By Mark Kennedy ,AP
NEW YORK — Elaine Stritch was more than a Broadway actress. She was a New York institution, strolling around in a fur coat, pork pie hat or oversized sunglasses. She often wore shorts and ties, or just black stockings and a white flowing shirt. Her weapon of choice was the zinger.
“I like anything I don’t know about,” she said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press. “And I don’t like most of the things I do.” She also offered this: “The most horrible line in the English language for me is, ‘God, you haven’t changed a bit.’” Stritch, who became a sort of shorthand for acting longevity since she made her Broadway debut in “Loco” in 1946, died Thursday at 89 in her home state of Michigan — far from her adopted home of New York and her former longtime home and stage at the Carlyle Hotel. But Broadway and New York immediately sent their love.
Liza Minnelli remembered her as “a true trail blazer. Her talent and spunk will be greatly missed by so many of us.” Lena Dunham said on Twitter: “May your heaven be a booze-soaked, no-pants solo show at the Carlyle.” Broadway’s marquees were to dim in her memory on Friday and a Twitter hashtag was born — #EverybodyRise.
Although Stritch appeared in movies and on television, garnering three Emmys and finding new fans as Alec Baldwin’s unforgiving mother on “30 Rock,” she was best known for her stage work, particularly in her candid one-woman memoir, “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty,” and in the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company.”
Stritch worked well into her late 80s, most recently as Madame Armfeldt in a revival of Sondheim’s musical “A Little Night Music” in 2010. She had built up so much goodwill that simply appearing onstage triggered a wave of applause, but she said she still tried to earn it every night. Her tart tongue also remained.
“You know where I’m at in age?” she asked during the run. “I don’t need anything. That’s a little scary — when you know that the last two bras you bought are it. You won’t need any more. I’m not going to live long for any big, new discovery at Victoria’s Secret.”
In 2013, Stritch retired to Michigan after 71 years in New York City and made a series of farewell performances at the Carlyle, where she lived for a decade. A documentary released in February showed her final years, complete with forgotten lyrics, touching moments and flashes of irrational anger.
Someone asked her if she liked it. “I said I loved it, I just wish I wasn’t in it,” she replied. When she flew back to New York to promote the film — “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me” — she was as feisty as ever and even unleashing the F-bomb on the “Today” show.