Elaine Stritch, Broadway legend and TV veteran, passed away this morning. She was 89.
Stritch had a long and illustrious career on stage, originating roles in Company and Bus Stop, and performing in many, many others. She also created a hugely successful one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, that won her a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event, and an Emmy for the televised version. Her exuberant Emmy speech is one for the history books. She also appeared in several TV shows and films, most recently and notably her stint as Colleen Donaghy on 30 Rock.
Stritch was known her style—a uniform of an oversized white button down shirt and black tights—and her suffer no fools attitude, which was perfectly captured in what be came her signature song: Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch."
Here's how Clive Barnes reviewed Elaine Stritch in "Company" for the NYT in 1970. pic.twitter.com/dmjaiU5mUp— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) July 17, 2014
As her New York Times obituary notes, "Ladies Who Lunch" remained her theme, until her 70s when Sondheim's "I'm Still Here," from Follies took over. A clip of Stritch performing—and at times struggling through—that song at the White House is particularly poignant.
Stritch's haunt was the Café Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel where she lived for many years. She played her farewell engagement there in April 2013. Stephen Holden wrote for the New York Times that "everyone in the room was keenly aware that this might be the last hurrah of a blazing, cranky, funny stage personality who is, in a word, irreplaceable."
A documentary about her life, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me by Chiemi Karasawa, was released this year, and chronicled her life's work and her continued drive to perform despite her failing health. Stritch was a recovering alcoholic and suffered from diabetes. Stritch was married to actor John Bay, whose family ran Bay's English Muffins, which Stritch ate religiously.
Stritched also reached audiences outside of New York thanks to her work in television. She played school teacher Mrs. McGee on The Cosby Show. For a perfect moment, head to the 21 minute mark for a few bars of Stritch's rendition of "The Man I Love."
For many years she played Colleen Donaghy, the imperious mother of Alec Baldwin's Jack, on 30 Rock. In the final season she faced her own mortality in a way only Colleen/Stritch could.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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