Elaine Stritch on Holland Taylor: God and a Big Bag of Talent
Interview with Elaine Stritch
Conducted by James Grissom
New York City
I loved talking to Elaine Stritch. At her apartment on East 72nd Street; when she would visit me at the front desk of The Carlyle (when I worked there, but she was living at The Regency, and management never complained when we repaired to the restaurant and had coffee: They knew that Elaine was to be courted.) I asked Elaine about everything and everyone, and she confessed that she was a sucker for anyone who was smart and who would buy her a couple of cappuccinos. I asked her about Holland Taylor.
"Stewardship," she said.
"And?" I replied.
"Would you wait? Jesus, you're impatient. What I'm trying to say to you is that talent is beyond all of us. You either got it or you ain't, you know? God opens a door or a window or a transom and throws a portion of talent in the room where you're born, and you can get a huge satchel of it--something you can't even lift--like Judy Garland or Stephen Sondheim, or you get a nice, slightly hernia-inducing portion, which, I will tell you, I think I got--and Holland got. A lot of others may have only gotten a little doggie bag of talent. I think your talent may cause a few people to one day wear a truss, but what do I know? Anyway, to make a point I keep avoiding: Holland got the talent. God threw in a big bag of it, and she did what you always do--you look at the bag and wonder who's gonna pick it up; who's gonna notice it; do I deserve it? The talent is there, and it scares the recipient, and it scares the world, most of which is decidedly, wildly untalented. Holland's stewardship is very intelligent because she is intelligent. Not all talented people are intelligent. Some of them are a little feral, you know what I mean? They just run out in traffic and play with their talent, unaware of its delicacy and its proximity to deadly cars, you know? Holland was wise to let her intelligence roll out, like a carpet, before her talent could walk it. You get hit with the intelligence, like a good perfume, as Marlon [Brando], that feral genius said--and you're ready for the talent. You've been seduced for the introduction of the talent, so you're not so scared. I'm not that smart. I'm smart, but I'm not that smart. I can't seduce prior to my talent hitting the room. I just throw it on the floor, in the room where you're sitting, and ask you to play with it, notice it, kneel before it. It puts some people off. But--and this is important--the talent gets in the room. But a few chairs have been toppled. Holland has gone a long way, and she's gonna go a lot longer. She has good eyes, and they transmit what she sees right to that first-class brain. She's crafty. She's gonna be in the room, dominating it, before you knew what she was up to. You're just gonna smell the perfume, smile at the pretty lady, and then be her captive."
MORE TO COME