The Tonight Show. Jack Paar was the host. Jack Paar and I received a phone call the next day from Mr. Richard Rodgers. And, of course, I I didn't believe it at first. I thought friends of mine were having me on, as they say it. It became a reality. It was Richard Rodgers, he decided. While watching my performance, I'd like to do a Broadway show with me. We met in Manhattan. A place called Gallagher's Steakhouse, as I recall, and I even recall trying to impress him very much, Justin Gervasi from head to toe, which was a thing of the day, I think was the Audrey Hepburn mark that I was going for. And he liked it. And that's when we began to discuss the idea of a show that involved a young black girl who goes to Europe and she becomes successful as a fashion model. And then her relationship with her American white lover, played by Richard Kyly. Brilliant. Richard Kiley, Manav Lamantia, Richard Kiley, my friend. Lovely man, and in the beginning, of course, I didn't believe any of this was going to happen, I thought, fine, this is lovely talk. And where are we going with this? He was on his way to Europe and he said that he would get back to me. And I heard that a million times before. And I said, thank you for the lovely lunch, Mr. Rogers. And it's been lovely being with you. And about three days later, I received a phone call from Richard Rodgers from London. He had met a friend, discuss the project with Samuel Taylor and Samuel Taylor, expressed interest in writing our book. I was thrilled by that because I really loved a film called The Moon is Blue. And Samuel Taylor had written them on his bill. So he told me when he would return and what he expected of me during that period. And when he returned, he called. We met again and it was all real. It was a first time experience for all of us when that that conglomeration of people that you've worshipped all of your life and the kind of quality with which we all want to be associated, all artists want to be associated. And he was bringing all of that together in one one project for me. I was overwhelmed, I was I you know, that feeling that we hear about when you feel not really touching the ground on you, I just couldn't believe that this was all really happening. But he did exactly as he said he would do. They were a lovely script, slightly confusing because I think both and and Richard were confused about how to handle. They've gotten into it because of their excitement, I must say, about me, which was really a wonderful a wonderful time, too. I think when you just recognize that you're going to pull these people into your web, that the black spider weaves and they're going to say, yes, you are what you think you are. And we agree and we want to align ourselves with you. There's an excitement in that. So as we moved along, because he was also wonderful about introducing himself to new people, I mean, Jonatan, he had never worked with Jonathan Layton, who is a brilliant director, choreographer. He never worked with Peter Matz, who was my arranger at the time, who has had a brilliant career and included in his career, people like, Oh, Streisand and so on and so forth. But Richard Rodgers was open to this, this new he wanted to do something that was new and. As we began to rehearse, one of the things have gotten our way, became very apparent to us, is that I am black and Richard is white. That was the entire purpose. That was the thrust of the whole thing. Now we're here. Now how do we deal with this? The songs had an ambiguity about our love relationship. That was. After several weeks of rehearsing, it became, you know, what are we sing here? What is this relationship? Who are we? And Sam and Richard were. Really confused because this this wonderful decision to put this on stage was about and that was the depth of their examination will do it. We're going to put it on stage while these people have to speak and they have to have relationships. And I became a bit confusing, I think, with Sam as well as Richard. There were times when I felt working with the seniors was the happiest time in my life. There were other times when I dealt with a man and there were, as we all have, flaws in the character life. I was overwhelmed by the depth of their lack of humanity, by their. They're self centredness, and the reason that I was overwhelmed is because I knew even at that young age, that that stifles the creativity. I never, ever dreamt that I would feel that from someone who had the gift, the magnitude of that gift of Richard Rodgers. So as we tried to resolve how do we say this without saying it? I suppose that was his goal. Eventually, we recognize the fact that the only thing to do to make everyone happy that Richard and Simon. Was to pretend it never happened. I think they did this later and one of the nighttime soaps pretended that he never really left town. I mean, he was just in the shower for the entire. I remember thinking, oh, that's pretty much what a good conclusion. But the difficulty for them to handle this romance was fascinating to me. Young, younger and had lived an extremely integrated life in New York City. I'm in New York person and was a bit I was a bit confused by their confusion, knowing that I was surrounded by interracial relationships of of. All sorts constantly. So we had we had a very interesting exchange because there was some of the confusion that. If I think about it now, what I was reacting to, it was demeaning to me. And I now know that my youthfulness would never I wouldn't I was not going to allow that, so therefore we had some some confrontation as to who I am and what I would allow and and what was just unacceptable to me. And I think that was all new for you, too. I know it was. So we had we had fun. But we had we knocked heads, and that's all part of all of it.
