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Elaine Stritch: 'I'm Not Easy'


We want to take a moment now to remember Elaine Stritch. She died this week at the age of 89 after a career that ran for seven decades on Broadway and the West End, movies and television. She sang about "The Ladies Who Lunch" in her signature voice - gruff, bruised, but strong.

We interviewed Elaine Stritch just a few months ago. A documentary about her had just come out called "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me." She had to be briefly hospitalized in the middle of the publicity tour and it sometimes seemed a labor for her to speak. But Elaine Stritch lit up when we asked about her late husband.


SIMON: Can I ask you about John Bay, your husband?

ELAINE STRITCH: Oh, can you ever. Of course you can.

SIMON: Well, the love of your life I gather?

STRITCH: Absolutely. No question about it. No question about it. I was in love for the first time in my life.

SIMON: He said something that you quote in this film...

STRITCH: Yeah, what?

SIMON: ....Which I haven't stopped quoting - everybody's got a sack of rocks.

STRITCH: Got a sack of rocks. Well, it's the wisest thing I've ever heard said ever.

SIMON: Yeah.

STRITCH: Oh God, I can't say enough about that guy.

SIMON: We'll explain. He died too young.

STRITCH: Oh, my God. Tell me about it. It was ten years though. I had ten years with that man. We never fought. We screamed once in a while, and then broke up. You know, I don't mean broke up, but, you know, broke up in laughter. We had a ball with our fights. Yes, you did. No you didn't. Oh, stop it, John, this is a waste of time. I know, but you started it. No, I didn't. You brought - those kind of arguments. And then I'd just ask him to please kiss me like they do in the movies, and he'd tell me that's where I should go.

SIMON: (Laughter).

STRITCH: It's true. That's what he would - he'd say just go to the movies, Elaine, and then you come back and we'll have dinner. Oh, he was a lovely guy, and he was funny, and he was - he was my - oh, boy. He was my husband, and I loved saying that, 'cause I never had one before. I did know how to behave with one. But I knew how to behave with John.

SIMON: In the film, "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" we see her struggle against two tough adversaries - diabetes and drinking. She loses a little to both as she contends with the advances of age. It takes tenacity for her just to get through any given day, but she continues to perform, charm and roar. The film she says, she likes, she likes what she calls the courage of age.


STRITCH: I think I'd like it. I have to say I like it because I think you have to make friends with it or leave it, or give up on it. You know what I mean?

SIMON: Yeah.

STRITCH: Because unless you can fight it and unless you can stand up to it, you might as well get it out of your house, because it's too tough to take.

SIMON: There's a point in the film where you say it's time for me. So, were you just having a bad day when you said that or do you feel that way?

STRITCH: When I said what?

SIMON: It's time for me.

STRITCH: Well, I think it is more or less. I don't think I'm going to die tomorrow or even two weeks from now, or even ever. I just don't know - who the hell knows what's going to happen to them? Nobody. Isn't that comforting? Nobody has a clue. I like that we don't know. And I like it's somebody else's decision, not mine.


SIMON: I think we're just going to let you go. I think we have...

STRITCH: You're kidding.

SIMON: No, not at all, unless there's something you wanted to add.

STRITCH: Well, first of all, I want to say that I think it's, A, adorable of you to do this and take the courage. Like I'm facing life, you're facing the courage to interview me, 'cause I'm not easy. I'm just, you know, I'm just not easy. But I can't tell you how my heart's in the right place.


STRITCH: (Singing) Good times and bum times, I've seen them all. And my dear, I'm still here...

SIMON: The lioness of Broadway, the legendary Elaine Stritch speaking with us earlier this year. She died this week at the age of 89, but we'll hear her for a long time to come.


STRITCH: (Singing) Good times and bum times - I've seen them all. And my dear, I'm still here. Plush velvet sometimes, sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I'm still here. I have run the gamut A to Z, three cheers... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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