Elaine Stritch, salty star of Broadway, dies at 89

Thu Jul 17, 2014 4:47pm EDT
 
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By Bill Trott and Eric Kelsey

(Reuters) - Elaine Stritch, a husky-voiced actress whose performances over six decades lit up New York's Broadway and London's West End and brought a touch of the profane to the stage with her brassy personality, died on Thursday at age 89.

Stritch, who also had Emmy-winning roles on the television shows "30 Rock" and "Law & Order," died at home in Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of her native Detroit, from natural causes, her spokesman said. She had suffered from diabetes for several years and had been in declining health.

Stritch worked with some of the stage's greatest composers - from Noel Coward, who called her Stritchie, to Stephen Sondheim, who wrote what became her signature song, the show-stopping "The Ladies Who Lunch," from the 1970 musical "Company."

Her performances were not the only things that made Stritch a Broadway legend. She could be loud, blunt, demanding and profane. In a May 2013 interview with actor Alec Baldwin, Stritch agreed with his assessment that she was a "legendary pain in the ass." She played the mother of Baldwin's "30 Rock" character, TV network boss Jack Donaghy.

"I want to be talked about," Stritch told the Hollywood Reporter that same year. "I want to be written about. I want everything about me! And I don't make any bones about that. I like it being all about me."

Stritch was so closely identified with New York that the city's Landmarks Conservancy declared her a living landmark in 2003. In 2013, Stritch said she no longer had the energy required to live in New York and returned to Michigan.

Life in the Detroit suburbs proved to be a tough transition after years of residing in the tony Carlyle Hotel on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Two months after moving, she told Vanity Fair magazine, "I don't have a damn thing to do except take walks in Birmingham, Michigan, and I've done that."

Stritch first went to New York in 1944 at age 17 to attend finishing school. She became caught up in the stage world and studied at Stella Adler's acting school, where Marlon Brando and Walter Matthau were classmates.   Continued...

 
Actress Elaine Stritch performs during a "A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House" in Washington July 19, 2010.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque