I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a private, for-donors-only performance by Linda Lavin at Baruch College last night, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the George and Mildred Weissman School of Arts and Sciences and the 10th anniversary of the Baruch Performing Arts Center.
With Stritch (L), and taking her bows
Lavin performed with accompaniment by Billy Stritch and her top-notch band (including her painter/actor/jazz drummer of a hubby, Steve Bakunas, of whom she said, “I married the drummer. Cool!”).
Lavin is leggy and lovely at a hard-t0-believe 77, and was having (1) a ball, (2) a great hair day and (3) a better leg day than most will have in a lifetime; it's incredible to think that she is actually slightly older than Elaine Stritch (February 2, 1925—July 17, 2014) was when the latter dame first performed her legendary Elaine Stritch at Liberty show in 2001. Lavin is so youthful that unless you're an IMDb addict like me, the impact of her cabaret act has little in common with Stritch's—there's no “I'm Still Here” vibe because Lavin looks like she's mid-way through a career, not defiantly placing an exclamation point at the end of it. Just absolutely ageless, in good voice and effortlessly able to engage an audience of bigshots with her girlish banter and wry, nostalgic peeks back at her career.
And yes, she fully embraces Alice (1976—1985).
Above, check out the delicious Sondheim number Lavin sang in 1966...she recreated it last night and it's still a hoot.
I won't go into great detail about the song selection (which was pleasingly heavy on the bossa nova) since this was a one-off, but if you're interested in hearing Lavin sing a loving rendition of her Alice theme song and charming versions of songs she first sang upwards of 50 years ago when she (and Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield and many other greats) was playing in, as she recalls, every venue with “Downstairs” in the title, be on the look-out for a 2015 show at 54 Below. You'd be a damn fool to miss this.
Goin' through life with blinders on, it's tough to see how Lavin manages to make 77 the new 50!
Lavin made a brief appearance at a post-show champagne toast. I was able to congratulate her and to ask if she would honor my friend and I with a photo. Have you got a camera? she shot back, ready to get 'er done. Lovely, classy lady.
After the jump, listen to Lavin tackle that Alice theme in 2013...