Speaker 1 I think everything you said, you need to stop a second of this, one of a cell phone or do you can you give me any examples of how he actually was to work with? I mean, I know he was a lovely man, but he also had a reputation of being pretty tough and getting what he wanted. Do you have any memories of working together that you could share with us?
Speaker 2 He was extremely, as you might imagine, exacting and. I expected that. Not a breath. Could one draw up without his dictating that that was the correct place to to breathe? And I had lived very much in the world of nightclubs and concerts, and the interpretation may vary from night night, from performance to performance. So the dictatorial aspect. I found it fascinating because then I had to find the creativity within the confines, and when I became excited, I wanted to break these times constantly to find my own moment. But I knew that he came to the theater very often. And that he was very strict in terms of using it the way I wrote it and I thought this is Richard Rodgers using it, the way he wrote it, you know, that's exactly what he deserves because he's the best genius. And there were times after the performance, usually at intermission, he would wander in and I could tell by the look on his face immediately if I had been obedient or if I had been a little bit too. It's a nightclub or concert performance when it was correct, he was a happy man. It was absolutely delightful about that he had of a quiet manner so that one could misinterpret easily. But he was not not to be tampered with in any aspect of any of his productions. I learned later. Interesting experience.
Speaker 1 You write a wonderful passage in your book that was about when he plays you the score for the first time before. Could you recount that for us and tell us that he did that for you? What was it like to hear the speed of sound? I heard I'll never hear for the first time waiting for an airplane. We can call LAX on this, right? Actually know it's Santa Monica for. OK. Bring us back.
Speaker 2 As I recall, the score was played for the first time for Richard Kiley myself. And. He may have allowed Peter Max to be present. I'll have to check double check that with Peter and it was so clean and so precise. And he was he has a kind of quiet passion about about his work. And when he played the sweetest sounds, the reaction was, I will sing this. In front of an audience in the theater. And it is so beautiful and the line, the simplicity of the line and the haunting he made, quite haunting. And. I didn't breathe while he was introducing me to this material. None of us did really, and he could create that kind of moment. And he was such a little devil because he could absolutely destroy it just like that with a word. Just a word. But it was worth it to stay to hear whatever it was that came out of that mind and allowed us to be to be a part of it. We listened to the whole score that day. And. As I recall, we were very quiet as actors, we were very quiet and Peter, as I recall, we were all very quiet. It was a moment in life that you never recapture. Hearing songs written for you by Richard Rodgers that you will have the opportunity to introduce the world. And perform. Eight times a week in the theater. I remember what I wore. I remember my hair and I remember his office and that incredible sound of that piano, it one of the most beautiful pianos I'd ever heard. The tone of it and. It was it was not real, it was dreamlike and so happy, the body, the mind, the senses, everything experiencing. A kind of joy that. That I'll carry with me, you know, all the days of my life he had.
Speaker 1 So they're just. Here I see his first career with heart. He could have retired right then and been famous forever. He goes on to the second most famous lyricist of the 20th century. He dies and here he is on his own. Can you tell us if you had a sense of of the enormity of writing him, writing his lyrics and his music by himself for the first time, and whether he ever talk to you about that?
