Elaine Stritch's Final Night At The Carlyle
Patti LuPone and Elaine Stritch attend the final night of "At Home At The Carlyle: Elaine Stritch Singin' Sondheim...One Song At A Time" at the Cafe Carlyle on February 2, 2010 in New York City. Elaine also celebrated her 85th Birthday on the final performance of her cabaret show. Jim Spellman—WireImage

Patti LuPone Remembers Elaine Stritch

Jul 17, 2014

There was no one like Elaine Stritch and I doubt if there will ever be anyone again like Elaine Stritch. Whenever they say “old school,” you don’t really don’t know what that means, but she was the type of Broadway actress that they don’t make anymore.

The first time I actually met Elaine, it was maybe 20 years ago, and it was—where else?—in Sardi’s! It was all so cliché. There were a bunch of people in the business sitting around tables, and I think Elaine was sitting with Celeste Holm and one other person. Elaine all of a sudden said, “Patti! Come and sit with us!”

We worked together on 30 Rock, and one of my first appearances was a scene with Tina and Elaine and some other women. Elaine had great generosity towards her colleagues. And she again welcomed me into the environment of 30 Rock. Not that Tina didn’t! It was a great environment. But I come from the theater, as does Elaine, and she just motioned me over to come and sit with her, and we talked, and we did the scene.

The most personal recollection I have was Stephen Sondheim’s birthday with the New York Philharmonic in 2010, where everybody performed for Steve on the Avery Fisher Hall stage, and the director, Lonny Price, asked me to sing “Ladies Who Lunch” [Elaine’s signature song from Company]. I suppose if I hadn’t known Elaine, and if I hadn’t gotten a seal of approval from her as a human, it would have been more difficult. But I just thought it was such a gas that I would be singing her signature song at that event. I remember I said to Lonny, “Where’s Elaine? Where’s she sitting?” He said, “She’ll be the first person on the left.” So in the performance, when I said, “Does anyone still wear a hat?” I turned directly to Elaine, who of course, was wearing a hat! It took her totally by surprise. It was my tribute to her, as well as Steve.

My son recorded a message that she left for me on my answering machine afterward, which was a validation from Elaine to me—which my son has kept, so I’ll always have a piece of Elaine. So I’ll have something that makes me proud to be in the business and to have had validation by someone like Elaine.

I am very critical of what I see on Broadway, because I’ve seen greatness. Watching Elaine in At Liberty, was witnessing greatness. So she became the benchmark for whatever you see after that in solo shows. When you have that kind of history, that’s real, you are in the history of it—it’s a powerful thing.

As told to Sarah Begley.

Actress Elaine Stritch c. 1956
Actress Elaine Stritch c. 1956NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
Actress Elaine Stritch c. 1956
Ed Sullivan talks with Elaine Stritch on TOAST OF THE TOWN on November 14, 1954.
Elaine Stritch, Ray Bolger
THE PERFECT FURLOUGH, Troy Donahue, Les Tremayne, Linda Cristal, Keenan Wynn, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis, Elaine Stritch, King Donovan in 1958.
Grover Dale and Elaine Stritch of the cast of Sail Away on November 27, 1961.
Elaine Stritch on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Elaine Stritch talks to patrons while serving drinks at Elaine's (no relation) where she works as a barmaid on August 12, 1964. Miss Stritch chose to spend the summer working in a bar even though she could have had her pick of summer theater tours.
Elaine Stritch poses for a portrait at the Tunnel night club in the mid 1990s in New York City.
Elaine Stritch performs at the Kennedy Center Honors on October 29, 1994.
Elaine Stritch with her Emmy for "Outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program," for "Elaine Stritch: At Liberty," in the press room at the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on September 19, 2004.
Elaine Stritch performing in the New York Philharmonic Gala Evening at Avery Fisher Hall New York City on March 15, 2010.
Bradley Dean, Katherine McNamara, Alexander Hanson, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, Kevin David Thomas, Karen Murphy, and Hunter Ryan Herdlicka in Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Tony Award-winning masterpiece A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, directed by Tony Award-winner Trevor Nunn. Walter Kerr Theatre in New York City on July 13, 2010.
Elaine Stritch performs during a White House music series concert saluting Broadway in the East Room at the White House in Washington on July 19, 2010.
George Grizzard as George Albright, Elaine Stritch as Martha Albright, Jane Curtin as Dr. Mary Albright and John Lithgow as Dr. Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock From The Sun.
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy and Elaine Stritch as Colleen Donaghy in 30 Rock.
USA: 'Elaine Stritch at the Carlyle: Movin' Over And Out' - Performance
Actress Elaine Stritch c. 1956
NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
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