My first professional theatre job was Lighting Director at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, which billed itself as the "second largest theatre in the United States," with some 8,000 seats and lawn seating for some 6,000 more. We performed seven nights a week, with dress rehearsals begriming at midnight on Saturdays, and playing a new Broadway musical each week for ten weeks. This was my first experience meeting and working with professional performers and celebrated individuals, and I have been fortunate to meet others over the years.

Senator and Mrs. John F. Kennedy strolled past the Georgetown University Mask and Bauble Offices one Sunday afternoon and stopped to say hello when students rushed out to greet them. Mrs. Kennedy remembered this occasion, and when the Kennedys moved to The White House, I received a call inviting us to provide lighting and technical support for East Room performances, which we did throughout the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Of course, many notables were in every audience. Subsequently, as President of the National Theatre, I met other celebrities. However fleeting, encounters with the famous are fun and memorable, but I never really thought much about asking for autographs or photo ops. I recall happily some of the notables I encountered -- now living and dead -- here.


Pearl Bailey - 1918 – 1990
I first saw "Pearly Mae" in vaudeville at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington. The theatre had fallen on hard times and Miss Bailey caught her heel in a crack in the stage floor. Of course she responded with a wilting ad-lib about the management. I wrote a fan letter and months later received a hand-written response on pale blue stationery. I met her later when she played the National Theatre in Hello, Dolly! and saw her often on the Georgetown University campus when she came to take classes
while I was teaching there. Sassy, classy, talented lady.

  Warren Beatty - 1937
I met Mr. Beatty very briefly when I was studying at the University of Wisconsin and he was shooting scenes for a film on location in Chicago. He was, let's say, stoic, as opposed to gregarious. Well, he was an actor at the end of a long day's shooting so we can't hold that against him. I am told that Warren was a stage doorman at the National Theatre as a teenager, and his sister, Shirley MacLaine, was an usher. The stage door opened directly into an alley and NT Theatre lore has it that one of his duties was chasing rats out of the alley before the stars arrived or departed. The alley, fortunately, no longer exists.
  Harry Blackstone, Sr. - 1885-1965
"The Great Blackstone," a childhood idol, was the last of the old-time magicians with an elaborate traveling show. In a more innocent time, my parents allowed a group of us - in about the fourth grade - to go un-chaperoned by bus from Leavenworth, Kansas to the Tower Theatre in Kansas City Missouri, to see his performance, which was sandwiched between film showings. We arranged to arrive just in time to see his first show from the back of the theatre. We would then rush to the front of the auditorium to get first-row seats for the movie and the next state show. Getting Mr. Blackstone's autograph backstage was my first up-close brush with celebrity.

Theodore Bikel - 1924
Tamara Brooks - 1941-2012
I had the pleasure of playing a major role onstage with Mr. Bikel in a reading of Tennessee Williams Ten Blocks on the Camino Real. We performed in Georgetown's elegant old Gaston Hall in 2011, with a large cast of students, alumni and local actors, directed by Professor Derek A. Goldman. We all had a marvelous experience with the gentlemanly Mr. B., and his engaging wife, conductor Tamara Brooks, who also participated in the production, creating a variety of grand sound effects. Tamara was an advocate for victims of childhood violence.

  Patrick Buchanan - 1938
Pat was a student of mine in a Public Speaking course at Georgetown University. He was then, as now, talkative, rambunctious, strongly opinionated, and, as I remember, disruptive. He got a low grade at the quarter and was unhappy with me for not giving him a better final grade in the course, although his class participation and performance did not, in my recollection, improve
. But he certainly learned to speak in public...


  President George H.W. - 1924
and Barbara Bush - 1925

The White House brought wine and hors d'oeuvres for an intimate intermission party in a secluded hallway at The National Theatre at a performance of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. The President, his wife, and other members of the family were present. Mrs. Bush somewhat unpatriotically lamented that, "We should have more shows like this. Not that... that... Tennessee Williams stuff!"


Alyson Cambridge
The opera singer grew up two doors away from me in Arlington, Virginia. I once succeeded in getting her to sing for the guests at a neighborhood party. It was an amazing pleasure to watch her ascend to appearances at major opera houses all over the world. In 2012 the Chicago Lyric Opera hung a 5-story poster of Alyson on the outside of its building. She's come a long way from Arlington.



Julia Cameron - 1948
The author of many inspirational books, and developer of "The Artist's Way," a guide to increased creativity, Julia is a prolific writer and a spiritual, motivational guide to many people. I directed her as a dancer in an original musical when she was a student at Georgetown. She was bright, charming and easy to work with.



