Transcript: Gwen Verdon | Jul 12, 1998

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a ballet performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of Richard Ouzounian standing next to a woman in a large room with a wall mirror: “Gwen Verdon. Actor.”

Then, Richard appears facing the screen. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a gray suit, black shirt, and checkered gray tie.

He says WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST
TIME YOU FELL IN LOVE?
I DO.
IT WAS ABOUT 40
YEARS AGO.
I WAS SITTING IN THE
46TH STREET THEATRE
AND WATCHING A SHOW
CALLED
REDHEAD.
THIS LADY GOT UP ONSTAGE
AND SANG A NUMBER CALLED,
“ERBIE FITCH'S TWITCH.”
AND AT THE END OF IT, MY
HEART WAS GONE FOREVER.
TOOK ME LONG ENOUGH,
BUT I FINALLY
GOT A CHANCE
TO TELL HER.
THIS
DIALOGUE
IS
WITH GWEN VERDON.

Gwen is in her sixties, with short curly blond hair. She’s wearing a purple sweatshirt.

Richard continues GWEN, ALL THESE YEARS
AND YOU DIDN'T KNOW
I WAS IN LOVE WITH
YOU ALL THIS TIME!

Gwen says NO, BUT I'M SO GLAD
IT WAS THAT SHOW.
THAT WAS MY FAVOURITE
SHOW OF ALL SHOWS.

Richard says NOW, HOW COME?
WAS IT BECAUSE IT WAS
THE FIRST THAT Mr. FOSSE
DIRECTED AS WELL
AS CHOREOGRAPHED?

A caption appears on screen. It reads “Gwen Verdon. Actor.”

Gwen says NO, IT WAS BECAUSE I LIKED
THE CHARACTER SO MUCH,
AND IT WAS NOT YOUR
TYPICAL BROADWAY SHOW.
FIRST OF ALL, IT WAS THE
FIRST MURDER MUSICAL.
IT WAS QUITE A FEW YEARS
BEFORE
SWEENEY TODD,
AND THE CHARACTER WAS
SORT OF AN UGLY DUCKLING,
OLD MAID -
STARTED THAT WAY.
SO, I REALLY LIKE
CHARACTERS LIKE THAT,
WHERE THERE'S A SWITCH.

Richard says IT WAS GREAT ALSO BECAUSE
YOU GOT TO BE FUNNY,
YOU GOT TO BE SERIOUS, YOU
GOT TO DO THE HEROINE
BEING CHASED AROUND, AND
WE WONDERED IF YOU WERE-
I THINK IT WAS ONE
OF THE CRITICS SAID,
THE ONLY THING WAS, WE KNEW
THEY WEREN'T GOING TO KILL
YOU AT THE END OF ACT I.
WE KNEW YOU'D HAVE
TO COME BACK LATER.
REDHEAD
WAS, I GUESS,
EVERYBODY FELT THE EPITOME,
IN SOME WAYS,
OF YOUR CAREER,
ALTHOUGH YOU LATER WENT ON
TO DO EVEN BETTER SHOWS
IN SOME PEOPLE'S
MIND, LIKE
CHARITY.
BUT
REDHEAD
WAS YOU; YOU
WERE THE LOGO, RIGHT?
DO YOU REMEMBER
THE AD CAMPAIGN?
IT WAS JUST YOU
IN THE LEOTARD
WITH THE HAT
UP IN THE AIR.
AND LET'S TALK A BIT
ABOUT HOW WE GOT THERE.
IT'S KIND OF A WONDER
THAT YOU TURNED OUT
TO BE A GREAT DANCER
AT ALL, FROM WHAT
YOU WENT THROUGH
AS A CHILD, RIGHT?
YOU HAD A LOT OF TROUBLE
WITH YOUR LEGS AND THINGS.

Gwen says RIGHT, BUT EVERYBODY MAKES
SUCH A TO-DO ABOUT THAT.
MY MOTHER DIDN'T; THE
DOCTOR SAID, OKAY,
WE'LL BREAK HER LEGS AND
STRAIGHTEN THEM OUT.
AND SHE SAID, WHAT EXACTLY
IS WRONG WITH THEM?
AND THEY SAID, THE MUSCLE
ON THE INSIDE OF THE LEG
IS TOO LONG FOR THE
MUSCLE ON THE OUTSIDE.
SO, THEY WOULD SWING OUT;
WE CALLED IT KNOCK KNEES.
THEY'VE GOT ANOTHER
NAME FOR IT NOW,
BUT IT WAS JUST PLAIN
OLD KNOCK KNEES.
MY MOTHER, BEING A DANCER,
DECIDED SHE WOULD
CORRECT IT ALL
BY HERSELF.
AND SHE ALMOST DID, EXCEPT
THAT SHE GOT BOOTS MADE
THAT HAD ALMOST A HIGH HEEL
ON THE INSIDE OF THE HEEL,
AND IT SLOPED TO
NOTHING ON THE OUTSIDE.
THEN, I WALKED IN
SAND IN MY BEDROOM;
THEY FILLED THE
BEDROOM FULL OF SAND -
WHICH I THOUGHT
WAS GREAT.
I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER
THIS; I WAS TWO YEARS OLD,
TWO AND THREE.
THEY NEVER BROKE
MY LEGS.
SHE DID ALL KINDS OF
EXERCISES THAT WOULD SHORTEN
THE INNER MUSCLE AND
STRETCH THE OUTER MUSCLE.
SO, BY THE TIME I WAS, OH,
12, THEY WERE STRAIGHT.
BUT I STILL WORE THOSE
CORRECTIVE SHOES,
A CORRECTIVE TYPE
SHOE, I THINK INTO
MY FIRST YEAR OF
HIGH SCHOOL.
AND THEN I HAD SUCH FUN
MADE OF ME AND MY BOOTS
THAT I WENT TO A
PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL.

