GETTING THERE WAS
MORE FUN THAN WHEN I GOT THERE. WHEREVER "THERE" MAY
was photographed quite a bit, from birth up until this
afternoon! Here is my first professional sitting.
family bought their first television the week I was born.
Being brought up with as many as a dozen or so foster children or relatives who were down on their luck, I quickly
noticed that BOX could make everyone sit down and laugh with
Lucy or cry with Playhouse 90. I wanted to get in that box
We were a political family. My grandfather was sheriff
and my Uncle John was a democratic U.S. senator for 30 years.
He ran on the democratic ticket with Adlai Stevenson the year I was
born (1952). He lost to General Ike.
My uncle U.S Senator John Sparkman and
my Grandfather R.M. Livingston and his daughter Mema
Lois Livingston Carter.
was running for sheriff the year he died, but he won
the election anyway (that's the south for you). Granny was left
to finish his term as sheriff. As a toddler I
called her Sheriff Granny!. I wanted her to dress
like Dale Evans and have a gun in a holster. THAT was NOT gonna happen!
I told everyone that my granny was sheriff, and used it to
the utmost. Can you say brat?
Sheriff of Bessemer, Alabama in 1956 much to my delight!
I thought we were famous and powerful and now Granny was church secretary for Westside
Baptist church and I thought that was almost as
famous as being inside "The Box".
High School the bug bit hard when I got great reviews and
huge audience response when I played BIG JULE in GUYS AND DOLLS. Suddenly,
I was really popular in High
School. Where I grew up that was a big (silly) deal!
Me and the cast of
Guys and Dolls
That summer I went to Florence State and did a play with
Academy Award nominee and Tony Award winner Peggy Cass (for
her role in AUNTIE MAME) We remained friends till her
death and hung out in Hollywood 20 years later. After
moved to Birmingham and got involved with Children's Theater
there. I played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of
Oz, Merlin in Arthur and the Magic Sword, amongst
many other plays.
Then I collaborated with a group of working actors from
Atlanta, all Birmingham Southern graduates. We did a
daring (for the time, 1973) production of The Boys in the
Band at Birmingham Festival Theater.
It was a smash hit and
total sellout with an extended run. We received
hateful reviews because of the subject matter, but it was a
terrific ensemble piece that is still talked about in
Birmingham theater. Sadly, most of the cast has since
died. I decided to go on to Atlanta where I lucked
into my first real acting job, when I snuck into an Equity
audition for Man of La Mancha. I won the role
of Sancho Panza. I was making the outrageous sum of
$105 per week and thought I was rich. We toured
Georgia, and there was an especially memorable
performance at the Grand Opera House in Macon. I
followed this play immediately with a production of
The Subject was Roses in Atlanta. Some of my
Birmingham Southern friends suggested I go back and study
under Dr. Arnold Powell, before heading out for a
professional career in New York and Hollywood. A
friend, George Falkenberry introduced me to Dr. Powell.
I received a scholarship and became one of the star
performers at the theater at Birmingham Southern for two
years. This experience laid a wonderful foundation for
my professional career.
Here are a few pictures from the 20 plays I did at
Birmingham Southern before moving to N.Y.C.
In 1976, after saving
money working nights as a bartender and days as a waiter at
The Magic Pan, I hopped on a plane for New York with
$800 in my pocket. I moved in with friends from
Birmingham Southern at 45 West 68th St., between Columbus
and Central Park West. I worked at Tavern on the
Green, cleaned houses and took classes. I was introduced by
Southern alumnus Pamela Payton Wright to Tennessee Williams
and we became friends. At the time he was directing
Sylvia Sydney (who I would later costar with in
Beetlejuice) in a production of Vieux Carré,
which was produced at the St. James Theater on Broadway.
I hung around and worked as Production Assistant and learned
a lot. Then one day when the show closed early, I got
a postcard from Hollywood, from another Birmingham Southern
alumnus, that said, "Palm trees grow and rents are low."
"Wee Tot" in me became dissatisfied with the cold New York
winters and Hollywood became extremely alluring.
Burton was in the audience and I was cast as Otho In
I landed in Los
Angeles with $200 to my name, and checked into the Bryson
Hotel which had six white corinthian columns supporting
rearing golden lions at the garden entrance. I talked
the recently post op transsexual manager into letting me
have a studio room over looking Lafayette Park for $200
(With no deposit!). I immediately got a job working at
Bullocks Wilshire Department Store, an art deco piece,
within walking distance since I had no car. Thus began
my 10 year struggle of doing 20 plays for free, until Tim
Burton saw me as Gertrude Stein and cast me as Otho in
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More Fun.." Photo Gallery
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