Tallulah Bankhead Live!
Learning about Tallulah Bankhead is Chapter 1 in the Counter-Culture 101 textbook. Somehow, I missed that class. Damn.
Two years ago Restaurant Florent, my place of temporary employment, threw a party in honor of this brassy bisexual sex-pot. I said “Tallulah, who?” I wasn’t fired, but lost many fabulous points.
When I read her bio on Wikipedia I became a bit sheepish. Here I am, thinking I have my finger on the pulse of alternative lifestyles and this woman did far more bold things 60 years ago. And here I thought throwing a faux-queen party was edge supreme. Tallulah was known to answer the door to her infamous parties stark naked. Brilliant. If only I could have met this woman (and have gone to her parties). What was she like, up close and behind the rumors?
Tonight I got to see my new old hero live! Valerie Harper portrays Tallulah Bankhead in Looped at the Lyceum Theatre. Set in a sound recording studio at the end of her career, Tallulah is asked to loop a single line of dialogue. This should take five minutes, but instead takes the whole play.
Valerie’s performance incorporated both the humor and the pain in Tallulah’s existence. She breaks down her opposing character—a film production underling and closeted mid-century prude—with her witty remarks and vulgar stories. She scandalizes him by saying things like: “Touching a woman’s purse is like touching her vagina. But for me I can only fit so much in my purse.”
In the second act you find out that the film that they are wrapping will be her last, because Tallulah has six months to live. It thus becomes immediately obvious why she spent first act snorting, smoking, drinking and wise-cracking her way into delaying the process—she didn’t want it to end.
Valerie kept on the perfect mask, allowing the character’s suffering to be apparent behind a wink and a smile, but never ever once pathetic. She embodies the play’s message, which transforms her antagonist and inspires the audience. She blasts her underling for being afraid to be his true self. Then defends his accusations by admitting her failures and countering with, “At least I was Tallulah.” Ms. Bankhead was a straight shooter; was the 20th century “raw real deal” Looped appropriately ends with: “There will always be pain, but the suffering is optional.”
Bloggers Bio: Lauren LoGiudice is an actor, model, performance artist, writer, host, producer, improv comedian and amateur chef. A native New Yorker—born in Queens, now living out in Brooklyn—who likes to shake the dust of the outer boroughs off to travel the world, living and working in places that range from India to Mexico to Italy. Part of the slim minority who does not like bacon, potato chips or milk chocolate. Often seen in farmer’s markets trolling for and the latest weird vegetable. Eats her greens. (laurenlogiudice.com).