Monday, December 19, 2011

An Evening With Louise

    My friend and neighbor, Tom Blunt, does a monthly series at the 92nd Street Y in TriBeCa called Meet the Lady. It's a celebration of interesting ladies, cinematic and otherwise, and each show has a theme or honors a particular woman. This past Saturday was a tribute to actress and writer, Louise Lasser. I'm not gonna lie-I wasn't really familiar with her work. In fact, I hadn't even heard of her until the American Master's PBS Documentary on Woody Allen and found out that they had been married. So, I went in not exactly sure what to expect from the evening.
The signature pigtails
    After the opening montage of clips from her work, I knew we were in for an interesting evening.
    There was a hilarious scene from an early Woody film, Take the Money and Run. And Louise was in  Requiem for a Dream and Happiness-turns out I have seen her in things! But, what she is known for is a 70's television show in which she received an Emmy nomination, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman". Clips were shown of that show and to say it's bizarre is an understatement. Y'all, I'm not even sure how to describe it. It was shot like a soap opera but it was a sitcom(?). I'm not entirely sure. It's a show with no laugh track-which, I kinda needed because I'm not sure if it was supposed to be funny or not. But, it was clear from the sold out audience that they were fans of the show. Louise said they shot over 100 episodes (or 300, I think I may have misheard. Just know it was a hell of a lot of episodes for a show to film in a year). Tom said only the first 25 episodes are available on DVD. That's a shame to put in all that work and have it virtually disappear. Who can we call to get on this?
   We also got to see a couple of Louise's early commercials from the 60's including this delightfully dated gem:
    Louise had a great story about this. She said she had been auditioning for two years without getting anything and then finally booked this. The day it was set to film, she came down with a fever and didn't think she could make it. They told her to come anyway. She said she felt delirious. Her hands were shaking so much that when she had to hold the packets they told her, 'you know, you have to keep the product steady for the beauty shot'. The shoot wrapped early and she thought for sure that nothing was gonna be used. But the commercial was such a success that it won multiple Clio awards-which honor excellence in advertising. Including a Best Actress Clio for Louise-the first person to receive the honor.
   The evening was filled with great antidotes and moments. Advil, courtesy of an audience member, was had at one point. Lipstick was shared between host and guest. But, mostly it was a celebration of an actress that may not be a household name, but has had a fascinating career. It was a lovely tribute to a unique performer. I'm grateful to Tom to bringing her to my attention.

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