Richard says WAS IT TOUGH GOING THROUGH
ALL OF THAT AND HAVING KIDS...
YOU KNOW WHAT KIDS ARE
LIKE, THEY'RE CRUEL,
AND THEY SAY
THINGS TO YOU.

Gwen says I THINK BECAUSE MY
MOTHER WAS A DANCER
AND MY FATHER WORKED
AT MGM STUDIOS,
HE WAS LIGHTING STARS LIKE
GARBO AND ELEANOR POWELL.
TARZAN - THAT
WAS MY FAVOURITE,
BECAUSE HE TAUGHT ME
TO DO THE BACKSTROKE.
AND I GOT TO PLAY WITH
ALL THE ANIMALS: CHEETAH,
THE MONKEY; THE
ELEPHANT, WHO LOVED
TO PLAY WITH BALLOONS.
ANYWAY, AS SOON AS I WAS
TAKEN OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS,
I ONLY WENT A HALF-DAY.
I WAS DANCING
ALL THAT TIME.
I WAS DOING BALLET
INCORRECTLY,
TURNED IN INSTEAD
OF TURNED OUT,
SO IT WOULD STRETCH
THAT OUTER MUSCLE.
BUT ONLY BRIEFLY DID I RUN
INTO ANY REAL CRITICISM
OR BEING MADE A FOOL OF, OR
TRIED TO BE MADE A FOOL OF,
BECAUSE OF THE CORRECTIVE
BOOTS AND ALL THAT STUFF.

Richard says WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG AND YOU
WERE TAKING DANCING LESSONS,
DID YOU SEE YOURSELF ON THE
BALLET STAGE OR THE MOVIE
STAGE, OR WAS IT BROADWAY
ALL ALONG YOU WANTED?

Gwen says I DON'T KNOW.
I JUST STUDIED BALLET;
THAT WAS THE ONLY THING
I STUDIED, EXCEPT EVERYBODY
TAP-DANCED, SO I TAP-DANCED.
BUT YOU DIDN'T STUDY IT; YOU
JUST LEARNED TO TAP-DANCE.
EVERYBODY DID
ACROBATIC DANCE,
SO I DID ACROBATIC DANCE,
BUT I DIDN'T STUDY IT.
THE ONLY TIME I REALLY
BEGAN STUDYING A VARIETY
OF DISCIPLINES WAS WHEN I
JOINED JACK COLE'S GROUP,
AND THEN I STUDIED EAST
INDIAN, AFRO-CUBAN,
ALL KINDS OF
CECCHETTI BALLET.
BUT BALLET WAS THE
ONLY THING I HAD EVER
WENT TO CLASS FOR.

Richard says YOU MENTIONED
JACK COLE.
YOU WERE GRACED IN
THAT YOU WORKED WITH
TWO OF THE MOST ORIGINAL
CHOREOGRAPHIC MINDS
OF OUR CENTURY.
PEOPLE DON'T REMEMBER COLE
AS MUCH AS THEY TALK ABOUT
FOSSE OR BEN OR
OTHER PEOPLE.
A LOT OF HIS WORK
WAS VERY UNIQUE;
HE WAS VERY DIFFERENT,
VERY SPECIAL.
WHAT WAS HE LIKE?

Gwen says WHAT WAS HE...
DO YOU MEAN AS
A PERSON?

Richard says ISN'T THE BIOGRAPHY OF
HIM CALLED
DARK ANGEL,
OR SOMETHING
LIKE THAT?
[laughing]
IS THAT ACCURATE?

Gwen says I THINK SO.
EVERYBODY WAS
AFRAID OF HIM.
I WAS NOT
AFRAID OF HIM.
MAYBE IT WAS BECAUSE I WAS
TOO NAIVE OR SOMETHING.
I JUST THOUGHT THE
WAY HE DANCED WAS
THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY
THING I'D EVER SEEN.
SO, I WENT BACKSTAGE WHERE
HE WAS PERFORMING AND SAID,
CAN I DANCE WITH
YOUR COMPANY?
I HAD QUIT DANCING
AT ABOUT AGE 16.

Richard says ANY REASON, OR...?

