Rita Moreno is not only an EGOT winner, but now the Hollywood legend is having a building with her name on it in Hollywood.
The “West Side Story” star was on hand on June 23 at the naming ceremony of the Hollywood Arts Collective’s Rita Moreno Arts Building in Los Angeles.
“This really came as a surprise to me, and I was asked if I would allow them to put my name on it and I did two things: I almost peed, and I damn near fell down on the floor,” Moreno told Variety. “I said, ‘Really?’ And then I wanted to say ‘Why?’ but I figured that would be kind of rude. If they had chosen me there was something just wonderful about me that I needed to be reminded of. So that’s how it happened. And I really am just thrilled to pieces. I can’t believe it.”
Moreno also reminisced about the last time she saw Tyson, who died last year at the age of 96, when the two visited the White House during the holidays.
“We’re taking pictures in front of the tree, and I’ll never forget this — this is so Cicely Tyson — a young girl was rounding us up and she said, ‘Okay, you guys,’ and Cecily took after her. She said, ‘Excuse me. We are not guys. How dare you,'” Moreno said. “She let her have it. This poor creature who didn’t know any better, obviously, was so embarrassed. She turned bright scarlet. She said, ‘Don’t you ever, ever call women ‘you guys’ again.’ And I just said, ‘Cecily, ‘I love you.’ She said, ‘Rita, I love you.’ She was so gorgeous, such a beautiful woman.”
The naming ceremony, hosted at the chic Bar Lis at the Thompson Hollywood hotel, also included appearances by Entertainment Community Fund Board chairman Annette Bening, Fund president and CEO Joseph P. Benincasa and Western Region executive director Keith McNutt. Other guests included “Moesha” and “Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” creator Ralph Farquhar.
“I met a woman who worked for the city when they were originally starting this project 13 years ago. It took so long, so many people. And I just loved it, because I live here in LA. And I just wanted to do everything I could to try to help,” Bening told Variety. “It’s 151 units of affordable housing. For anybody that lives in LA, and anybody that’s having a hard time getting by in LA, you know what that means to have affordable housing. Housing everywhere, it’s really expensive, but here, we really need it. We really need to provide this kind of help.”
In a speech later in the evening after she was presented with an artist sketch of the future Rita Moreno Arts Building, Moreno spoke passionately about her own childhood growing up in New York City, fantasizing about being a performer while listening to the radio on the fire escape of her family apartment. She surprised attendees by performing her favorite song from her childhood, “Dream” by the Pied Pipers.
Moreno then imagined what her late mother would saying about seeing a building named after her daughter.
“She’d probably say ‘Oh, that’s nice. Why?,’ Moreno said. “So I would tell her this — I would say that the Hollywood Arts Collective…is very important for lower income arts and entertainment workers who are being priced out of Hollywood. This is incredible. This is going to allow them to continue to live and work and will allow them to dream. You know, you just cannot take our dreams.”