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Thursday, February 26, 2015

On the Town with Buddy B: Lee Roy Reams and Richard Skipper

Lee Roy Reams is not only a great performer, he is, as his live interview with Richard Skipper displayed yesterday evening, a grand raconteur.

Richard interviewed the no-holds-barred, very candid Broadway star at the Spiral Theatre Studio in an evening that was simply delicious and even down and dirty at times. The full house loved hearing the anecdotes and backstage stories that told it like it was about the theater world and its legendary productions and superstars. We were entertained and gratefully informed. Tantalized, in fact, by the dirt Mr Reams frequently had to dish.

Mr Skipper's events never disappoint and this was surely no exception. The night kicked off with a reception that included finger food, soft drinks and wine. We were then ushered into the studio space for the 8:00 pm show that went on for a lively two hours.

I recently interviewed Mr Reams by phone but we were introduced before last night's event by Richard Skipper and had our second face-to-face encounter. (The first was in 2012 at BB King's, when Sherry Eaker (of Backstage and Bistro Awards fame) and I sat across from the Broadway icon at a Melissa Manchester concert.)

When Richard had to step outside the studio space just ahead of showtime, and I was engaged in conversation with Mr Reams, I decided to warm Richard's seat.  Lee Roy and I gossiped about a few things: our love of Melissa Manchester (whom he knows personally) and how we both plan on seeing her in March at 54 Below. We spoke of retirement (as I leave my office job, also in March) and our mutual friendships with Bob Esty. Lee Roy knew nothing of Esty's great Carol Channing guide vocal for the disco version of "Is That All There Is?" (that went unrecorded). Bob, Lee Roy would love it if you'd share this recording with him.

We shared our distaste for Channing's last two albums (the last a Born Again fiasco.) And, somehow, Mr Reams brought up Scotty Bowers' outrageous memoir, Full Service. God, I love this man!

I told Lee Roy I adored the book and have a very popular blog review about it.
I asked if he believed the stories of Bowers' "servicing" the classic Hollywood stars. "Absolutely," I was told. I was then regaled by Lee Roy's own brushes with celebs like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy among others. He'd met Scotty Bowers twice, when Scotty was tending bar at Hollywood parties, and spoke of how Bowers put the cock in cocktails by stirring them with his penis on at least one occasion.

Richard returned, I sat with my friends Kathy Towson and Nick Lion in the audience, the show began. And it began with a video presentation of clips and photographs canvasing Mr Reams' career. Best of all was our star's '70s Krazy Glue commercial with him singing and dancing.

Then Richard's Q&A began, as the host asked questions that prompted such fantastic stories of Reams' life in the theater and television. Backstage stories of legends like David Merrick, Gower Champion, Jerry Herman flowed freely. I think we could all have listened to this Q&A all night!

There's no business like show business, Mr Reams said implicitly as he entertained us with great tales from the golden age. He spoke of his wonderful but sometimes contentious, long-time relationship with Carol Channing. He spoke lovingly about befriending the late Lauren Bacall. He co-starred in Applause (Broadway and on tour) with her. When the show opened on The Great White Way, he saw Ms Bacall trembling in the wings, ready to go on. He gently took her hand to offer support. Bacall asked if he could do that before each performance and he did, graciously. They bonded and became very close.

He spoke of  Ethel Merman and taking her to see Bacall in Woman of the Year on the day of the Puerto Rican Day parade. "Why are all those spicks making so much noise?" Merman insisted as the parade passed by. At the show, Merman heckled Bacall throughout.

From Betty Bacall to Bette Davis, Dodie Goodman to Ruby Keeler (another very heart-rending tale) to Madeline Kahn to Jo Ann Worley, Leslie Uggams, Lee Roy Reams told the most riveting of tales.

Mr Reams is working on his memoir, Song and Dance Man and will play Dolly Levi in Boca Raton after his very successful run there in La Cage. Got to catch that!


  1. A great commentary on a great Interview, B.B. I especially liked/laughed-my-ass-off over the part about Ethel Merman! E.M. had always reminded me of one of my ex-Wives (an aspiring Actor like myself, back in the early '70's), who was very much like her. I was her poor Man's version of Ernest Borgnine. It was definitely NOT a match made in Heaven!