Gwen says I WAS JUST BORED
WITH BALLET.
I WAS NOT THAT
GOOD AT IT.
I DO THINK THAT EVERYBODY'S
GOT TO HAVE A BALLET
BACKGROUND IN ORDER TO
DO ANY KIND OF DANCE,
BECAUSE IT TEACHES SO MUCH
AND YOUR BODY BECOMES
SO DISCIPLINED.
BUT WHEN I SAW JACK
COLE DOING JAZZ,
WHICH WAS REALLY AFRICAN
IN HIGH-HEELED SHOES,
THAT WAS WATUSI.
BUT NOT WATUSI THAT
THEY DO IN DISCO BARS,
BUT OF THE MAASAI
AND BANTU TRIBES.
WE DID THAT DANCE, BUT
IN HIGH-HEELED SHOES.
I WAS INTRIGUED, AND THE EAST
INDIAN JUST FASCINATED ME.
SO, I ASKED HIM, CAN I
DANCE WITH YOUR GROUP?
I'LL GET BACK
IN CONDITION.
SO, HE SAID, OKAY.

Richard says AND THEY TALK ABOUT
HOW DEMANDING HE WAS.
BUT DID YOU FIND
THAT YOURSELF?
YOU SAID YOU WEREN'T
AFRAID OF HIM,
BUT HE WAS DEMANDING.

Gwen says OH, ABSOLUTELY, AND
SOMETIMES WE WOULD REHEARSE
EIGHT BARS OF A DANCE,
WHICH IS ABOUT
FOUR COUNTS OF EIGHT -
DANCERS' COUNTS.
WE WOULD DO THAT
ALL DAY LONG.
WE WOULDN'T GO ON
TO THE NEXT STEP,
BUT WE WERE
TRAINED AS DANCERS
BY DOING THOSE
EIGHT BARS.
THE DISCIPLINE
WAS EXTRAORDINARY -
DANCE DISCIPLINE.
AND THAT WAS IN
EVERY KIND OF DANCE,
WHETHER IT WAS BALLET - WE
ALWAYS TOOK BALLET CLASS.
WE ALWAYS STUDIED A MODERN
CLASS, WHICH, TO ME,
WAS THE MOST FABULOUS
TRAINING I'D EVER HAD
BECAUSE YOU LEARNED TO
FEEL WHAT DANCE FELT LIKE,
AND WHAT IT FELT LIKE
TO MOVE YOUR BODY
INSTEAD OF WHAT IT
LOOKED LIKE IN A MIRROR.

Richard says NOW, YOU DID WORK
WITH JACK COLE.
HE EVEN BROUGHT YOU TO
BROADWAY IN A REVUE, RIGHT?
WAS IT
ALIVE AND
KICKING,
WAS THAT IT?
OKAY, AND
SOMEWHERE IN THERE,
I WAS TRYING TO CHECK MY
HISTORY BOOKS AND I GOT:
YOU MET FOSSE WHILE YOU
WERE STILL WITH COLE
AT A MOVIE AUDITION
OR SOMETHING.
DO YOU REMEMBER
THE EXACT DAY?

Gwen says NO, BUT I DO KNOW THAT BOB
FOSSE AND MARY-ANN NILES
AUDITIONED FOR A SHOW,
ALIVE AND KICKING,
THAT WE WERE GOING TO DO,
WHICH WAS A REVUE SHOW.
HE DID NOT GET THE JOB,
BUT BOBBY GOT IT.
SO, THEY LATER DID
MOVIES TOGETHER,
AND WE ALL WENT
OUT TO DO MOVIES.
AND THEN WE WERE
ON THE SAME MGM LOT
AND I WOULD
SEE BOB DANCING.
AND I WOULD DANCE WITH
HIM AND CAROL HANEY,
BECAUSE CAROL AND
I WERE FRIENDS.
WE HAD STUDIED TOGETHER
WITH JACK COLE.

Richard says BUT WHEN YOU FINALLY GOT
YOUR BIG NEW YORK BREAK,
IT WAS NOT JACK COLE OR
BOB FOSSE ORIGINALLY,
BUT IT WAS MICHAEL
KIDD IN
CAN-CAN.

Gwen says THAT'S TRUE.

Richard says YOU HEAR ALL THESE STORIES,
BUT I HAVE TO HEAR ONE
OF THEM FROM YOU, ABOUT THE
OPENING NIGHT WHEN THEY
TORE THE PLACE
APART FOR YOU.
AND YOU HAD ACTUALLY GONE
AHEAD TO YOUR DRESSING ROOM
AND STARTED TAKING
OFF YOUR CLOTHES.

Gwen says YES.

Richard says IT'S TRUE!

Gwen says MICHAEL KIDD RAN FROM
THE BACK OF THE HOUSE -
MEANING THE BACK OF
THE AUDIENCE HOUSE.
RAN OUT OF THE HOUSE -
WE WERE PLAYING AT
THE SHUBERT THEATRE -
THROUGH SHUBERT ALLEY,
THROUGH THE STAGE DOOR,
TO MY DRESSING ROOM.
AND HE SAID, GO
OUT AND TAKE A BOW.
AND I KEPT
SAYING, FOR WHAT?
AND I HAD PULLED UP A
TOWEL IN FRONT OF ME,
BECAUSE I WAS UNDRESSED
FROM THE WAIST UP.
AND HE JUST GRABBED
ME AND HE SAID,
GO OUT AND TAKE A BOW,
AND HE PUSHED ME ONSTAGE.
WELL, IT WAS A SCENE I
HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE;
IT WAS A STREET SCENE.
SO, IT WAS IN ONE.
AND I LOOKED AT ALL
THE ACTORS ONSTAGE;
I LOOKED AT THEM, AND
THEY LOOKED AT ME,
AND I LOOKED AT
THE AUDIENCE.
I DO NOT REMEMBER
THE IMPACT OF THAT.
THE OTHER ACTORS
REMEMBERED.
BUT FOR ME, IT WAS
JUST VERY STRANGE,
AND MICHAEL WAS OFFSTAGE
SAYING, “BOW, BOW!”
SO, I BOWED AND THEN
I TURNED AROUND,
FORGETTING THAT I HAD NOT
WRAPPED THE TOWEL AROUND ME.

