Required Reading: Author James Grissom On Elaine Stritch

A Facebook friend posted a link to James Grissom’s blog which shares excerpts from his excellent book, Follies Of God.

Follies Of God is a collection of insightful interviews with entertainment icons. And I mean ICONS. Grissom was sent on a mission at the age of 20 to interview those who knew Tennessee Williams work BY Tennessee Williams himself.

I can’t recommend it enough.  As a matter of fact, it would make for a most fabulous Christmas gift for those you know who love to read what great artists really think.

He has a most marvelous blog where he shares much of his experience conducting the interviews.

In the excerpt below, James was spending time with Broadway legend Elaine Stritch. Here’s just a taste.

“Listen and look,” Elaine Stritch told me as we walked down Madison Avenue one day–the Sunday, in fact, when the death of Sylvia Syms had been announced–“all of these people, every last one of them, needs or wants something from someone else. You name it–love, attention, affirmation, help, aid. Something. And most of them aren’t going to get it. You know, the poor bastards are starving and all that. They aren’t going to get it because they don’t ask, because they don’t announce what it is they want–and deserve, I might add. Well, I get what I need and I usually get what I want. I ask; I tell; I demand.”

She stopped outside of an apartment building and pulled out a plastic container of fruit. “I’m falling,” she told me, “so bear with me.” She ate a bit, closed the lid, shoved it in her bag, and paused. For a little too long. A good film director would have said she was lagging or milking the moment. She looked at me finally–as only Elaine Stritch could–and delivered the following:

“No one is going to say of you in years to come that you were so polite, so sweet. If they talk of you at all, it’s going to be because you got the story, you did the job. So do the fucking job. If I didn’t like you or think you had talent, I would have kicked you to the street days ago. Get the job done and don’t give a shit what people think. You have a serious and beautiful assignment from Tennessee Williams, for Christ’s sake, and that is what is important, not what other people think about you. Push the doors open and get in.”

She hugged me and we walked to her apartment on East 72nd Street, where, at the door, and with the doorman as an audience, she turned to me and said, “You think I’m mad at you, and you’re hurt. You’ll get over it. Get over it by two tomorrow, because that’s when we’re meeting again. Sylvia Syms is dead, but we’re not. We have things to do.”