Thursday, April 18, 2024

Elaine Stritch Dead at 89; She Told Friends She “Was Ready to Go” But No One Believed It


The great, and I do mean GREAT, Elaine Stritch, has passed away in Detroit at age 89. A couple of weeks ago her most recent documentarian told our Paula Schwartz that Elaine had said she “was ready to go.” Of course no one believed it. But a few months ago, when Elaine made her last trip to New York for a screening of the movie at the Paley Center, she stood and said goodbye to everyone from a wheelchair at the top of the steeply inclined theater. She was still quipping, and still carrying on, but she did look tired, and maybe knew something was up that we didn’t. Elaine was one of the all time greats, and it will be hard to imagine New York and theater and show biz and life without her.

There are so many great stories and so many people will tell them. Liz Smith — check her out at– knew her best and promoted the hell out of Stritch. DA Pennebaker captured her on film for the making of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” score, and she became an overnight sensation at around 50! A few years ago, Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus won an Emmy for their HBO film about Stritch’s magnificent one woman show, “At Liberty.”

At Elaine Kaufman’s memorial in 2011, Stritch told how the other Elaine took pity on her when she was new and struggling and gave her a job as a bartender. The gig lasted one night. Stritch, a self confessed functioning alcoholic, served one guy 37 drinks until he keeled over. That was the end of that career!

Stritch was married once, for a long time, loved guys but had no children. Her survivors are everyone she knew, her massive crowds of friends and admirers and fans, not to mention her nieces and nephews and cousins in Detroit who loved her. Her memorial service will have to be held in Madison Square Garden because no Broadway house could hold everyone.

Elaine, please, don’t curse at God when you get to heaven today. But I’m sure at tonight’s premiere for Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight,” there will be a cheer and a prayer. And all the lights on Broadway will be dimmed.


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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