Richard says THAT PART OF THE
STORY I'VE NEVER HEARD.

Gwen says AND I WENT OFF.
BUT PEOPLE ALWAYS ASK ME, WHAT
DID THAT MOMENT FEEL LIKE?
IT STILL DOESN'T
FEEL LIKE ANYTHING.
I STILL DON'T KNOW
WHAT THAT MOMENT WAS.

Richard says BECAUSE IT WAS SO UNEXPECTED.

Gwen says I DO REMEMBER THOSE ACTORS
BEING ONSTAGE AND STANDING IN
A STREET SCENE, WHICH
I'D NEVER SEEN BEFORE.

Richard says SO, AFTER THIS, YOU WERE
THE TOAST OF NEW YORK,
AND JUST A LITTLE
WAYS DOWN THE LINE,
THEY DECIDED YOU WERE
GOING TO BE THE STAR
OF A NEW GEORGE ABBOTT
SHOW,
DAMN YANKEES.

Gwen says I PLAYED TWO
YEARS IN
CAN-CAN.
AND, LET ME SEE,
IT WAS LABOUR DAY,
AND THEY DID A
SPECIAL MATINEE.
I DID THE MATINEE AND DID
NOT DO THE EVENING SHOW,
BUT TOOK AN
AIRPLANE TO PARIS,
WHEN I WENT BACK TO
ASSISTING JACK COLE.
OH, THAT MY
FIRST LOVE.

Richard says SO, IT WASN'T A STRAIGHT
LINE; YOU DIDN'T JUST GO UP,
UP, UP, UP, UP.
YOU ZIGZAGGED.

Gwen says RIGHT.
I WENT TO PARIS, DID
GENTLEMEN MARRY BRUNETTES.
BECAUSE WHEN I GOT
THE JOB OF
CAN-CAN,
I WAS AT 20TH CENTURY FOX
STUDIOS ASSISTING JACK COLE.
AND THAT'S WHEN MICHAEL KIDD
SAID - BECAUSE HE WAS
ON THE NEXT SET DOING
SOMETHING WITH DAN DAILEY
AND JUNE HAVER -
I'VE FORGOTTEN WHAT.
ANYWAY, HE SAID,
WHEN THE TIME COMES,
I WANT YOU TO AUDITION FOR
A SHOW I'M GOING TO DO.
AND HE DIDN'T SPEAK TO ME;
HE SPOKE TO JACK COLE.
AND JACK COLE SAID,
GO AHEAD AND AUDITION,
YOU'LL GET A FREE
WEEKEND IN NEW YORK CITY.
ANYWAY, I WENT
AND GOT THE JOB.

Richard says NOW, COLE SAID GO AUDITION,
BUT WHEN YOU DID BECOME
A BIG SUCCESS IN ANOTHER
SHOW THAT WASN'T
HIS CHOREOGRAPHY, WAS HE
GENEROUS ABOUT IT TO YOU?

Gwen says HE THOUGHT IT WAS GREAT.

Richard says SO, HE WASN'T
THAT POSSESSIVE,
DESPITE ALL THOSE
AWFUL STORIES?

Gwen says HE WAS POSSESSIVE,
VERY POSSESSIVE.
BUT HE WAS POSSESSIVE
IN A VERY DIFFERENT WAY.
WHEN I WAS WITH JACK COLE,
I WAS TOO YOUNG TO WORK
IN NIGHTCLUBS, SO HIS
MOTHER TRAVELLED WITH US.
AND I WOULD HAVE TO
BE IN HER CUSTODY
WHILE WE DANCED IN
NIGHTCLUBS WHERE THERE
WAS GAMBLING
AND DRINKING.
THEN YOU HAD TO
BE 21 TO DRINK.
ANYWAY, JACK DECIDED MY
EDUCATION WAS NOT COMPLETE,
WHICH IT WASN'T.
SO, I HAD ALL KINDS
OF CLASSES TO TAKE;
MAJORED IN ENGLISH
LITERATURE.
I FINALLY GRADUATED - THIS
IS SO SILLY - BUT I FINALLY
GRADUATED FROM UNIVERSITY
ABOUT 10 YEARS AGO.
IT TOOK ME 40
YEARS, BUT I DID IT.
BUT THAT WAS JACK
COLE'S INFLUENCE AGAIN;
HE WAS VERY POSSESSIVE
ABOUT ALL OF HIS DANCERS.
THEY HAD TO BE
EDUCATED.

Richard says SO, YOU WENT BACK
AND WORKED FOR HIM,
AND THEN HOW DID YOU GET
BACK INTO
DAMN YANKEES THEN?

