PHOTO: Jim Brochu with Rue McClanahan.
Here's how we met Rue McClanahan, and how that turned into a wonderful friendship.
Jim found a casting notice in Backstage for the lead in a new musical based on the plays of Plautus, and that the writer was Rue McClanahan. It was called "Aedipus Shmedipus, as long as you love your mother."
Jim auditioned and got the lead role, a kind of Pseudolus character.
IOW, it was like "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." And, though, she wasn't the best songwriter in the world -- when stumped for a rhyme, she'd just make up a word -- "toodly, boodly, woodly, etc." -- and it was too long, and she couldn't bear to cut anything -- but it was in this tiny space, and it was funny, and audiences liked it, and it was a success.
Jim tells these wonderful stories about Rue as a note-giver. (She was giving the actors notes even after the last show.)
But, it didn't matter. As crazy as she could be -- she would swoop in and out of our life, checking in on Jim's terrific production of "The Lucky O'Learys" at the El Portal in North Hollywood on one hand, and being our hysterical celebrity host when we performed the first staged reading of "The Last Session" at the Hollywood Roosevelt, back in 1996 -- on the other.
We also, back in the 90s, would go over to her house for parlor games, like Charades. She loved playing games.
Last time I saw her was out on 47th street, down the block from where we were doing The Big Voice. She was sitting on one of the flowerpots in across from the 47th Street Theater (where The Last Session played), smoking a cigarette.
Jim also went to her wedding, but that's a story he has to tell, and it involves almost seeing a naked former head of state famous for her shoes.
You can't really put a price on a Rue McClanahan. She was incapable of a bad performance. Whether she was on stage or in a movie, she held her own against Bea Arthur in Maude -- a great second banana -- and she could take center stage at the drop of a hat.
That little production of Aedipus Shmedipus led to great things for us. We met a 19-year old producer named Carl D. White, who later produced The Last Session in New York, (and who now has a thriving career, co-producing the very well received "The Temperamentals" and the upcoming, for Broadway, "bare," the pop rock opera).
We heard from Rue's assistant last week, that she wanted us to come over for games. She has been bed-ridden for a long time, and she was finally wanting to see close friends with whom she could have a laugh.
So, getting the news that she had passed away saddens us greatly. It's like a member of the family has died. Thanks, Rue. You always made us laugh. You will be greatly missed.
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