Garrett gives crowd her best

By The Columbia Chronicle

Steve Stanis

Staff Writer

“An Evening with Betty Garrett,” held on Monday Oct. 19 at Columbia’s Getz Theater, took the audience through a living history of the actress’ life. The event was held to raise money for the newly-founded Betty Garrett Musical Theater Scholarship.

Tickets were $150 or $250. The $250 tickets included an after-performance dinner at the Palmer House. A cocktail reception preceeded the event in the Getz Gallery. Attendees included President Duff, Theater Department Chair Sheldon Patinkin, and Estelle Spector, the head of the musical theater program. “We named the scholarship after Betty because she’s a living history of

theater . . . She sets a good example for students,” Spector said.

Garrett based her performance on “Betty Garrett and Other Songs,” her autobiography which was co-written by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Ron Rapoport. At 79 years of age, Garrett can still keep an audience mesmerized. She sang and danced numbers from some of her first musicals and shows. Garrett still takes tap lessons once a week and it shows. She has not lost any of her

dancing talent.

The stage’s backdrop was a large screen that upon entrance to the theater displayed a montage of photos from Garrett’s life. Later, that screen would be used to show several short clips from the different movies and television shows Garrett has appeared in. Most amusing to the audience were scenes with Frank Sinatra in “On the Town” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” When the screen went blank, there was no need for any type of backdrop because the audience was focused only on Garrett.

Garrett cracked jokes throughout the performance as she told of her experiences with actors, studio executives, writers and government officials. She truly looked at home on stage, making every member of the audience feel like they were in a one-on-one conversation with her. Garrett took off her shoes and danced about as she told stories of Danny Kaye, Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter, her late husband Larry Parks and others.

The only truly sad part of the performance was the story of Larry Parks being investigated by the House Un-American Committee for having belonged to the communist party. Even when reflecting on this low point in her life, Garrett was able to make jokes and keep a smile. She told a story of a drunken Senator Joseph McCarthy trying to buy her and her husband a drink in Las Vegas after having helped destroy both of their careers. They had the awkward drink with him, but Garrett said, “We got out of there as quick as we could.” The next day Garrett went down to the pool and found McCarthy teaching her sons to swim. “My sons never could understand why they had to take a bath right after that,” Garrett said with a smile.

The performance ended on a somber note. After performing one last song, Garrett made her way to the end of the stage to walk into the audience, but as she made her way towards the stairs she slipped and fell into the stairs slicing her leg open. Garrett quickly stood up and was assisted into a chair while an ambulance was called. There was a lot of blood and many were worried that the bone might be shattered. Garrett however, was laughing and said that “It’s lucky I wore red tonight.” This showed her true nature — always the fighter.

The ambulance arrived within a few short minutes of the call. Garrett was taken to Northwestern Hospital. The audience sadly made its way to the dinner where they awaited constant updates of Garrett’s condition. What started out as a joyous event quickly changed to a worried one. Garrett under went x-rays to revile nothing was broken. She had some muscle and tendon damage however, and had to go to surgery so that doctors could clean it up.

Carol Bryant of the Columbia College Public Relations Department told The Chronicle that Garrett was in “good spirits.”

The Chronicle wishes Garrett a speedy recovery.

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