Gwen says I WAS ON THE BOAT COMING
BACK AFTER THE MOVIE,
AND I GOT A TELEPHONE
CALL SAYING,
GEORGE ABBOTT WANTS
YOU TO AUDITION.
IN THE MEANTIME, IT WAS
A DOCKWORKERS' STRIKE,
SO WE SAT IN
THE HARBOUR.
AND GEORGE ABBOTT, WITH
ALL OF HIS PULL, GOT,
I GUESS IT WAS A TUG...
I DON'T KNOW -
TO COME OUT
AND GET ME.
AND I WENT IN ON A TUG
BOAT AND AUDITIONED.
AND AUDITIONED FOR BOB
AND FOR GEORGE ABBOTT.

Richard says AND YOU GOT THE PART.

Gwen says I GOT THE PART, WENT
BACK TO CALIFORNIA,
PACKED MY SUITCASES, AND
WENT BACK TO NEW YORK CITY.
NOW, YOU SEE, I HAVE
A SON, WHO'S VERY
OLD RIGHT THIS MINUTE.
BUT I PACKED HIM
UP AND MY MOTHER,
AND WE ALL CAME
TO NEW YORK CITY.

Richard says NOW, YOU STARTED ON
DAMN
YANKEES, YOU WERE LOLA,
THE AIDE OF THE DEVIL, WHO
HELPED KEEP ALL THE MEN;
FAMOUS NUMBER OF, “WHATEVER
LOLA WANTS, LOLA GETS.”
WAS THERE A POINT WHEN YOU
WERE WORKING WITH FOSSE
ON THE STAGING OF IT, LIKE
THE NOTION THAT YOU TWO
EITHER PROFESSIONALLY AND-OR
PERSONALLY WERE MEANT TO
WORK TOGETHER, WENT, WHAM?
DID IT EVER HAPPEN LIKE THAT,
OR WAS IT A LONG, SLOW THING?

Gwen says I THINK THERE WAS SO MUCH
ADMIRATION ON MY PART FOR BOB.
AND I'D NEVER REALLY
SEEN ANYTHING
THAT HE'D CHOREOGRAPHED.
THEN I SAW
LOLA, WHICH I
THINK IS JUST, FOR A WOMAN,
IT'S WONDERFUL TO DO BECAUSE
THE AUDIENCE THINKS IT'S SEXY.
BUT YOU'RE JUST
PLAIN DANCING.
AND IT'S ALSO FUNNY
AT THE SAME TIME.
WHICH, THAT COMBINATION, TO
BE A GOOD DANCE NUMBER
THAT REQUIRES EXPERTISE
AND TO BE FUNNY, AND YET,
YOU DON'T PLAY SEXY
BUT THEY THINK IT IS.

Richard says RIGHT, AND ALSO, THE
OTHER FOSSE LEVEL
WAS THAT IT WAS ABOUT
SOMETHING IN THE PLOT.

Gwen says ABSOLUTELY.

Richard says IT WAS CHARACTER; YOU WERE
TRYING TO GET JOE HARDY
TO COME OVER TO YOUR TEAM.

Gwen says BUT ALL OF HIS
NUMBERS WERE LIKE THAT.
AND THEN WE DID
ANOTHER SHOW TOGETHER,
AND THAT WAS WHEN...

Richard says NEW GIRL IN TOWN?

Gwen says NEW GIRL IN TOWN.
BUT IT STARTED
OUT AS ADMIRATION,
AND THEN IT WAS FRIENDSHIP,
AND THEN FINALLY
WE GOT MARRIED.

Richard says IN
NEW GIRL IN TOWN, WHEN
THE HISTORY BOOKS REPORT,
THAT WAS THE ONE I
DIDN'T GET TO SEE.
I WAS JUST A LITTLE TOO
YOUNG TO SEE THAT ONE;
MY PARENTS
WOULDN'T LET ME.
THERE WAS A BIG
BALLET IN ACT II,
AND IT WAS ANNA CHRISTIE,
AND YOU WERE ANNA,
AND IT WAS ABOUT THE
LIFE IN THE WHOREHOUSE.

Gwen says YES, IT WAS MATT'S DREAM,
WHEN HE FOUND OUT
WHAT I HAD BEEN.

Richard says SO, IT WOULD BE HIS DREAM
ABOUT WHAT YOU HAD BEEN DOING.

Gwen says OF WHAT HE
THOUGHT
I WAS DOING.
IT WAS NOT WHAT
ANNA REALLY DID,
BUT IT'S WHAT
HE IMAGINED.

Richard says AND THIS BALLET WAS
SUPPOSED TO BE THE SOURCE
OF A BIG FIGHT; ON ONE HAND,
WAS PRODUCER HAL PRINCE
AND DIRECTOR GEORGE ABBOTT,
AND ON THE OTHER HAND,
WERE YOU AND
BOB FOSSE.
AND THEY THOUGHT
IT WAS DIRTY,
AND YOU THOUGHT
IT WASN'T - RIGHT?

Gwen says RIGHT.

Richard says DO YOU REMEMBER ANY
KEY THINGS ABOUT THAT?
WHAT DID THESE GENTLEMEN
SITTING THERE IN 1956 OR '57
THINK WAS DIRTY?

