Isherwood: Have you always been this honest?

Stritch: For the first 50 years of my career I was so busy being afraid and then I finally got into performing and saying I can do this and I can do that…I know how to reach you and I just got [raising her voice] DIDACTIC ABOUT IT AND I SAID LISTEN TO ME, because I have something to tell you, don’t fight with me or argue with me, I’m up on the stage and I own the stage and if you behave yourself and I behave myself, we’re going to make some music.

Isherwood: But how did you get through those 50 years…how?

Stritch: Booze. [Laughter] No, it’s true. That’s how I did it. I didn’t take too much of it…I didn’t want to overshoot the runway…between the audience and myself, we fooled all of them.

Isherwood: Why did you want to keep going?

Stritch: I don’t know. I wanted to keep up with everybody. I wanted to say hello to Barry Diller. [Laughter] Nobody gets that. He’s one of the richest men in the world and every time I see him I get weak knees. It’s not like I want to run away, get lost with him. But I wouldn’t mind with all the money he’s got. He’s a nice man, a good man, and he’s got all this money and he lives at the Carlyle. And I go through the lobby and say, “hello, Barry,” and I feel like nine million bucks. I love being accepted with all the swells.


About performing, she began to tear up at one point, thinking of what was ahead.

Stritch: I don’t know… I know what I’m doing in my profession, I’m so happy. I’m not afraid, I’m doing my work, every single day of my life. I don’t know, a one act play…I don’t care how little it is or how big it is, as long as I’m entertaining. I’m so happy and as long as I’m making people happy, I’m just thrilled.

Isherwood: That’s one of the things we love about you.

Stritch: I’m exhausted. I’ve been doing this for so long…and I’m happy for everybody who’s ever helped me and I feel good about myself, but I don’t want to do it every day. I don’t want to have an obligation and matinee days? It’s insane. I’ll do a matinee if I have to but I don’t want to. I want to ease up, [and here, she stretched out the word] eeeeeeeeease up a little bit. Eight shows a day is crazy.

Isherwood: Watching the movie I got such a sense of a warm relationship you have with Rob, and you’ve been working together for 10, 15 years.

Stritch: Because everything with him …I don’t know how old Rob is, I don’t know how old I am…yes, I do, but how can I say it; I don’t know anyone that is more attractive than Rob…he’s all sweetness and goodness and light, it’s such a pleasure being around him, and he plays music for me and I’m just crazy about him. [Applause] You know that on the stage of the Café Carlyle the other night we did a song together and we’ve never done it before — EVER. And I said let’s sing that! We just had the best time.

Bowman: It was kind of a showstopper too… It went really well, we were in the right key. The One You Love Belongs to Somebody Else. [At that point, Stritch began to sing a few bars, a little off-key. And everyone loved it.]


Isherwood: It sounds like you had a nice relationship with Chiemi. [To Karasawa] Does the filmmaker need to have an objective relationship with her subject?

Karasawa: Just try it. [Laughter] It is not possible to be involved with Elaine and not be engaged. She would stand there and say, what are you doing there, why are you not talking to me? She’s curious; she wants to know everything about you…if you’re having an affair with the cameraman. By the end of two days she knew more about me than most people.

Stritch: [To Audience] Oh, I wish I could tell you something…


A brief question and answer session followed the panel session.

Audience member 1: You don’t talk about death?

Stritch: Well, let’s!

Audience member 1: In the West we’re afraid to. Are you afraid to die?

Stritch: I don’t like not knowing. What’s the movie? I’m okay.

Audience member 2: Can you talk about Elaine Kaufman and Kim Stanley?

Stritch: Kim…an unbelievable actress; funny way to put it because she was the most believable actress in the world. But it was too much. Elaine? The bartender… [Elaine was the owner of Elaine’s, a celebrity hangout on the Upper East Side for many years.] Let me tell you, I wanted a change, so I told her I wanted to tend bar. I took it over and I loved it. I’d say I’m out of scotch. I’ll give you something else, like I was running a bakery. This guy had 22 scotches and I gave them to him, but I felt kind of guilty so I went through his wallet for his card and Elaine wanted to know what I was doing, and I told her I was trying to help him get home, and she said “He got here, didn’t he?” That’s what it takes to be in New York; a great dame.


As everyone lingered, watching them help Stritch off the stage, it was clear that we had all had the rarest encounter with a great dame.

“Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 19.

Featured image: Elaine Stritch. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Smart Broad Films.

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