TONY TIDBITS - JUNE 3, 2001
Nominated for: Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Follies)
This was Polly Bergen's first Tony nomination.
A BRIEF POLLY BIO
Polly Bergen has enjoyed an illustrious career spanning four decades of appearances in films, on stage, radio and television. She has starred in numerous Broadway productions, including John Murray Anderson's Almanac, Champagne Complex, First Impressions and Love Letters. She recently completed two critically acclaimed cabaret engagements at Feinstein's at the Regency and Merv Griffin's Coconut Club, and appeared in a concert version of Stephen Sondheim's Company. Best known to legions of fans for her NBC-TV variety show "The Polly Bergen Show" and signature song, The Party's Over, Ms. Bergen has accumulated more than 300 film and television credits throughout her career, including her Emmy Award-winning leading role in "The Helen Morgan Story," her Emmy-nominated performances in "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance," and the classic film Cape Fear. Ms. Bergen has recorded more than a dozen best-selling albums, including Bergen Sings Moran and The Party's Over, recently re-released by Columbia Records on their Collectables label. Ms. Bergen has a big heart and is always willing to help others fight against addiction of all kinds. Her mottos is, "You can quit today!"
POLLY ON FOLLIES
Polly Bergen's big solo in Follies is the immortal ode to show business survival, "I'm Still Here," delivered with confidence and a tinge of pain; Cady Huffman's "When You Got It, Flaunt It," borders on the burlesque as she shimmies and contorts as Swedish "secretary" Ulla in The Producers, the new Mel Brooks musical; Christine Ebersole is woeful and yearning as she sings the classic "I Only Have Eyes for You" in 42nd Street; showbiz veteran Kathleen Freeman croaks about showbiz blues in The Full Monty's "Jeanette's Show Business Number," during which she is joined by the men of the show; Blythe Danner's caustic "Could I Leave You?," from Follies is full of cool bitterness as a wife confronts a husband; and Faith Prince's "The Party's Over," in Bells Are Ringing, is a theatrical classic about the end of a dream (though Prince has other showstoppers as well).
Just because Bergen has but one major solo in Follies doesn't mean her major song wasn't a challenge to nail. Sondheim's life-story song, "I'm Still Here," is linear, but not uncomplicated. What makes the lyrics so tough to remember?
"It isn't the rhymes," Bergen said. "It's the 'ands' and the 'buts' in the song. One time it's 'and,' then 'but,' then 'so,' then 'still.' And a Sondheim lyric you don't want to mess with. So I thought I would never learn the song. I'm a good maker-upper of lyrics. I don't fumble; I think of filler that makes sense, that sounds like it belongs there. But it's tough with Sondheim, because everybody knows every word he wrote. Just before I go on, I do a fast-gallop run-through of the lyrics. Never would I walk out onstage without doing those lyrics.
"I'd never seen Follies or listened to the album. So I approached the song as a brand-new song, which makes it really an acting challenge. For me to recreate that life in that song as it's done in the show, the words have to fall out of my mouth. If I have to think for one second about the lyrics, I can't do the number. They have to be a memory ingrained in my head. And it requires total concentration."
SNIPPETS OF POLLY'S INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES OSGOOD ON CBS NEWS SUNDAY MORNING JUNE 3, 2001
osgood: Ahead, singer polly bergen back on stage and up for a tony. >> Osgood: When broadway hands out its tony awards tonight, the spotlight won't just be on the big new hit shows and the young up-and-coming stars. Some veteran performers are very much in the running, too, including one whom you might not have realized was still performing at all. Her name is polly bergen and she's the star of this morning's sunday profile. >> I know what you're thinking. You thought i was dead, right? >> Osgood: Not by a long shot. There's a thank you you can give life if you live life all the way >> osgood: Polly bergen is very much alive. She's just been away for a while. Quite a while. After not singing for 35 years, she opened a sold out smash hit night club act in new york last...
us who have been in show business have gone through a lot of things. And we all go through a lot of ups and downs. >> Osgood: Can you use that stuff? >> Oh, sure. The party's over >> osgood: In the '50s and '60s, polly bergen was a big star. She recorded best-selling albums... He can't come home as late as can be... >> Osgood: And she won an emmy for her searing portrayal of helen morgan, the torch singer who died an alcoholic in her early 40s. Bergen proved herself to be a serious actress. Can't help loving that man of mine >> osgood: She went on to make high-profile movies such as "cape fear." >> In the name of heaven, pay him off, give him some money and he'll go away but don't do this to us! >> Osgood: Then she became a household name on television quiz shows. A heavy smoker, she left her singing career behind and it was a matter of choice. >> I started having a lot of problems with my voice in my mid-30s. I had a choice of quitting...
she wants to give it all, all the time, so we had to find a way to bring all this energy in. Once her emotions got back in contact with her voice, then it really took off. Here's to the girls who play smart aren't they a gas >> osgood: Soon polly bergen was back in the spotlight and the critics took notice. Dreams must end... >> Few people have the courage just to be themselves the way she is. >> Osgood: Stephen holden reviews music for the "new york times." >> Stars they come and go... >> Everything she sang seemed to come from deep inside herself, from someone who's lived a very rich, full, exciting, and sad life. And it's fully giving of everything she's felt about that life. >> Some make it when they're young before the world has done its dirty job and later on someone will say you've had your day and you must make way >> osgood: Polly bergen's life has included three marriages, the second to noted hollywood agent freddie fields, lasted 20 years....