Speaker 2 You know, as I thought about it years later, about his writing, his first score and the lyrics. I realize now that he was very frightened. There is no way to eliminate that arrogance so that he would even admit it to himself, but it was an incredible responsibility upon his head, having written with Larry Hart and Oscar Hammerstein. I'm sure there was an excitement, he wanted it to work desperately, but he had never been in that room really alone, that creative place alone. There were several times when the mistakes were monumental and there are other times when they were quite gentle and they could be altered easily. We had we had an experience. I'm sure his daughters remember a song called Yankee Go Home, Go Home. And he'd obviously, you know, hit the hit the wall because it was almost nonsensical that one could imagine. But he didn't know how to say you to my part. He has to go back to the United States and you're going to remain here. And so he started talking about the trees and the rocks of, I don't know, Massachusetts. And you must go back to the theater, to Yankee, go home, go home. And it was we were many of us praying on a daily basis that someone would come along to say to him, this is not working. This is not the way we end this love story that these people have for two hours now. Enjoy, enjoyed, and the lushness of it in Paris. And we cannot just say, listen, Richard Kiley, go home and leave die. That's basically what it felt like. Leave Dianne Carroll here in Paris and just go. But finally, one of his daughters was kind enough to fly in and she she talked to dad and he listened and he went in and revamp the thought completely. And and we came up with with an ending that was not so frightened and petrified of really saying something of of importance. And that's when the idea that we would end as we began that this is a love affair. Did it take place? Did it not take place and that made him happy, and if you want to know the truth, I really wanted him to be happy at that point.
Speaker 1 Right, in case you mention, again, we can play a little piece of it in its main
Speaker 2 line, which is fine. Does it mean to
Speaker 1 me that would you like a doctor appointment? So everybody breathe. Exhale is long as well. Thank you.
Unidentified That happens. OK, and
Speaker 1 can you describe the public reaction and whether everybody just took this racial play? One of the first real. Just sitting down with you. Did anybody notice it?
Speaker 2 Oh, yes, yes, it was noticed. Of course it was nice. It was it was quite beautiful. So as beauty has a habit of doing, it overshadowed many of the racial aspects. Donnybrooks did a wardrobe that was breathtaking. And don't forget, you know, New York is very much the the center of the couture American couture couture world. So the fact that I had 15 of the most beautiful costumes you've ever seen quaffed and done and that the relationship between Kylie and myself was not a it was not a forced relationship. We both had had really, I think, too much training for that. And whenever I was lost, I had Richard Kiley. I had Joe and. I did I don't feel there was anything about the relationship that was unbelievable.
Speaker 1 No, actually, I'm looking at the public and I mean, you have you're a black woman and a white man and you have a deep kiss, as I recall. And I was there. I think I read there were strong reactions to that, especially in the South. And I wonder if you have any recollection.
Speaker 2 I work. I have to tell you, I don't remember a deep kiss. I think they were afraid of that. I don't know. There may have been an embrace because 1961 was this 61. I think there was an embrace. I think that Richard and Sam were a little too what shall I say, to have a deep kiss. But I'm sure there was an embrace. But the you just brought something to mind. Oh, yes. They had to deal with something when we opened in Detroit because there was a socialite, a Detroit socialite who wanted to have the opening night party and have one insistence upon the cast was that I not be included. And when he told me the story, I was standing there and I thought, oh, well, it's too bad because that means everyone will have to miss this lovely party. And this is where I find this dichotomy of purpose and character with with that Rogers and he apologized. But he was also thrilled about the fact that she was threatened by me. Which is understandable, he wanted to know. He wanted me to know that she'd asked him where had he had me trained and where did I what did he done in order to place me on stage in this condition? And he said, I found her like this. And this is why I wanted to do the. But he loved it. He loved the fact that it was like a dichotomy somehow that he'd found this thing. Who is this middle class black woman that he'd never been exposed to before and he'd exposed it to other whites. And my background, my parents, what they had given me and and what they had asked of me to as a young woman. And he found that there were other whites who were equally confused by this, this. Whatever it is that my parents did and did damn well. And as we spoke about it, you know, he said that he thought that I understood and I said, I don't understand at all how dare you take my company to a dinner party or party, whatever, and I'm not invited. And he said, well, she said, you know, that she's never seen anyone like you before, and if you're exposed to her young son in over here, then he will believe that there are other black women like you. And so I said, I'm not buying it, Richard. No, no way. So I. I put a notice on the billboard to the entire cast that I had taken over a restaurant across the street. And then I would like them to join me. And so they did. And I'm sure we weren't missed at all. But it was it was not I it was not done with anger. I just thought he was uninformed. And the lady, whomever this woman was, she was uninformed. So we'd go elsewhere and enjoy ourselves. And that point of view has been very interesting and very important for me for most of my life. My mother always said to me, It's not you, darling. It's then and move on, and that's what got us through that evening. We had a hell of a good party, by the way.