Carol Channing - 1921
The indomitable "Dolly" performed at the National Theatre on a number of occasions. I once accompanied her to the Washington Press Club where she made a delightful speech. We have maintained personal contact over the years. Carol is a Larger-than-Life Force and a truly gracious, giving and generous person.


Bill Clinton - 1946
I met President Clinton when he came to a performance of Grease at the National Theatre and came backstage to meet Rosie O'Donnell and the cast. He certainly has an open and electric personality and seems genuinely pleased to meet people. His exuberance is infectious.

  Hilary Clinton - 1947
My friend, Cynthia Schneider, induced me to buy a $25 ticket to a fundraiser for Bill Clinton, someone I had never heard of. I waited in the back of a dimly-lit DC bar with a small stage on which he finally appeared. After his speech, he was mobbed, but Hilary went unnoticed, so I chatted with her. She was relaxed and charming. I met her again when she attended a reading I directed in the Helen Hayes Gallery in 1997.

Dame Edna Everage (Barry Humphries)- 1934
When an after-performance party was arranged in the National Theatre Helen Hayes Gallery, Dame Edna came in the charming person of Mr. Barry Humphries, an elegant Australian gentleman in three-piece suit with a gold watch chain on his vest. Mr. Humphries was just as charming and just as quick-witted, although not quite as acerbic as his grand, quick-witted, tart-tongued, violet-haired alter-ego, Dame Edna Everage.



Placido Domingo - 1941
When I was president of the National Theatre and Mr. Domingo was heading the Washington Opera, he came one day to inspect the National as a possible venue for chamber opera. He was all business, accompanied by a party of some half-dozen people, and was disappointingly brisk and moody rather than gracious.



Catherine Doucet - 1875-1958
Miss Doucet was a stage and film actress who appeared in the summer of 1954 at Olney Theatre, where I was working as a stage technician. We ate in a communal dining room where she enjoyed shocking the summer interns by eating the shells of her soft-boiled eggs each morning, declaring them a healthful source of calcium. She was a vivacious, impressive presence.


  Garth Drabinsky - 1949
Canadian producer of the brilliant stage musical Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and my all-time-favorite musical Ragtime, came to the National Theatre when the latter show tried out pre-Broadway. At a reception on that occasion, as he shook my hand, he looked away to see who else was in the room. Not impressive. In 2009, he was convicted and sentenced to prison for fraud and forgery. His sentence is stayed, pending appeal.

  Athol Fugard - 1932
The celebrated South African playwright and actor came to my playwriting class in the Walsh building and was both eloquent and practical. Very down-to-earth, he connected immediately with the students and gave them broad insights and encouragement in their playwriting, and its power. He was an exemplar as a humble artist who substantially changed his own society and country. He seemed to me a great and grounded man.

  Henry Gibson - 1935-2009
We studied at Catholic university together, and as scholarship students, worked together in the Speech and Drama Department office - protégés of Father Hartke. Henry was at that time James Bateman, bright, energetic, and already endowed with a zesty sense of humor. As a well-educated actor and a man with a lovable mischievousness, he chose a stage name apparently alluding to the dour Scandinavian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. Jimmy was eager, pleasant and understated, with an infectious laugh and a generous nature.
  Brendan Gill - 1914–1997
The author of 15 books, Brendan wrote regularly for the New Yorker magazine for almost sixty years. I served with him on the faculty at a three-week session of the Salzburg Seminar one summer in Austria. He was the epitome of sophistication, a great storyteller with a wry Irish wit and a zesty enthusiasm for life, and he was as kind as anyone I ever met.


Gilbert V. Hartke, O.P. - 1907-1986
A child film actor and Notre Dame football player, Father Hartke established the famed Speech and Drama Department at Catholic University, which has produced countless actors, writers, directors and producers which achievements on stage, in films, and in academia. With a larger-than-life personality, Hartke
"knew everyone" in show business and in Washington, DC. He lunched and dined with notables, but returned each night to the Dominican House near Catholic University. He was my mentor, and I owe my career to him.



Helen Hayes - 1900-1993
With Stephen Moore, I had the pleasure of meeting Helen Hayes a number of times when we were writing a book about her. We spent a day with her in her charming home in Nyack, NY. I met her again at the home of Richard Coe, and again on the occasion when we dedicated the Helen Hayes Gallery at the National Theatre in her honor. She was lively, witty, cordial, and kind on all occasions. After the dedication someone suggested she return to her hotel to rest. "Gracious, no!" she replied, "We must go see the show at the National Gallery of art!"


