Elaine Stritch, brash stage legend, dies at 89

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm •  Published: July 17, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Elaine Stritch, the brash theater performer whose gravelly, gin-laced voice and impeccable comic timing made her a Broadway legend, has died. She was 89.

Joseph Rosenthal, Stritch's longtime attorney, said the actress died Thursday of natural causes at her home in Birmingham, Michigan.

Although Stritch appeared in movies and on television, garnering three Emmys and finding new fans as Alec Baldwin's unforgiving mother on "30 Rock," she was best known for her stage work, particularly in her candid one-woman memoir, "Elaine Stritch: At Liberty," and in the Stephen Sondheim musical "Company."

A tart-tongued monument to New York show business endurance, Stritch worked well into her late 80s, most recently as Madame Armfeldt in a revival of Sondheim's musical "A Little Night Music" in 2010.

In 2013, Stritch — whose signature "no pants" style was wearing a loose-fitting white shirt over sheer black tights — retired to Michigan after 71 years in New York City and made a series of farewell performances at the Carlyle Hotel. A documentary released in February showed her final years.

Stritch's death was felt closely on Broadway and throughout entertainment. Liza Minnelli remembered her as "a true trail blazer. Her talent and spunk will be greatly missed by so many of us." Lena Dunham said on Twitter: "May your heaven be a booze-soaked, no-pants solo show at the Carlyle." Broadway's marquees were to dim in her memory on Friday.

In "At Liberty," the actress told the story of her life — with its ups, downs and in-betweens. She discussed her stage fright, missed showbiz opportunities, alcoholism, battle with diabetes and love life, all interspersed with songs. It earned her a Tony Award in 2002 and an Emmy when it was later televised on HBO.

In "Company" (1970), Stritch played the acerbic Joanne, delivering a lacerating version of "The Ladies Who Lunch," a classic Sondheim song dissecting the modern Manhattan matron. Stritch originated the role in New York and then appeared in the London production.

Among her other notable Broadway appearances were as Grace, the owner of a small-town Kansas restaurant in William Inge's "Bus Stop" (1955), and as a harried cruise-ship social director in the Noel Coward musical "Sail Away" (1961). She also appeared in revivals of "Show Boat" (1994), in which she played the cantankerous Parthy Ann Hawks, and Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" (1996), portraying a tart-tongued, upper-crust alcoholic.

She was parodied in 2010 on an episode of "The Simpsons" in which Lisa Simpson attends a fancy performing arts camp. One class was on making wallets with Elaine Stritch and Andrew Lloyd Webber. "That's worth being in the business for 150 years," she said with a laugh.

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