Gwen says IT WAS VERY EROTIC,
VERY SENSUOUS.
DEFINITELY NOT DIRTY.
AND HAL PRINCE DIDN'T
THINK IT WAS DIRTY.
WE HAD TWO OTHER
PRODUCERS.

Richard says GRIFFITH, BOBBY GRIFFITH.

Gwen says BOBBY GRIFFITH.
HE DIDN'T THINK
IT WAS DIRTY.
PRIMARILY, IT WAS GEORGE
ABBOTT, BUT GEORGE ABBOTT,
I HATE TO SAY
THIS ABOUT HIM,
BECAUSE HE UNFORTUNATELY
HAS LEFT US,
BUT HE LIVED TO
BE 105 OR 107,
SO HE HAD A GREAT TIME.
HE COULDN'T EVEN STAND
TO SEE YOUR UNDERPANTS
IF YOU WERE DANCING.

Richard says REALLY?

Gwen says I WON'T CALL HIM A
PRUDE BECAUSE HE WASN'T.

Richard says HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE
A BIT OF A LADIES' MAN.

Gwen says OH, ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY.

Richard says THAT'S WHY HE LIVED SO LONG.

Gwen says YOU SHOULD HEAR MAUREEN
STAPLETON TALK ABOUT HIM
AS A LOVER.
OH, BOY!
ANYWAY, IT WAS THE
FLIPSIDE OF GEORGE ABBOTT;
HE COULDN'T STAND
UNDERWEAR ON STAGE.
AND UNFORTUNATELY, MINE
WOULD SHOW ONCE IN A WHILE.
SO, HE DIDN'T LIKE THAT
BALLET, AND IT WAS EROTIC,
AND IT WAS SENSUOUS,
AND IT DID PUSH BUTTONS.
AND EVERYONE SAYS WE WERE
RAIDED, BUT WE WEREN'T.
A WOMAN WAS THERE
WITH HER, I THINK,
16-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER.
SHE WAS OFFENDED BY
IT; SHE WENT OUT AND
GOT A CROSSING GUARD - NOT A
POLICEMAN, A CROSSING GUARD -
AND DRAGGED HIM DOWN THE
AISLE OF THE THEATRE.
IT WAS FABULOUS PUBLICITY
AND PEOPLE TRAVELLED
FROM NEW HAVEN TO BOSTON
TO SEE THAT BALLET.
BY THAT TIME,
IT WAS OUT.

Richard says SO, THE NEXT TIME OUT
THOUGHT WAS
REDHEAD,
THE SHOW WE TALKED ABOUT,
WHICH WAS THE FOSSE
DIRECTING, THE FOSSE
CHOREOGRAPHING, YOU STARRING.

Gwen says BUT HE ADAPTED THE BOOK,
THE FIRST ADAPTATION.
YOU SEE, IT WAS A
SHOW THAT WAS WRITTEN
FIRST FOR BEA LILLIE.

Richard says I REMEMBER READING
SOMEWHERE IT WAS SUPPOSED
TO BE CALLED THE WORKS,
BECAUSE IT WAS ABOUT
MADAME TUSSAUDS'
WORKS ORIGINALLY.

Gwen says THEN, IT WAS REWRITTEN
BY DOROTHY FIELDS
AND HER BROTHER
FOR MARY MARTIN.
AND EVERYBODY PASSED
ON IT: PRODUCERS,
BOTH OF THOSE ACTORS.
AND SOMEHOW, I THINK DOROTHY
FIELDS BROUGHT IT UP,
SAYING, THIS WOULD
BE GOOD FOR GWEN.
BOB READ IT AND DECIDED IT
WOULD NOT BE GOOD IN THAT
FORM AND DID ABOUT A
NINE-PAGE OUTLINE
OF WHAT HE THOUGHT
WOULD WORK.
AND THEY TOOK IT TO PRODUCERS,
FRYER, CARR and HARRIS.
AND THEY LIKED IT, SO
THEY SAID, WE'LL DO IT.
SO, THEY DID IT AND ALBERT
HAGUE AND DOROTHY FIELDS
WROTE THE MUSIC
AND LYRICS.
AND DAVID SHAW CAME IN
AND CO-WROTE WITH BOB.

Richard says AFTER
REDHEAD,
A
COUPLE OF YEARS GO BY,
YOU'RE NOT ON STAGE.
IS THAT FAMILY
TIME, OR...?

Gwen says NO, WELL, BOB AND I
HAD GOTTEN MARRIED
AND WE WANTED TO
HAVE CHILDREN.
AND, MIND YOU, I WAS
GETTING OLD, EVEN THEN.

Richard says NEVER.

Gwen says WELL, I DID.
WE WANTED CHILDREN SO I KEPT
SAYING, OKAY, WE'RE MARRIED,
WE'LL HAVE CHILDREN.
AND MIND YOU, I ALWAYS
SAY IT IN PLURAL,
BUT I HAD MY FIRST SON BY
ANOTHER HUSBAND, WHO DIED.
THEN, MY DAUGHTER WAS
BORN THREE YEARS AFTER
WE WERE MARRIED.
BUT I HAD SAID, I WON'T WORK
UNTIL SHE'S THREE YEARS OLD.
TURNED OUT TO BE TWO
YEARS AND NINE MONTHS,
BUT THAT'S WHY I WAS
GONE FOR THAT LONG.