Speaker 1 That's that was an amazing story to read. We. Oh, yeah. How did Rodgers react when you said, I don't buy this?
Speaker 2 Well, let me see what I have said during that period of time. I'm surprised that you would attend is probably something that I would have said or I'm surprised that this is acceptable to you. And yes, yes, I'm I'm hurt by this, I, I was extremely fortunate because of the schooling that was offered to me in New York City, wonderful school called high school music and art that I attended, and then on to NYU. But I really wanted to study psychiatry and. New York is the most glorious place for a young artist to develop. I was exposed to everyone's music, all of the American composers, French composers, German composers. It's a part of our our daily life. It's it's strange to me to meet young people today who have never had the New York experience and they're living in the Midwest. And I'm not saying anything against the Midwest, but I am saying that it is not possible to have that kind of experience. Except in New York City, the theater is there constantly and the creativity comes from all over the world to express itself upon the New York stage, the Broadway theater. So, yes, I knew a great deal about his music, as I knew about we we really immersed ourselves in American popular music in my studies. So he was a part of my life.
Speaker 1 What do you think makes him? What do you think makes a Richard Rogers song, Richard Rodgers song? I mean, why is it so singable? And tell me whether you still sing those songs in your show.
Speaker 2 He's he's a romantic man and all the romance of what he feels. I don't know that he really has that in his personal life, so we are we are the beneficiary of the of the soul of someone who has an almost essential romanticism mean he all of his characters. Ah, ah, about. Falling in love and falling out of love and we love can take you and how it can hurt you, won't you? I mean, as did his other little ditties, but he loves he loves the sensuality of love. Sometimes even last that soul within also, he was a clean writer, he was very. The melody was always something easy to follow, and it took you where he wanted you to go with simplicity and beauty so that when you arrived there was an explosion of joy that you knew you were going there. But he he literally took you on this journey with him. It was not you know, it's not complicated.
Speaker 1 Like think whether the scenario and maybe you could talk about the interracial story again for a moment, whether you think it really worked.
Speaker 2 I have to think about that period of time and. I would say that is accomplished. For that period of time, I think for that time frame, I think it accomplished its mission. We were. Well, first of all, we were a hot ticket, so people were very anxious to see what this was all about and that's a compliment. They want to come to have their own opinion. It was a cop out, and we have to be very honest about that. It was the solution was lovely and it had its own beauty, but it certainly was a cop out. There was no way for us to determine whether these two people, as you said earlier, had ever kissed, much less havoc, have a decision. About having a life together. Moving on in the world together that we hadn't come that far and the life of Sam Taylor and Richard Rodgers, the American public, they felt had not come that far. They're certainly very as men had not come that far. It was important that it was done. And I've had these experiences in other. These other media experiences, I've had them on television, I've had them in film, but the beginning is important, so I will never minimize the fact that it was it was there and very proud to have been a part of it. I also love the fact that he wanted me to know about everything that was a part of a woman going to Europe, becoming a model, wearing beautiful clothes. How does this come about? And he chose Geraldine Stutzer and Bendl at the time to be my
Speaker 3 mentor, my guide.
Speaker 2 And that was a lovely thing for him to do. It changed my life in many ways. So many things were. And I was able to share that experience with other young women, black, Hispanic, Asian, and in the areas of choosing a women to prepare for job interviews that because I've done some of that kind. So a lot was accomplished while skirting the issue completely. A great deal was accomplished.