Jim Henson - 1936 - 1990
The creator of the Muppets was a recent college graduate when I worked for a summer as a Floor Manager at NBC-TV Channel 4 in Washington. He did solo live commercials on a table-top set for a local dairy, with cartons of milk and his puppet moppets. He was genial and accommodating, and we hurried him out of the way for the upcoming live News Show, when we should have been offering to work for him! Nice man, whose grand Muppet characters live on.




Katherine Hepburn - 1907-2003
Miss Hepburn came to the National Theatre in 1975 to perform in Enid Bagnold's play, A Matter of Gravity. I was in the welcoming party when Heburn arrived and was brought through the theatre's then run-down auditorium on the way to her dressing room. Paint was peeling high on the wall above the box to the right of the stage. The star stopped abruptly mid-aisle with an icy glare. "If you don't have anyone available to paint that wall, then get me a ladder and I will do it myself!" The wall was quickly painted for her opening night.

  Delores DeFina Hope - 1908-2011
In 1962, at Georgetown University, I directed an original musical called Show Me the Way to Go, Homer written by Tony Hope, the son of Bob and Delores. Tony's mother, a singer in her own right, came to see the performance in Holy Trinity Theatre and we sat together. She was the epitome of charm, elegance and graciousness.

Sally Ann Howes - 1930
The delightful British actress, born into a London theatrical family, appeared in many film roles in childhood, and eventually followed Julie Andrews on Broadway in the original My Fair Lady
, and played Eliza in many other productions of the musical. She won a Tony Award on for Brigadoon on Broadway, and she repeated that role on television. Her long career included many other stage appearances and films including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Anna Karennina. I met her at a party given by the Patrick Flynns, Senior and Junior, in Florida, 2012.

  José Iturgi - 1895-1980
and Dame Amparo Iturbi Báguena
A famous pianist and harpsichordist, José came with his sister to play a dual-piano concert at Fort Leavenworth as part of a Community Concert Series when I was in high school. They cordially signed autographs for me after the performance. José appeared in several Hollywood films.

Michael Jackson - 1958-2009
I attended one of Mr. Jackson's early concerts and remember little about it except the massive crowd between us and the singer, who was barely discernable in the far distance. Some years later, hearing in the lobby of the Hale Koa hotel in Hawaii that he was about to arrive at the Hilton next door, I went over for a closer look. There were few people around as the singer emerged from his limousine surounded by security guards. Michael waved, and swiftly disappeared into the hotel.

  Bernard Jacobs - 1916-1996
Mr. Jacobs began his career as a young lawyer working for the Shubert brothers, and after a tumultuous period, rose to the Presidency of the Organization. Intense and intimidating, Bernie and I had a long, occasionally stormy relationship when the Shubert Organization took over the management of The National Theatre, when I was its President. We always managed to remain friends nevertheless.

Lyndon Johnson and Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson
1908-1973 1912-2007
Most remarkably, I remember a day we were at the White House setting up lighting all day. In the afternoon I heard the President speak out on the South Lawn to a large number of political supporters. He wore a cowboy hat and boots, and spoke in a very folksy down-home drawl. That evening in the East Room, he wore black tie, and spoke with very elegant distinction. Lady Bird was always graceful and dignified, and Lynda Bird vociferous. Lucy was studying at Georgetown at this time.


Cherry Jones - 1956
When she came to the National Theatre starring as the stern nun in Doubt, our mutual friend, Julia Pomeroy, asked Ms. Jones if she would host a small reception for our intimate National Theatre Circle. She responded, "I will be there, and I shall shake every hand!" Which, true to her word, she did, with great warmth and elan: She is stunning onstage and charming off.

  John F. Kennedy - 1917-1963
In a receiving line at The White House, he reached across in front of the Shah of Iran to thank me for assisting with the East Room theatricals. I saw him "in action" with White House guests dozens of times, always energetic and outgoing. Social Secretary Letitia Baldridge and Head Usher J.B. West were efficient, effervescent, and occasionally mischievous members of the Kennedy White House Staff. Both wrote books about those heady days.
  Robert F. Kennedy - 1925-1968
The young Attorney General was his own man. I first saw him in person was sitting at the rear of the audience at a very formal White House concert, jovially smoking a cigar. I met him again, at the Press Club, and had this picture taken with him. He was handsome and magnetic.
  Brooks Laich - 1983
An amazing hockey player with the Washington Capitals, Brooks is the quintessential Canadian gentleman. I met him by sheer accident and he has become a friend whom I see occasionally. He seems as serious, honorable and laser-focused off the ice as on, but with a cool sense of humor: a remarkable, low-key, highly disciplined young man in every respect. He gives hockey, sports and Canadians, a good name.
  Joshhua Logan - 1908-1988
Mr. Logan directed many original Broadway productions including Bus Stop and Picnic and the musicals Annie Get Your Gun, Fanny, Paint Your Wagon and Wish You Were Here, and South Pacific, both on stage and on film, and won Academy Awards. He was married to the charming former actress, Nedda Harrington. It was my pleasure to be their host at a dinner of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre, arranged by Margaret Lynn. The conversation was memorable and spirited.