Richard says AND THEN YOU WENT
INTO
SWEET CHARITY.

Gwen says YES.

Richard says ANOTHER...
FOSSE CONCEIVED IT.
HE ORIGINALLY DID THE FIRST
DRAFT OF THE BOOK, RIGHT?
CALLED HIMSELF BERT
LOUIS, I THINK.

Gwen says ROBERT LOUIS FOSSE,
THAT'S HIS NAME.
SO, HE TOOK
BERT LOUIS.

Richard says AND IT'S FELLINI'S
NIGHTS OF CABIRIA,
BUT IT'S CHARITY
HOPE VALENTINE,
THE GIRL WHO JUST
WANTED TO BE LOVED.
I WAS THINKING ABOUT THAT,
AND A LOT OF YOUR GIRLS -
EVEN LOLA AND ANNA - THEY
ALL WANT TO BE LOVED, RIGHT?
MAYBE BY THE TIME WE GET TO
CHICAGO,
IT'S DIFFERENT.
WELL, MAYBE THEN, TOO.

Gwen says SHE WANTED TO BE LOVED BY
A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE.

[laughing]

Richard says YOU'RE HERE NOW IN
TORONTO WORKING ON
FOSSE, A CELEBRATION
IN SONG AND DANCE.
BOB'S WORK IS NOW EVEN
MORE POPULAR THAN IT WAS
AT THE HEIGHT
OF HIS FAME.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT
IS, SO MANY YEARS LATER?

Gwen says YOU KNOW, HE WAS WINNING
TONYS ALL ALONG
FOR ALL OF HIS
CHOREOGRAPHY.
TO ME, IT'S LIKE THOSE
SONGS THAT ARE CONSIDERED
STANDARDS; THEY JUST
NEVER GET OLD-FASHIONED.
THEY'RE ALWAYS CURRENT,
NO MATTER WHO SINGS THEM.
AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT
FOSSE'S CHOREOGRAPHY IS LIKE.
BUT MIND YOU, HIS
CHOREOGRAPHY IS ALSO HIS
POINT OF VIEW, AND THAT
WAS VERY AVANT-GARDE.
SO, IT'S ALWAYS CURRENT; ANY
OF HIS SHOWS WILL NEVER
LOOK LIKE AN
OLD-FASHIONED MUSICAL.

Richard says YOU'VE ALSO JUST GONE BACK
AND DONE A CONCERT VERSION
OF
SWEET CHARITY
AGAIN.
WHAT WAS THAT LIKE,
GETTING ALL OF THAT
TOGETHER ONE MORE TIME?

Gwen says WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I COULD
GET ALL OF THE CHARITIES
TOGETHER, WITH THE EXCEPTION
OF ANNIE REINKING,
WHO'S IN AUSTRALIA,
AND SHIRLEY MACLAINE,
WHO WAS DOING A MOVIE.
BUT THERE WERE
FIVE OF US.
AND CHITA RIVERA GOT
FABULOUS REVIEWS -
BEBE NEUWIRTH, DONNA
MCKECHNIE, DEBBIE ALLEN.
BUT CHITA AND BEBE NEUWIRTH
ALSO PLAYED HELENE AND NICKIE.
BUT THEN I GOT PEOPLE
FROM OTHER SHOWS,
FROM THE SHOW
THE LIFE,
WHICH WAS A CY COLEMAN SHOW.
WE GOT ALL THE
LIFE
GIRLS TO
BE THE BIG SPENDER GIRLS,
PLUS MORE BIG
SPENDER GIRLS.
AND WE HAD ORIGINAL DANCERS
IN IT - ORIGINAL FROM
THE ORIGINAL ORIGINAL -
THE '66 AND THE '85.
AND THE '85 VERSION,
WE HAD THREE OSCARS.
WELL, WE HAD FIVE
CHARITIES, THREE OSCARS,
ONE VITTORIO VIDAL.
IT WAS SO MIXED UP,
BUT I WAS IN CHARGE
OF THE OVERALL THING.
THEY KEPT SAYING, HOW
DO YOU REMEMBER IT?
BUT I'M VERY MUCH LIKE
PAVLOV'S DOG: TURN ON
THE MUSIC AND IT COMES
OUT; IT JUST HAPPENS.

Richard says ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS
THAT LINGERS ON STILL IS
ALL THAT JAZZ, WHICH
IS THAT GREAT MOVIE.
BUT BOB FOSSE WAS MAKING
USE OF HIS OWN LIFE
AND A LOT OF ELEMENTS
OF IT IN THE MOVIE.
TO A DEGREE; IT'S
NOT BIOGRAPHY,
BUT IT'S KIND OF
FICTIONALIZED STUFF.
HAVE YOU SEEN THE
MOVIE RECENTLY?
OR WHAT DO YOU FEEL
ABOUT THE FILM?

