With Special Thanks to Moderators Lee Roy Reams and Harvey Evans!
DO40 President John Sefakis with Paul Phillips, Tony Stevens, Marge Champion, Donna McKechnie, moderators Harvey Evans and
Lee Roy Reams and Rachelle Rak and audience member Gene Foote
A Cavalcade of Gypsies on – and offstage – highlight the career of Broadway’s Ultimate Gypsy:
Ms. Gwen Verdon
DO40 tried something different--a video tribute--a smaller list of speakers--and an audience filled with a gaggle of gypsies from over 60 years of Broadway’s best, starting from 1947!!! And then we put it all on video!
It was a long time in the making. DO40 had wanted to honor Gwen Verdon for years, but we just didn’t know how to approach it. Finally, DO40 Board Member Lee Roy Reams took it upon himself to start the wheels going--and with assistance from Harvey Evans (it took NO arm twisting at all!), the blueprint for the evening was set: Show Gwen. In her glory. Dancing. Some rare clips, some interviews, some not-so-new videos. But all Gwen - all the time.
Gwen’s dear friend and stage manager, Paul Phillips flew up from Florida to speak, and came with his date – Nicole Fosse! Other speakers included Marge Champion (who met Gwen when she was seven; Marge, eleven!), Donna McKechnie, Tony Stevens and Rachelle Rak. Speakers that spanned the Gwen Verdon era from 1932 – 2000.
You don’t get this information in text books! Some of it, Mr. Reams, could have been censored, but then again, it WAS historical fact (and made Marge Champion blush – a Marilyn Monroe/Jack Cole story!).
DO40 then turned the cameras on the audience. Right before Intermission, DO40 president John Sefakis came on stage to do his usual “sales pitch” and then brought the DO40 cameraman to the stage to film the AUDIENCE – any chorus person who wanted to stand up and say their name and what show they did with Gwen was filmed – David Gold and Rudy Tronto (from California), Christine Stewart Fornier (from Minnesota), Candy Brown (from Colorado) Gene Foote, Norma Doggett Bezwick (Gwen assisted Jack Cole in Norma’s first Broadway musical, Magdalena In 1947), Gwen Arment, Louise Quick, Lawrence Leritz, Hellen Gallagher, Jack Lee, Ken Urmston (from Can-Can) and many, many more.
Nicole Fosse regaled the audience with stories of her mother “getting into shape for work” at home by jumping rope four times a week and vocalizing. She also taught Nicole ballet at home – with the refrigerator as the barre! Wonderful, heartwarming stories of the History, the Legacy and the Life of Gwen Verdon, as told by the people WHO WERE THERE - mostly our members!
This was DO40’s biggest hit so far. We’re thankful not only to our members, but to the FRIENDS of DO40 who came as well. We can’t do it without all of you!
Special Thanks to Lee Roy Reams and Harvey Evans, as well as Marcus Gallante for his superb video clips and editing. The speakers – from Marge Champion and Paul Phillips to Donna McKechnie, Tony Stevens and Rachelle Rak (who was a hoot and a half, as we used to say!). And all those who contributed stories from the audience, including Gene Foote, David Gold, Nicole Fosse, Louise Quick, Gwen Arment, Lawrence Leritz, Rudy Tronto and more…
You can view video clips on our youtube channel, www.youtube.com/dancersover40. Go to Playlists and chose Gwen Verdon: I’m not Lola. We are the only organization dedicated to preserving a community of support for the mature dancer, with panels, performances, socialsand awards events, to help document the History, Legacy and Lives of these important artists. DO40 thanks all of you for the success of this important event.
Remember, we are a HUGE part of Facebook! Over 10,000 Fans! Pictures galore of the Gwen Event (pictures will be put up here on the website as well). The great thing about Facebook is you all can COMMENT on the events and talk to each other! So please, take time to go to www.facebook.com/dancersover40 and enjoy the conversations -- and news! It hits there first!
Generations of Gwen Admirers: Rachelle Rak, Candy Brown and Donna McKechnie