July 24, 2014 6:02 AM EDT

There was no one like Elaine Stritch, and I doubt there will ever be another like her. She was the type of Broadway actress that they don’t make anymore. The first time I met Elaine, who died at 89 on July 17, 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 with Celeste Holm and one other person. Elaine all of a sudden said, “Patti! Come and sit with us!” She had great generosity toward her colleagues.

I am very critical of what I see on Broadway, because I’ve seen greatness. Watching Elaine in At Liberty [her Tony-winning one-woman show] 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–it’s a powerful thing.

–AS TOLD TO SARAH BEGLEY

LuPone has won two Grammys and two Tony Awards

This appears in the August 04, 2014 issue of TIME.

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