Joan Rivers and Elaine Stritch being omitted from the In Memoriam at last night’s Oscars was the biggest snub of all.
After a rousing speech by Patricia Arquette about equal pay for women that received such a loud cheer, it aroused Meryl Streep out of her seat as she fist pumped the sky. Yes. Women in the work force should get equal pay. They also deserve respect. Even if they’ve had to be total hard asses to get there. And yes – they both worked in film – especially Stritch.
Joan Rivers, with her outspoken views and screw you attitude never made friends with the right people. Johnny Carson excluded her from the mainstream of show business because she wanted to do her own show without asking him first. She never appeared on ‘The Tonight Show’ again – even when Jay Leno hosted – which by then – wasn’t even The Tonight Show anymore. It wasn’t until until Jimmy Fallon, the host with the heart, invited her back – breaking this stupid, ridiculous ban once and for all.
Joan passed away at the wrong time. Yes, she was over 80, but she wasn’t finished. Not by a long shot. She had dates arranged, projects to deliver, performances schedule, Fashion Police, Red Carpet kvetching – this woman was the epitome of talent, ambition and vibrancy. Then one day, she went in for some throat nodule surgery, and she’s gone.
Elaine Stritch, on the other hand, was in semi-retirement. Elaine was star of the Broadway stage and in films since the 1940’s, heading to New York to study at the Actor’s Studio while staying in a convent her favorite nun back home in a swanky suburb of Detroit Michigan had recommended.
Watch her famously renown Broadway and West End stage show “Elaine Stritch: Live at Liberty”. She talks about alcoholism, her difficulty getting roles. She was up for the role of Dorothy Zbornak in ‘The Golden Girls’ but got iced out at the audition when she got snarky with the show runner. One time, she was in a stage performance of “The Women” with Joan Fontaine and Gloria Swanson where her bad behavior moved her fellow actresses to write a letter to the producer asking them to fire her. Only Gloria had her back. When she was about to co-star in Woody Allen’s film “September” – he wrote a letter to her stating that he knew her reputation, and hoped she’d be understanding of the way he does things – or else he would have to ask her to leave the project. She did the film. She also framed the letter.
In recent years, she guest starred on ’30 Rock’ as Jack’s hilariously racist, hard nosed mother Colleen. Off set, Elaine moved into the Carlyle Hotel on the upper east side and set up residency at their cafe where she did cabaret every night, decked out in her signature attire – a giant loose white shirt and black tights with suede low heeled shoes.
In time, she tired of her sixty plus years in New York and went back home to Detroit, where stomach cancer took her life at the age of 89. No one has commended her in end of year tributes.
Both women were as salty and demanding as Frank Sinatra. Both women were as talent ed and charismatic in their field as Milton Beryl (who was apparently horrible to his writers – and reflected in Joan’s Fashion Police WGA dispute a few years ago). Both women misbehaved like Marlon Brando, were cranky like Russell Crowe, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis rolled into one. But in the end, they struggle for perfection, for their talent to be heard. They demanded on sharing their gift – even if the boys club didn’t want it. They weren’t talentless divas. They weren’t difficult because of ego. They were hard because they had to be to survive. And they expected nothing less from those around them. Please, if they were senselessly awful – I wouldn’t be writing this! Yet, sadly, in the end, they are the ones Hollywood wants to forget.
So, when we talk about equal pay, lets also bring in respect. Respect for talent. Respect for tenacity. Respect for longevity. No matter what you thought of these ladies – too brash, nasty, ornery – or their gifts weren’t your cup of tea – it doesn’t matter. In their own way, and in many ways equal to their male counterparts, they paved a road with their own special bulldozer, allowing the young women behind them to follow suit.
The ladies left us this year. Everybody rise!