"EATING!! What a concept!!" said the actress Holland Taylor to me way back when I first met her when we were both young.
Since then, the art of eating, dining, food, health and restaurants has become such big business that there are ongoing financial tomes about same, whole sections in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. The "new theater" is said to be "eating out in restaurants." Or, better, becoming a TV chef.
I thought Holland's quote was so good I opened up my book titled Dishing with this, saying. Well, the other night I was able to enjoy eating as a fabulous concept at the Lambs Club right in the heart of what used to be called the dignified "Theater District." What's more -- this happened at a dinner for -- ta, da! -- the birthday of Holland Taylor.
The Lambs Club, chock full of photos of the famous who have made their mark on the stage, is at 132 West 44th Street. It has been brilliantly renovated into a glorious building just steps from over-heated, over-crowded Times Square. It boasts, downstairs, a beguiling fireplace big enough to tap dance in and upstairs, one of the most beautiful bars in Manhattan. (This is the perfect place to meet for what the French call the witching hour -- cinq a sept (5 to 7) before you go home to your significant other.
The only thing wrong with the Lambs is that they insist on serving you a three (actually four) course meal and this takes from 7:30 to 11 p.m. (I suppose if you are rushing to make it to the theater at 8, they might be forced to give you a bite and you could eat and run.)
I'm afraid I am going to be boring you for the next few weeks writing about my pal Holland and of our late idol, the onetime governor of Texas, Ann Richards. Holland is in NYC in rehearsal for opening her self-created play Ann, which bows at the Vivian Beaumont theater in Lincoln Center on March 7th. (Tickets are now selling like, well, not "hotcakes" -- I'd prefer to call it "like pieces of sautéed salmon" because Ann ate salmon at almost every meal and predicted she was going "to turn into a fish!" This witty woman was a reformed health nut and was always onto me for "only eating from the brown and white food groups." Nevertheless, for all Ann's smarts and bravery -- she moved to New York only days after 9/11 -- she was felled by esophageal cancer in 2006. I noticed at her Lambs Club birthday dinner, Miss Taylor ordered salmon for her main course.)
The play, Ann, which concerns itself with the super feminist's rise as a public figure and her brief time as the only liberal governor of Texas in recent history, was written by the actress herself, "in her spare time." You can read all about this in Vanity Fair magazine for March with Holland, photographed by Douglas Freeman, in an Ann Richards pose. (Guess who wrote the copy for that? Yes, yours truly.)
THE LAMBS Club dinner laid on to welcome Holland back to Broadway, included her incredible early thirties director, Benjamin Klein. He just got through putting the animals of War Horse through their paces at Lincoln Center and he is left now with a single blonde bombshell star and major actress with many awards to her credit (including the Emmy for The Practice). However, Holland is more familiar to TV viewers as the randy mother of Charlie Sheen in the original Two and a Half Men.
With us at the Lambs dinner were producers and managers Harriet Leve, Jeff Wilson, Wendy Orshan, Kevin Bailey, the artist Robert DeMichel and, among the missing was the great producer Bob Boyett. He is in Connecticut getting over broken ribs from a fall. We missed Mr. Boyett!
Among these theater veterans are several who are fresh from another hit which they shepherded -- Annie at the Palace Theater. And at least one who is working with Tom Hanks on the Nora Ephron play, Lucky Guy, opening in previews March 1, running until June 16th
(Both stars, Mr. Hanks and Miss Taylor, were long ago given their big TV break outs in a series titled Bosom Buddies.)
At the Lambs Club dinner, I took Holland a birthday and opening night gift which we assembled on the middle of the table. It was a unique antique item left me by Ann Richards -- a team of tiny white lead painted horses pulling the carriage of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen and Prince Philip are inside the Coronation coach in all their glory.
I told the assembled table that it reminded me of how Ann took her somewhat famous grand-daughter, Lily, to London to meet the Queen. Later, Ann asked Lily to say what she remembered about this historical meet? Lily pondered and said, "The queen had lipstick on her teeth!"
When I say Holland Taylor is great as Ann, I am prejudiced of course. And this isn't her first time at the rodeo -- er, I mean, on Broadway. She appeared in The Devils with the late Ann Bancroft and Jason Robards and she co-starred with the late Alan Bates in Butley. Holland became memorable for learning the entire leading role in only a few days to perform it in the one-night-only historic Moose Murders. She has had many successful excursions off-Broadway.
So, although the Vivian Beaumont is quite a way off Broadway at Lincoln Center, it is not "off" in any sense and I hope you will call the box office right now and order tickets to see Holland Taylor as Ann Richards.