At 7:45 p.m. on Friday, the marquees of the Broadway theaters dimmed for exactly one minute; a week ago from today, the world lost a legend, an extremely talented Tony and Emmy award winning actress, an unapologetically fierce and strong female role model, and, according to anyone who knew her, a great storyteller. Some of you readers may recognize her as the woman who played the mother of Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, on the NBC TV comedy “30 Rock,” for which she won an Emmy in 2007. She passed last Thursday of natural causes at the age of 89, leaving behind a rich and unforgettable legacy in Broadway and beyond — one could assume she had a fabulous collection of lush fur coats.

 

The notoriously brash and feisty Elaine Stritch was born in 1925 in Detroit, Michigan. She started her career when she was just 19-years-old, and she made it to Broadway just two years later. Although she may be unknown to the younger generations (save her cameo performance on “30 Rock”), in her time, in the 40’s and throughout the 50’s and beyond, she became a household name. Her signature loud and gravelly voice and her uniquely outspoken and fearless persona took her far in the business; she worked with the likes of Steven Sondheim, Woody Allen, Marlon Brando (whom she dated when they attended acting classes together), Rock Hudson (whom she also dated for a time) and of course, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on the set of “30 Rock.”

 

Elaine Stritch, lively as ever (spyhollywood.com)

Elaine Stritch (spyhollywood.com)

Elaine Stritch remains an icon, a Broadway legend, an unforgettable and unmatched personality, and a fantastic role model on so many different levels. Anyone who worked with her would surely speak of her pride and determination (she was, by all accounts, a diva), and yet also her extraordinary talent and vulnerability. She was loud and relentlessly honest yet she also made it known that she wasn’t invincible. During the filming of her autobiographical documentary “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” (which is available to stream on Netflix as of this June), when asked about her worst fear her response was simple: drinking. She struggled with alcoholism throughout her lifetime and regularly attended AA meetings in her later years “to keep her mind sharp. Because it’s a learning experience. It’s not all about not drinking. It’s about getting smart.”

 

During the filming of the same documentary, another great female role model, Tina Fey, said of her “30 Rock” costar: “I think Elaine is a great role model. She is confident and brassy and stylish and gorgeous. She doesn’t wear pants, and she lives the way she wants to live.” Among other things, Elaine Stritch is the poster child for aging gracefully. “I like the courage of age. […] It’s not for sissies. Getting old is not for sissies.” In our society, particularly for women, “old” is something that is dreaded, fought relentlessly, even feared. There is a never-ending battle with nature– to fight off age and stay young. Yet Elaine Stritch taught us that with age, comes knowledge, respect, and experience. “I never liked the word ‘old.’ I like ‘older.’ I’m getting older every single day and so is everybody else. So were all going together. And why not enjoy it? Because there’s not a G**damn thing you can do about it.” She made old seem exciting (“It’s wonderful to be almost 87 I’m tellin’ ya, you can get away with murder!”) and makes the rest of your life seem like a story waiting to happen.

 

When they remember Elaine Stritch, they will remember her brash persona, her gravelly voice, and her notoriously long legs. However, she was truly a courageous, feisty, trail-blazing woman with fiery passion and her own way of doing things till the very end. She loved living, and she was good at it too, but she was never afraid to die. Alec Baldwin’s tweet after he heard the news says it all: “I’m sure that even God is a bit nervous right now,” he wrote. “I love you, Elaine.”

 

What do you have to say about this amazing Broadway legend? Leave your response in the comments below or send me a tweet @JenksUOhMeASoda