"I went from being an extremely wealthy woman...and suddenly found myself at one point with $35 in the bank." -- Polly Bergen
POLLY BERGEN: LONG ROAD, FEW REGRETS
BOUNCING BACK -- ALL THE WAY TO BROADWAY
NEW YORK, JUNE 3, 2001
(CBS) During her nightclub act, Polly Bergen sometimes tells her audience: "I know what you´re thinking. You thought I was dead, right?"
Not by a long shot, reports CBS News Sunday Morning Anchor Charles Osgood. Polly Bergen is very much alive. She's just been away for a while.
Quite a while.
After not singing for 35 years, she opened a sold-out nightclub act in New York last fall.
"It suddenly struck me," she recalls. "I'm 70 years old. I wonder if I could possibly end my life the way I started it: doing the most joyful thing I ever did, which is to sing."
After Bergen found out that she could sing, so did Broadway. Following her club act, Bergen landed a plum role in the current revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies." She received rave reviews and tonight, she could win a Tony Award for her performance.
"If someone said to me last July that I was gonna be in 'Follies,' and I was gonna be nominated for a Drama Desk and a Tony Award, I would have said they were out of their mind," she comments.
In "Follies," Bergen gives it all she's got with her version of "I'm Still Here," an anthem to surviving whatever life brings, good and bad.
She says, "I don´t think there´s anybody in that audience that doesn´t believe I am actually singing the story of my life A great deal of what I sing about, almost everything that I sing about, I either have lived, or know someone who has lived through all of those moments. And I´m also telling them the truth about myself in another way, and that is that in 70 years all of us -- not just me, but all of us -- who have been in show business have gone through a lot of things. And we all go through a lot of ups and downs."
In the '50s and '60s, Bergen was a big star. She recorded best-selling albums and won an Emmy for her searing portrayal of Helen Morgan, the torch singer who died an alcoholic in her early 40s. Bergen proved herself to be a serious actress. She went on to make high-profile movies such as "Cape Fear." She became a household name on television quiz shows, leaving her singing career behind.
She recalls, "I started having a lot of problems with my voice in my mid-30s. And I was a very heavy smoker. I mean, a very heavy smoker, since I was a child. It was a way to look older and sophisticated I got very badly addicted to it and didn´t want to quit really. And, it just became I remember a really stupid quote of mine that people come back at me all the time with And that is: 'I had a choice of quitting smoking or singing another chorus of "Night and Day," and I chose to continue smoking. And I quit singing.' And it was a decision that I regretted from that day forward."
Bergen still acted from time to time. She starred in the miniseries "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance." But, still, no singing.
She says, "Every time I saw another singer on stage, I´d sit there and I´d I´d want it to be me. But I just couldn´t do it because I couldn´t give up smoking."
Eventually, Bergen developed serious health problems and had surgeries to correct severe circulation problems in her legs. She began to develop emphysema.
Finally, enough was enough. Two years ago, she quit smoking and went to expert vocal coach Trish McCaffrey to see if she could make a comeback.
Says McCaffrey, "It took five or six lessons for her to start hearing herself the way she used to sound, and then I could tell that she started getting excited She wants to give it all all the time, so we had to find a way to bring all this energy in learning to work with that energy to make it appropriate for that voice. Once her emotions got back in contact with her voice, then it really took off."
For her club act, Bergen carefully chose her material. She looked for songs that showcased her vocal and acting talents.
Bergen has been married three times, including 20 years to top Hollywood agent Freddie Fields. Bergen became a very successful businesswoman in the cosmetics industry. She made a fortune and lost one.
"I went from being an extremely wealthy womanliving in a 4,000-square-foot apartment on Park Avenue, and suddenly found myself at one point with $35 in the bank," she says.
The 1980s were not good years for Bergen. Her troubled third marriage ended in divorce. The stock market crash of 1987 hit her hard. She was not aware of how badly her money was being handled.
"The interesting thing about me," she observes, "is that I was born poor, and I´ve lived rich and I´ve lived poor, and I know how to do both. People think rich is better. I don't know."
For now, Bergen is comfortable. She says she´s thrilled by her success and enjoys nights on the town with her "Follies" co-stars Blythe Danner and Judith Ivey. They all play women who face the inevitability of age and the changes it brings.
"You look at the road you could have taken, you know, I just think that´s interesting I´ve been on a lot of roads and I had to hitchhike on a couple of 'em I have to be very honest: There´s not an awful lot of regret in my life. I think that, you know, you learn from everything," adding with a laugh, "and then, sometimes, you don´t. You know, I mean, sometimes, you don´t.
Polly Bergen's story is, in many ways, like the song she sings in "Follies," a song audiences will find hard to forget.
"Maybe a lot of the people sitting in the audience are going through the same thing that the people in 'Follies' are going through," Bergen muses. "'Maybe I took the wrong road, and is it too late for me to change roads?' Well, I am here as living proof that at 70 you can change roads all you want."
A SNIPPET FROM POLLY'S PERFORMANCE DURING THE TONY AWARDS BROADCAST JUNE 3, 2001
the glittering home in the 1920s and '30s of the fabled weissman follies, is about to be torn down. Now the follies girls return, both as youthful ghosts from the past and as aging showgirls back for a last reunion. Among them is carlotta campion, as played by the magnificent polly bergen. >> Ah, mitya, nothing compares to the shows we did here. Don't you miss it? >> I know when things are over. Time moves on. >> Black sable one day next day it goes into hock but i'm here top billing monday tuesday you're touring in stock but i'm here first you're another sloe-eyed vamp then someone's mother then you're camp then you career from career to career i'm almost through my memoirs and i'm here good times and bum times i've seen 'em all and my dear i'm still here plush velvet sometimes sometimes just pretzels and beer but i'm here i've run the gamut a to z three cheers and dammit c'est la vie...
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