Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Birthday Girl: It was a Party

We need a little cheering up hereabouts, and who better to take on that daunting task than today's birthday girl, the heavenly Miss Ann Miller?

We catch her here, indomitable and not even tapping, on Merv. She starts with a fragment of Mame, as if to set the mise en scène, and then segues into a number that I don't think I've ever before in my life heard (a) before 2:00 a.m. and (b) not in a gay bar and (c) while (more or less) sober. I have to think that for Annie, it really was "a great, great, fabulous time," for as I've noted before, I don't think any star of the Golden Age got as much pure joy from the simple fact of stardom as she did.

What sets Ann Miller apart from other star narcissists (starcissists?) - and people as diverse as Norma Shearer and Madonna come to mind - is that she was able to gather up all that energy she took in from being, as her tax returns (or was it her driver's license? Her passsport? I've heard all three) so famously said, a "Star Lady", and pass it back, almost mystically somehow, over the footlights or even through the screen. It's a stardom oddly without vanity, or perhaps (given her legendary preoccupation with looking star-perfect) without selfishness - stardom, if you like, as a shared enterprise: us out in front, adoring, and her, up there, pouring it all back out to us, 500 taps a minutes and a 1,000 watt smile.

In any case, if there were ever a Big Name with whom I'd like to have spent a boozy enough evening to have gotten to this number in the setting, as noted above, to which I've previously associated it, I think it's she. Of the other musical ladies, well, Merman would have been competitive and stroppy; Doris Day, much as I love her, would be just a tad judgy, no? Alice Faye would have headed off to bed hours ago, dragging along poor Ruby Keeler, tipsy after half a Brandy Alexander. Mitzi Gaynor might have been fun (hell, she might still be now - she's busy on Facebook and a hoot), but I bet she had a mouth like a sailor; Ginger Rogers would have gotten all Great Lady on us by 10:45; and who the hell wants to try and keep up with Judy? No, Miller would come along for the ride, and when it got time to sing the late-night-only numbers - "Blue Champagne," and "Here's to Life," and this one - well, it is a party, and in her mind, it did last forever.  She went out on a high note, singing "I'm Still Here" (another great 2:00 a.m. singalong, now that I think of it) in a well-regarded revival of Follies, and few have earned the right to sing that warhorse more. She did see it all, and thanks to the marvels of technology, thank God, she's still here.


  1. Thanks, I needed that. Everything's made better with a little Ann!

  2. The first segue number is, for me, Marie's Crisis and the long forgotten Five Oaks on Grove Street. I'd be shocked if you weren't familiar, perhaps even overly familiar, with both.