When I lived in NYC in the mid-1970s, & I was studying at HB Studios, I was living with my sorta boyfriend- WCK3 ( who was studying at Julliard) & I working at ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers). This was a fabulous job as a “music monitor”. I had a small cubicle in the ASCAP building, with a huge window that looked out at Lincoln Center & a smack on view of the Chagall tapestries at the Metropolitan Opera House. It remains one of my favorite jobs of all time, & one of the perks was frequent house seats for Broadway musicals.
The big musical of the moment was a little thing called- A Chorus Line, but my own favorite was the somewhat less popular- Chicago. I loved this show, directed & choreographed by Bob Fosse & I saw it when ever I got a chance. It starred Chita Rivera, Jerry Orbach & Gwen Verdon. At some point,Gwen Verdon fell ill, the victim of swallowing a feather from her costume & she was replaced for 1 month by someone named Liza Minnelli. I was so excited to see Liza up close & personal. ASCAP secured, for me, 2 tickets for her 1st night in the role. WCK3 could not attend, but he suggested that I bring his friend & classmate at Julliard- Bebe.
I felt bad that I had been taunting Bebe, because she shared a name with the Seattle Zoo’s famous gorilla. Beebee & BoBo were a very famous gorilla couple at the Seattle Zoo, & WCK3’s friend had to suffer through my gorilla jokes. I was glad to have a date for Liza’s Chicago debut, & Bebe seemed to have forgiven my ribbing. We had a great date at the theatre, with drinks at Joe Allen’s after the show. I wish that I had been portentous at the time, about my date was Bebe Neuwirth. I would loved to have told her that she would someday go on to win a Tony Award as Velma Kelly, in the most successful revival in Broadway history- Chicago (She would also be the 2nd Sheila in that other show- A Chorus Line): “Hey Bebe… someday, you will win a Tony award for this show & you will go on to be a big Broadway & TV star (winning 2 Emmy awards for her take on Dr. Lilith Sternin on Cheers), how about a kiss? She was a swell date. I regret not trying to make out with her at the end of our evening.
Things turned out pretty well for Bebe. For the last year she has been starring with Nathan Lane in The Aadams Family on Broadway. Bebe never thanks me in her award speeches, although I was the perfect date, footing the cost of the tickets & the drinks, & every bit the gentleman. Today is Bebe Neuwirth’s birthday. I will never forget our date.
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