Gwen says I HAVEN'T SEEN
IT RECENTLY.
IT DIDN'T SEEM TO ME AT ALL
LIKE IT WAS BOB'S LIFE,
SO IT WAS NOT
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL.
THE THING THAT
SEEMED CORRECT,
THE PART THAT WAS TRUE, WAS
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN
ANNIE REINKING IN THE MOVIE
AND MY DAUGHTER, NICOLE,
BECAUSE THEY USED TO DANCE
TOGETHER ALL THE TIME,
AND VERY GOOD FRIENDS.
AND ANNIE AND I ARE
FRIENDS, BUT I'M LIKE
THE MOTHER OF
BOTH OF THEM.
SO, THAT PART SEEMED TRUE,
BECAUSE ANNIE WAS ALWAYS
VERY GENEROUS IN TEACHING
NICOLE CERTAIN DANCE NUMBERS.

Richard says SO, OF ALL THE MOVIE,
THAT'S THE PART THAT
YOU ZERO IN ON AND
REMEMBER THE MOST.
THAT'S GOOD,
THAT'S GOOD.
LOOKING BACK AT ALL
OF THE FOSSE WORK,
IF THERE WAS ONE NUMBER
THAT YOU WANTED TO SAY,
THAT'S FOSSE; WHAT
WOULD YOU SAY IT IS?

Gwen says IT'S IN THIS PRODUCTION
THAT WE'RE DOING NOW,
AND THAT'S THE
ALLEY DANCE.
HE DID THAT IN A FILM,
MY SISTER EILEEN,
WITH TOMMY RALL.
AND BOB DANCED IT; HE
CHOREOGRAPHED IT AND DANCED IT.
AND TO ME, THAT'S BOB.

Richard says WHY?

Gwen says IT'S GOT ALL THOSE LITTLE
BITSY SHOW-OFF THINGS,
AND IT'S A
COMPETITION DANCE,
BUT IT'S COMPETITION IN
THAT IT'S BASED ON FINESSE,
NOT BIG JAZZ MOVEMENTS.
IT'S HOW MINUSCULE CAN
YOU DO SOMETHING
AND STILL GET THE
POINT ACROSS.
TO ME, THAT'S THE BEST.

Richard says THAT'S THE BEST, AND
YOU'RE GOING TO BE ABLE
TO PRESERVE THAT IN THIS
PRODUCTION AS WELL, GREAT.

Gwen says WE'VE GOT SO MUCH
IN THIS MOVIE;
WE'VE GOT
STEAM HEAT,
WE'VE GOT MANY DANCE NUMBERS...
AT LEAST TWO THAT I CAN
THINK OF RIGHT OFF -
FROM HIS LAST
SHOW,
BIG DEAL.

Richard says SO, WE GET TO SEE THE WHOLE
MAN'S LIFE AND ALL OF HIS
WORK TOGETHER, RIGHT?

Gwen says YOU'LL NEVER SEE HIS LIFE.

Richard says NO, WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT I
MEAN: HIS LIFE OF DANCE.

Gwen says RIGHT, BECAUSE
THERE'S STILL MORE.
THERE ARE THINGS
FROM
LIZA WITH A Z,
DANCE NUMBERS FROM
VERY EARLY MOVIES,
DANCE NUMBERS FROM WHEN HE
WAS DOING NIGHTCLUB WORK,
WHICH IS THE
FOSSE-NILES SECTION.

Richard says YOU SAID WE'LL
NEVER SEE HIS LIFE.
IS IT BECAUSE IT'S SO
COMPLEX OR SO MUCH THERE?

Gwen says WELL, TWO BOOKS HAVE
BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT HIM.
ONE WAS MOSTLY PHOTOGRAPHS,
CALLED
RAZZLE DAZZLE;
THAT'S GOOD.
THE OTHER ONE WAS
CALLED
ALL HIS JAZZ,
AND IT'S SO FILLED WITH
THINGS THAT ARE INCORRECT -
NOT JUST THAT I
THINK ARE INCORRECT,
BUT THE MAN QUOTED LYRICS
AND QUOTED THEM WRONG,
THINGS LIKE THAT.
THERE ARE MANY
INACCURACIES.

Richard says I THINK THERE'S A WHOLE
ATTEMPT TO BUILD UP
A PICTURE THAT BOB FOSSE WAS
JOE GIDEON IN
ALL THAT JAZZ;
THEY'RE TRYING TO
WORK BACKWARDS?

Gwen says I DON'T KNOW WHAT
THEY'RE DOING.
I JUST KNOW THAT
NOBODY KNOWS BOB.
I WAS WITH HIM FOR OVER 40
YEARS; I DON'T KNOW BOB.
ANNIE WAS WITH HIM FOR
SEVEN, EIGHT YEARS,
DANCED WITH
HIM ALL THAT.
SHE WOULDN'T, NONE OF
US REALLY KNOW BOB,
BECAUSE HE DIDN'T
KNOW HIMSELF.

Richard says THAT'S A GREAT POINT, AND I
CAN'T ADD ANY MORE TO THAT.
GWEN VERDON, THANK YOU.
AFTER ALL THESE YEARS,
GREAT TO MEET YOU.
THANK YOU FOR BEING
HERE IN TORONTO.

Gwen says THANK YOU.

Richard faces the screen and says
FOR
DIALOGUE, I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOODBYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1998, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Gwen Verdon