My Unprintable Elaine Stritch Story (Which I Am Publishing Anyway)

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Elaine Stritch 2 2009
[By Greg Hernandez (Greg in Hollywood) (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]

In the summer of 2008, my last year at WTIC, two great ladies of the stage passed through my studio. The first of these was Shirley Jones.

In those days, my mixed breed — call him a chowbrador — dog Malcolm came to work with me every day and slept in the studio, ignoring pretty much everybody. (Lowell Weicker: “McEnroe, why won’t your dog come over to me?”) The lone exception was basketball legend Rebecca Lobo who seemed to awaken in Malcolm a set of drives that he is surgically unable to act on. Maybe it’s her name.

Anyway, Shirley Jones was 74 at the time, and if she smelled anything like Rebecca Lobo, I could have had a terrible incident on my hands, so I decided to put Malcolm out in the car with the windows open under a shady tree, at least until I could scope out the situation.

It turned out Shirley Jones is a dog person and a PETA person to boot, so I had played the whole thing wrong.

A very short time later, Stritch was in town, trying out her “At Liberty” revue at Hartford Stage and running her local handlers ragged with complicated Starbucks requests whose execution never seemed to make her happy. She was otherwise delightful, and, as I escorted her into the studio, I explained who Malcolm was and why he was there. I told her the story of exiling Malcolm to protect Shirley Jones only to find out it was completely the wrong thing to do.  I told Stritch if she had any qualms about the dog I would instantly bring him out to the …

“Fuck Shirley Jones! My money’s on Malcolm,” La Stritch said gamely and cheerfully.  I’m not even sure exactly what that meant, but the overall sentiment of it was clear.

I am pleased to report that Malcolm is still alive. He’s a few months into his fifteenth year which means that, like Stritch, he has busted through the actuarial tables and that his reunion with her is inevitable and imminent.  He does pretty well most of the time, but traversing the space between the first and second floors of our house has become the equivalent of a K2 trek for him.

His friend Elaine used to open her London shows with the line, “As the prostitute once said, its not the work; it’s the stairs.”


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