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Debbie Reynolds sings with Seattle Men's Chorus
Debbie Reynolds sings with Seattle Men's Chorus
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Singing... In The Rain Seattle Men's Chorus March 28-29 McCaw Hall

Debbie Reynolds. Her name has become synonymous as one of the legendary leading ladies of Hollywood's great golden era. With more than 70 film and television credits in addition to theater and cabaret acts, Miss Reynolds' work spans more than 60 years and there is no sign of her stopping.

Mary Frances Reynolds started life in an impoverished family. At age 16, she entered the 1948 Miss Burbank beauty contest for the sign-up gift of a blouse. To her great surprise, she not only won, but also was offered a contract at Warner Bros. Studios due to her being a "great personality." It wasn't until after her name was changed, completed several films (including Singing in the Rain), and had a hit song ("Abba Dabba Honeymoon") that she put aside becoming a gym teacher and accepted her place in the entertainment industry. She has worked with some of the biggest names: Bette Davis, Shelley Winters and Sir John Gielgud, and yet her autobiography reads with a humility that endears itself to the reader.

In preparation for her singing with the Seattle Men's Chorus at the end of March, the SGN was given the honor to interview one of the greatest stars of the Hollywood musical.

Eric Andrews-Katz: You have been called "one of the great broads of Hollywood." Is that a title you reject or embrace?

Debbie Reynolds: I love to be called a "great broad." Diva, broad, great girl; they're all compliments. I've earned them, so why not enjoy them?

Andrews-Katz: In your autobiography, you say that working on Singing in the Rain and giving birth were the two most painful experiences of your life. What made the film so difficult?

Reynolds: I had never danced before. So, to dance with Gene [Kelly] and Donald [O'Conner], there was an awful lot for a 17-year-old to learn. Gene was a taskmaster, not mean or cruel, precise. Not funny. I'd never been around a professional environment like that and to be thrust into this huge production and try to learn everything in six months, well, by the end of it I had blood on my feet. Childbirth was difficult, too.

Andrews-Katz: Do you think the rags-to-riches similarities between you and Molly Brown added to your portrayal of the character, leading to your Academy nomination?

Reynolds: We weren't that similar. She was in the mountains and I was born in El Paso, Texas. We were both from poor families, but Molly Brown struck out on her own and that's where our similarities end. We both share a certain stubbornness of never giving up and the "I ain't down yet" attitude. I've always compared myself to her and loved playing the part which is why I went after it. Originally, it was supposed to go to Shirley MacLaine.

Andrews-Katz: Last year when Leslie Jordan [Will & Grace's Beverley Leslie] sang with the SMC, he made reference to you. He said that someone who was not familiar with your work interviewed you and that you became so frustrated with him that you allegedly said: "I'm Debbie fucking Reynolds!" Is this true or an urban legend?

Reynolds: I don't think I said that, although I might have. I don't remember cutting up too much on the set of Will & Grace and I don't use the word "fuck" often. I like "shit" much better. Oh well, either way, it makes for a good story!

Andrews-Katz: You'll be singing with the Seattle Men's Chorus March 27-29. Have you sung with a chorus like this before?

Reynolds: This will be my first time.

Andrews-Katz: The SMC show will be a salute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Did they build the show around your material or is it more of a mutual collaboration?

Reynolds: Mostly, it's them. They had the idea about different songs from the movie musicals. They wanted to definitely use some of my songs as well as others. It should be a big production and lots of fun. Those boys are so creative. I just do whatever they want me to do.

Andrews-Katz: Even before Connie and Carla or Will & Grace, you were a Gay icon. What has led you to this status?

Reynolds: We all dress alike! We both like the same looks: beads and feathers, feathers and beads.

Andrews-Katz: So much has happened to you since your autobiography was first published in 1988. Do you have any desires to write another book covering Charlotte's Web, Mother, In & Out, Will & Grace or the rest of the works you've accomplished in the last 20 years?

Reynolds: I've already planned on writing an updated version as soon as I have time. Probably this year. I think it will be a great read. Since then, I've had another marriage fail and drag me down. I seem to be attracted to the men that do that. What I need is someone who will look after me and be kind and loving. What I really need is a nice Gay boy. But then there's the problem that he likes other boys.

Andrews-Katz: Your career includes cinema (with an Academy nomination), a Tony nomination (before your show Irene even opened), you've done television, cabaret, cartoon voiceovers, videos, and published a book, to only name a few of your accomplishments. Do you have a favorite venue?

Reynolds: Live performances. Cabaret shows are my favorite to do, like Liza does, a revue or something. I'd like to do theater again, but eight shows a week is too much. I'm usually busy doing my cabaret act most of the year. In June, I'll be in NYC at the Carlyle Room for a month. That will be my first time performing there.

Andrews-Katz: What are some of the things you and your character Bobbie Adler have in common?

Reynolds: It was like they wrote the character for me. They were doing me, they wrote the character of a Debbie. I think she is a great character and I love her. She's very much like me and I love the fact that she has a great sense of humor.

Andrews-Katz: Were there any actors or actresses that you really enjoyed working with?

Reynolds: I loved all the musical ladies, Betty Hutton, Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker and Lena Horne. If Lena Horne was performing anywhere, then there was Debbie. I just loved working with the greats, Pearl Bailey, Marlene Dietrich and Ann Margaret. More modern, I love Cher and Bette Midler.

Andrews-Katz: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I think I speak for Seattle when I say we look forward to your performances here.

The life of Debbie Reynolds has been quite the ride, professionally as well as in her private life. After being labeled by Louella Parsons as "America's sweethearts" Debbie married singer Eddie Fisher. After parenting two children (Carrie and Todd Fisher) the marriage ended with Hollywood notoriety. Two more marriages presented a fa├žade of happiness but brought financial crashes. The determination and multifaceted talent that Debbie Reynolds possesses, however, is fully accounted for in her illustrious career and explains why there ain't nothin' like this dame!

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