Speaker 1 You said that he could be kind and generous, and yet you went and he could be so cold. Cut it off. Could you maybe revisit that and tell us how he could be that or maybe having a good experience?
Speaker 2 He was he was thrilled to finish the score and he was thrilled to have shared it with us and that
Speaker 1 we just forget that again.
Speaker 2 He was thrilled to share
Speaker 3 his work, what he had accomplished with us that day. He was as excited as as he made all of us feel that day, however, as we were leaving that side of him. I was I was not prepared for the remark, which was a very unkind remark about Larry Hart and having to how wonderful it was to not have to search for him all over the world, a drunk and whatever. It was very, very, very unkind. And it was small of him, small of being. And I was shocked by that. And as I said to you before, I really I really think that that part of the character, which was not developed into the kind of human being that one would have expected, was part of what held him diminished as he grew older, something that could not flower. It can flower when you have those those feelings that goes that that, I think is a part of all creativity you have to open in order for it to. But no, the man was he was he had his arrogance and he certainly knew that he was Richard Rodgers and that he possessed this gift. And he was an old world man, very full of Harold Arlen was an old world man with a different sense of his community around him. That's what I'm trying to say. Richard Rogers community around him was a bit narrow. And it affected everything about him. While I cannot deny the genius,
Speaker 1 he had a reputation for being quite a ladies man, do you did you have any experiences or observations about that?
Speaker 2 Yes, yes.
Speaker 3 Yes, he was. He fashioned himself as a ladies man and. It really had nothing to do with with me, I, I, I was not at all disturbed by it, nor was I receptive to it in any way. And I heard lots of remarks about, well, you know what we've heard about his leading ladies. And I said, yeah, I heard that, too. But you must remember, I always have to remind people that when you're when you were raised in a ghetto, your sensibilities about yourself, about who you are, what you want, what you don't want. And I was young and I was not interested in anyone giving me anything that I didn't deserve. I was very, very adamant about that. I work for my living. You pay me. The rest of my life is my own. If we can't have that kind of arrangement, then we have no business being in each other's lives and my parents, they're their love and support gave me that the confidence to be that kind of very young woman. So we had fun as friends and very early on that was completely dispelled in any way. And don't forget, I was married. I'm very old fashioned. And had I not been married, I still would have been old fashioned. But then I brought my baby travels with me and he knew that I was mad about being a mother. And she sat on his lap on the train and went right through a diaper, right onto his 2000 wetsuit. So he had to learn to have some affection for her, too. But that was not a part of my relationship with him.
Speaker 1 I take us to the Tony Awards and tell us how that was for you and and whether he was also jealous.
Speaker 3 Oh, he was extremely generous. I mean, I knew that every hair on my head was important to him. I knew that every piece of clothing that I wore was important to him. I knew that the manner in which I was treated and handled had become even more important to him than when he was introduced to me initially. And I felt like a pampered child the way I was ushered in and our table. And we were all very excited. He was very filled with pride and he didn't hide that. And I really appreciated that. I was very sentimental when I went up to accept my award and I thought I've made an absolute fool of myself. But it was clear to everyone that I was very moved by the fact that he had pursued me to do to do this properly. That's what I was trying to say while I was a bit bit overplaying it. You know, I got a little Baptist priest preacher in
Speaker 2 there while I was accepting.
Speaker 3 But yeah, I had great affection for it for him.
Speaker 1 This is one of those circumstances where you miss the subject, because my question is, I mean, maybe you could just introduce it again and bring us tell us what it was that you got nominated and you won the Tony.
Speaker 3 Oh, all right.
Speaker 1 I brought Tony Awards.
Speaker 3 I was nominated for a Tony for No Strings. And during that period, I could only say to you that he was not only excited, he was joyous that that had happened and he was so protective. And everything about my appearance at the Tonys that evening, he attended to from every hair on my head, the clothing, the how I was ushered in and how I was dealt with. I was treated. It was a glorious experience to see. He was like my father that night. It was wonderful.
