'Broadway Up Close' honors to Schmidt, Jones

I’VE READ a lot of movie star memoirs in my time, but I have to say hands down Diahann Carroll’s new book, “The Legs Are The Last To Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying & Other Things I Learned The Hard Way” is one of the most fun reads ever. It is candid to the max, unsparing (mostly of herself) and unapologetic; she is what she is. It has heart, without descending into the treacle of sentimentality. It’s upfront, bald-faced heart.

Diahann wrote a longer, more comprehensive autobiography about 20 years ago. I read it, and it was good, but not this good. Here the grand star — and she would indeed describe herself as such — is much more loosey-goosey and painfully honest. About herself — failures as a wife (four marriages)… failures as a mother (work,career and the business of “being Diahann Carroll” often came first)… failure to communicate as a daughter to her two remarkable parents. She is also honest about her bad taste in men, her astonishing insecurities; a lack of self-esteem masked by her beauty and her open enjoyment of fame and its accouterments.

Included also are brutal tales of racism, astonishing episodes that make the reader cringe (Her two-year old daughter being passed around backstage so white performers could “rub her head for luck.” Yes, it happened, and though Diahann pulled her baby away, and made her disgust clear, it was not the era of apologies. She had to endure, and she did.)

There’s plenty of dish, too–her tumultuous affairs with Sidney Poiter and David Frost, adventures with other star egos (The Pearl Bailey story is classic! And her “Sunset Boulevard” audition for Andrew Lloyd Webber is equally terrifying.). So that’s my rave. Buy this book!

ON OCT. 6 “Broadway Up Close” plans a tribute to my college chums, those big B’way-off-B’way talents Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. Estelle Parsons, Karen Ziemba, Dick Latessa, and Susan Watson, the original girl from “The Fantasticks,” are all to do their stuff. Then the great Marge Champion, 89, and Donald Sadler, 88, will offer a brand new dance routine. Call 212-501-3330. Don’t miss it. This kind of stuff won’t happen again in your lifetime.

“SOUTH PACIFIC” is still the hit of hits and people are again having trouble finding their way into the theater because Lincoln Center remains under construction. But, just try, just try to get a ticket to this Rodgers & Hammerstein epic! Tickets are as scarce as they were back when the controversial musical first opened in 1949.

THE SHAKESPEARE Theatre Company’s current all-male production of “Romeo and Juliet” in Washington, D.C. is making waves. Critic Peter Marks asked himself if “a muskier version could smell as sweet?” and answered “sorta kinda!” Of course, in Old Will’s day all the roles were always played by men. This production, however, lamentably seems to lack fire. “Their kisses are little more than pecks!” sniffs Marks, saying one feels the actors might not “jump into the grave for each other.”

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