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Patti LuPone Was Not Born a Diva

LuPone at last night's opening.Photo: Patrick McMullan


At last night’s opening-night party for Gypsy, we caught up with the current (and apparently great) Mama Rose, the infectious Patti LuPone. LuPone’s current standing in the theater world isn’t too shabby, but, as we learned, no one is born a diva. When she was 13, she told us, she and her brother appeared on The Ted Mack Amateur Hour, performing an adagio waltz to “The Belle of the Ball.” Backstage, the pint-size LuPones had a rude awakening as to the realities of showbiz: “I had a tiara and a white ball gown,” Patti remembered. “A stagehand came … and he sprayed my tiara with a dulling spray, because it was being reflected into the lights. Then he said, ‘Open your mouth,’ because I had a mouth full of braces, and he sprayed the braces! Talk about humiliation! I thought, Oy oy oy, is this show business?

At least, we figured, mini-Patti would take home first prize — but apparently this went to some kid from Tennessee. “It was fixed!” she exclaimed. “We were hanging out in a stairwell, and we heard the producers … and we went, “Holy" — and here she mouthed, "shit" — "It’s fixed!” Forty-five years later, she still looked astonished. —Ben Kawaller

Related: Let Me Be Entertained