Speaker 1 How do you think your brother should?
Speaker 3 Well, he's given us some of the most important American musical theater that we've that we have, and I think that's the most important part of his legacy, that he was repeatedly so successful and it became internationally something that others try to emulate. His style was completely his own. He was an innovator. And. He he has the kind of importance for us. Because this is ours, this is American musical, Broadway, New York theater, it's ours and the world knows that and they try as best they can to emulate. And he's certainly one of the pioneers of of of that important part of our. Our legacy.
Speaker 1 Thank you. If I missed anything, but he has a question. OK.
Unidentified So this week's.
Speaker 1 Well, now we talked about the suite of sounds a little bit.
Speaker 3 We did. About the first time we heard it, we talked about that.
Speaker 1 Yeah, I forgot to preface my remarks by saying if you want to know how many bars of anything, that
Speaker 2 would be great.
Speaker 3 But if you want to ask about the sweetest sounds, that's fine, OK?
Speaker 1 Did it have some meaning for you then, and does it have any change, meaning as you've grown?
Speaker 3 Well, what I remember most about the sweetest sounds. Is that every night for the entire run? Hearing it was at the very beginning. And he used a small orchestra, which was exciting because the voice really was the important instrument and having the responsibility of those notes.
Speaker 2 Almost a acappella
Speaker 3 in that theater as an introduction. Was an awesome responsibility and I loved it. It was so clean, as I say, and it was it was so beautiful because it was standing behind a screen. And as the screen turned. The light came up and there I was and he allowed me to be not only beautiful, the clothes and so on and so forth, but to open my mouth and to sing those words. It today I only remember it as. One of the joyous times of my life, I don't think it has changed for me, the meaning of it has changed. For me, it's it is what it is and it will remain that always.
Speaker 1 Maybe you want to tell us about the innovations of the show, no strings attached, that the orchestra was out of the right for. We were right. No strings. And I guess my question is, did it feel innovative to you at the time?
Speaker 3 From the very beginning, we all knew that we were a part of something that was a new kind of theater, having single instruments. The members of the orchestra walk across the stage, the clarinet, and they were interwoven with the sort of a Greek chorus with the with the actors, but no relating to each other. It was just the way he allowed us to hear the melody again without having to reprise constantly and. The fact that they were there and we did not relate to them, we knew that was something I'd never seen it before in musical theater, that was completely from his point of view and using very sparse sets to create the beach was on a platform that was you just folded it really and you went. But the set, combined with the costumes, we were all of a sudden we were on the beach. It was a creation, a very, very gifted people, the choreography being a part of all of it, that made it one of those special evenings that I see people today who I will never forget sitting in that audience and watching that. And, you know, the reference to it is, is because of his creativity. I never hear reference to it. And in connection with the interracial love story, it's always about the screens and the musicians and the songs and the costumes. And that's why he's that's why he's Richard Rodgers.
Speaker 2 All right, you have one woman to make a.
Speaker 4 This beautiful a fishing expedition, but I remember talking to her Belafonte once about an experience he had in which he was producing a variety show for television around the same time. And I remember this early 60s in that show, there was a scene where
Speaker 1 he was supposed to hold hands for the wedding
Speaker 2 on television, Julie Andrews.
Speaker 4 And they may may well be and the sponsor of the show basically said, you take that out or we cancel the show while he's had a plea deal. And he said, fine, cancel the show because you're paying anyway. I'm just the reason I'm bringing this up. I'm wondering if you in this show had any similar experiences of pressure, if you knew any stories of pressure about
Speaker 3 the interracial contact? No, no, I really didn't. I'm sure I was asked questions when I traveled about the interracial relationship, when I when I was interviewed. But no, I really didn't have that. We all lived through those experiences that Harry lived through. I was the one that I recall as I think he touched Julie Andrews. And then I was cut out of the show. And then there's another one where he put his arm around someone. And that was the same thing happened to me all the time. But it doesn't really relate to my experience in it. No strings.