  Margaret Lynn - 1924-2002
A graduate of the Catholic University Speech and Drama Department, Ms. Lynn was my close personal friend, mentor and colleague. She was a Radio City Rockette, and understudied Ethel Merman on Broadway. She was then a USO entertainer overseas, and organized the U.S. Army Entertainment Program, which she headed for many years. She was the tireless champion for hundreds of civilian entertainment directors across the globe, creating resource materials, bringing them to Washington for workshops and establishing awards honoring their work.

  Jeanette MacDonald - 1903-1965
Famous for screen roles opposite Nelson Eddy, Miss McDonald starred at the Starlight Theater in The King and I. She was cordial, but quite proper and formal. One evening I stepped into the chorus rehearsal room and saw Miss MacDonald taking a nap on a couch with a towel over her eyes in the center of the large empty room. She used the space as her dressing room, and the floor was covered with white sheets to protect the enormous hoop skirts which she wore. I slipped out immediately, but the scene was unforgettable.
  General Douglas MacArthur - 1880-1964
I did not meet the General in person, but when, in 1951, an angry President Truman removed him from his position of Supreme Commander in Japan for insubordination, he made a triumphant return to the United States. As a Corporal stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, I saw him in an enormous crowd at Soldier Field in Chicago. After suitable preliminaries the lights darkened, and MacArthur appeared in an open convertible, in a cloud of exhaust from a ring of police motorcycles, and lit by perhaps a dozen arc follow-spots. I had the uneasy feeling that had he wanted to depose Truman and become dictator he just might have managed it.

  Giselle Mackenzie - 1927-2003
Then a very popular Canadian film star and singer, Giselle appeared at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City. She was gracious and unassuming, but could be very formal. My most vivid recollection is that she greeted fans backstage very methodically, sitting at a little table as her admirers stood in line for autographs.

Rachel Maddow - 1973
Having spent many of my adult weekday nights in rehearsals at Georgetown, The American Light Opera Company, or Chestnut Lodge Hospital, and many of my weekend nights either going to theatre, partying, or otherwise enjoying myself, I can honestly say that I never, ever, watched a television series with any consistency... that is until Rachel came along. Now I'm tuned in five nights a week. I encountered her briefly at a fundraising dinner, just long enough to give her a compliment and a hug. She was most gracious.


David Murphy
My nephew, David, has had a long and successful career as a newscaster and weatherman on ABC Channel 6 in Philadelphia. He played the lead in a grade-school production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and then appeared as a child on television commercials and soap operas. He next acted at Arena Stage in Washington, and toured with Theodore Bikel in Fiddler on the Roof.


  Paul Newman - 1925-2008
Really, really brief, silent, but unforgettable encounter: We passed each other in the revolving door at Sardi's in New York, and he flashed me that trademark smile through the glass. Instant dazzle. This was impressive to me as I heard later that he, like many (most?) celebrities, did not especially relish being recognized in public. Newman was a film star who retained his dignity. I passed Rock Hudson on a theatre stairway once -- not so memorable. Establishing Newman's Own food brand, Paul dedicatred 100% of the profits to charity, amounting $300 million as of 2010. Paul imortalized himself as a very generous man.

The Two Michaels: Eisner 1942
and Ovits 1946
We met in the lobby of the Kennedy Center at the Washington opening of Beauty and the Beast. I was the guest of Mr. Eisner, CEO of Disney, and his lovely wife, Jane. Their son, Breck, was my student at Georgetown at the time. The Eisners were very warm and gracious. Michael Ovits, then Disney President, seemed rather distracted, and was only interested in how one of the magic tricks in the show worked. Mirrors, Michael.


  Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - 1929-2004
I saw Mrs. Kennedy on a number occasions at The White House. One afternoon during a rehearsal with The American Ballet, I suddenly found her, with Caroline, sitting beside me on one of the long upholstered benches. In her low purring voice she asked, "Would you tell Caroline what this dance is about?" On another occasion, I encountered her when she had just alighted on the West Lawn by helicopter. Her hair had been blown into a huge hurricane twist and she was laughing delightfully.
  James Rado (formerly Radomski) - 1932
He studied in Catholic University Speech and Drama Department under Father Hartke, OP, when I was there. He rocketed to fame, changing his name, and, with Jerry Ragni, creating HAIR on Broadway.
  Gerome Ragni - 1935-1991
I knew Gerry as a friend of the Cole sisters. They used to do off-hand "performace art", like finding mops and buckets in a corner of Union Station, picking them up and continguing mopping the floor. One gloomy, rainy Saturday, Gerry took us to the lodgings of elderly couple he had discovered on Dupont Circle. They unpacked ancient marionettes, and Gerry led in improvisatory theatre. His creativity and love of adventure were remarkable and infectious.

Cathy Rigby - 1952
America's Peter Pan, Ms. Rigby has played the leading role in the musical thousands of times, certainly a record that would be very, very hard to beat. The musical demands not only singing and acting, but being adept at acrobatics and high-wire-flying, in which a misstep could cause a sprained ankle -- or a broken back. She is a real trouper, and, in person -- after an exhausting performance in Branson, Missouri, 2010, -- relaxed, energetic, completely charming and, uh, well, down-to-earth.


Chita Rivera - 1933
Ms. Rivera kindly agreed to be the guest of honor at a National Theatre Donor Thank You dinner some years ago. It was my pleasure to "collect her" at the train station upon her arrival from New York. She is as delightful and sharp in person as in public persona, and it was a pleasure to talk with her. She, of course, charmed everyone at the dinner.
Talent + Substance.


Inga Rundvold - 1920-2004
The first summer that I spent in Washington, DC, in 1954, I had a job as a floor manager for WRC-TV, Channel 4. Each Friday we had a program called Inga's Angle. Our glamorous star was the wife of a Washington diplomat. Occasionally, she "cooked," actually putting together a cake or pie prepared for her. She sometimes arrived late and was frantic to be instructed in what she was to do with "her" cooking. On camera, whe was composed and convincing.

  Antonin Scalia - 1936
When the sitting Justice of the Supreme Court was a student, I directed him in the lead role of a play about the Jesuits called The First Legion. Nino was an intense, serious student who knew his lines, always carried a book, and kept seriously busy studying whenever he was off-stage. He was prompt, alert, took direction, and was overall an impressive actor and a pleasure to deal with.
  Gerald Schoenfeld - 1924-2008
Jerry, longtime Chairman of the Shubert Organization, began his career as a young attorney for the tempestuous Shubert brothers, and inherited their drive and intimidating vitality. We had a long and genial, if occasionally tempestuous, relationship when Shubert took over management of the National Theatre. I respected Jerry, and we joked together about our bald heads.




Thomas Schumacher -
Tom is the President of the Disney Theatrical Group, responsible for the presentation of Disney productions on Broadway. My friend, Ron Logan, was the head of Disney World in Florida, when he convinced Michael Eisner to send the theme park Beauty and the Beast to Broadway. Since then Tom has brought The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins and other shows to Broadway, to London and to Europe, and sent them on American tours.


  Penny Singleton - 1908-2003
Miss Singleton played Blondie in the "Dagwood and Blondie" films. When I was introduced to her as the Lighting Director at the Starlight Theater in Kansas City, where she was to be Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, she smiled seductively and purred, "Mother likes Shubert Pink." I bathed her in "Shubert Pink" and she sparkled.

  Oliver Smith - 1918-1984
I worked closely with the urbane and charming Mr. Smith when he created a new interior design for the National Theatre in the late 1970's. He had designed dozens of Broadway musicals, films (Guys and Dolls, The Band Wagon, Oklahoma!, Porgy and Bess), and operas. Throughout his career, he was nominated for twenty-five Tony Awards, often multiple times in the same year, and won ten. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction for his work on Guys and Dolls.

  Elizabeth Taylor - 1932-2011
I met the famed American Beauty at a National Theatre reception in her honor. Elizabeth gave you 100% attention with her purring voice, while riveting you with her laser intensity violet eyes. I don't remember what we talked about, but the moment was entrancing - and then suddenly, fleetingly - she was gone. I encountered her again at a party at her home in Virginia, when she was married to Senator John Warner. Unforgettable: star quality personified.

Norma Terris - 2004-1989
Miss Terris originated the role of Magnolia in Showboat at the National Theatre in 1927. When I was directing the show for The American Light Opera Company in 1961, I invited her to come from her home in Connecticut to one of our performances. She arrived on the train, elegant, all in black, alone, and veiled. she reminisced about the original production. Climbing atop a piano at a cast party after the show, she did a devastating impersonation of an inebriated Helen Morgan (who had created the role of Julie) singing "Bill" from the show.




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