Getting Hitched at the Plaza

Notable Weddings and Receptions of the 1960’s at the Plaza Hotel:

Patricia Kennedy and Peter Lawford – April 24, 1954 Wedding (pictured below).

Jean Kennedy and Stephen Smith – 1956 Reception at the Plaza.

Singers Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence – Aug. 12, 1963 in State Suite.

Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower – 1968 Reception (along with 6 other receptions that day).

Plaza Hotel – Part 2

On November 28, 1966, in honor of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Truman Capote hosted his acclaimed “Black & White Ball” in the Grand Ballroom. He chose the Plaza “because it has the only beautiful ballroom left in New York”. A brilliant setting, a select guest list, a strict dress code, and the novelty of wearing masks (he even had to approve who was brought as an invitees guest). Capote rented Suite 437 that evening. He invited 540 persons, there were 200 press in the lobby and 300 onlookers in the street. Capote had no flowers declaring “the people are the flowers”. The party cost $16,000. New York Times printed the guest list, CBS aired live coverage. Diana Trilling summed it up neatly, “a very complicated moment in this country’s social history.”

Simon in the Park

A few of us went to Grant Park last night to see The Odd Couple on the outdoor screen – along with a thousand or so of our closest friends and some of the strangest low-hanging clouds I’ve ever seen, we sat on blankets and drank red wine and watched Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon trade classic Simon quips.

The City of Chicago web site includes a few bits of trivia about the movie, including a story about Matthau (who also played all three male leads in the original production of Plaza Suite), who asked to play the fastidious Felix because it would have been more of a challenge as an actor. Simon’s response:

Walter, go and be an actor in somebody else’s play. Please be Oscar in mine.

Plaza Hotel

The Plaza Hotel set the standard for luxury hotels in the early 1900’s. The building was opened to the public on October 1, 1907. It extends along Central Park and 5th Avenue New York City. The 19 story building is the premiere hotel in New York City.

Plaza Suite – Broadway Production Part 3

George Scott had a detached retina at one point in the run and had to take nearly six weeks off the production. During this time they decided to have a British actor, Nicol Williamson, play the role. Actors Equity was highly opposed to this and finally agreed; however, on Williamson’s debut many actors picketed the show, including Marsha Mason (whom Simon later married).

Upon Nicol Williamson’s entrance an Equity actor in the audience began to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” Eventually security came to remove the unhappy patron just as he finished “and the home of the braaave.” The play restarted and when Nicol made his enterance he received a standing ovation.

And The American Playwright is …

A commenter on the last post asked if Neil Simon is “THE American playwright” – and if his prolific and successful career isn’t enough to earn that title, then whose is?

Simon has certainly been one of the most, if not the most, popular and well-known playwrights in America – between Broadway revivals, summer rep theaters, regional professional and amateur companies, and high schools all around the world, there have been few if any moments in the last fifty years when there’s not a Neil Simon play happening on stage somewhere.

And his plays are a lot of fun – with a few notable exceptions (the Pulitzer and Tony winning drama Lost in Yonkers comes to mind), he writes plays that are simply fun for actors to play with and for audiences to watch. If we’re looking for someone to carry the “America’s playwright” title, that’s not a bad quality to have.

Who else should be considered? I suggested Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Edward Albee earlier, but since I left a comment there I added to the list in my mind Lillian Hellman and Sam Shepard, who capture two very different senses of what it is to be American.

Add your suggestions – and your reasons – in the comments below.

Plaza Suite – Broadway Production Part 2

With baseball season in full swing and the Cubs (and the White Sox…..) in first place in their respective divisions I’ll tip my hat to the teams with a little anecdote about the Broadway Show League softball tournament.

George C. Scott, who played the lead in the original Broadway production of Plaza Suite, played for their softball team in the Broadway Show League, a softball tournament played in Central Park from early spring to early summer. Scott was the pitcher and if someone made it to first off him he would stand in the path to second base and say:

“You may have gotten a single off me but you sure as hell ain’t going to second. Go on, get back.”

And the runner would inevitably go back to first base.