NELSON PASSES AT AGE 80
film, stage and TV actress Portia Nelson passed away on Tuesday, March
6th after a long period of deteriorating health. Reportedly she was
80 years old. On Monday night a revue of her work, "This Life," was
honored as the Outstanding Revue of the Year at the Back Stage Bistro
In 1996, her
song "As I Remember Him" won the MAC Award for Song of the Year, and
a Bistro Award for Lifetime Achievement. Portia was probably best
known for the song "Sunday in New York." Her tunes have been sung
by Nancy LaMott, Ann Hampton Callaway and Michael Feinstein. And Marilyn
Horne sang her "Make a Rainbow" at President Clinton's inaugural ceremony.
Portia, herself, was a singer during the Golden Age of cabaret (in
the '50s), and she appeared as a nun in the movie "The Sound of Music."
honored earlier this year at the MAC/ASCAP Songwriters' Showcase and
was present at that event to receive the applause and recognition
from her fans. Her last public appearance was at the final presentation
of the "This Life" review at DON'T TELL MAMA. At that event, Wayman
Wong took a photo of Portia along with the cast of the show, Tom Andersen,
Paul Katz, Terri Klausner and Deborah Tranelli.
Wong wrote of the revue, in an item he posted last night on the TalkinBroadway.com
announcement of her name brought applause from the audience. I know
they had hoped that she would attend, but Portia had been in failing
health for awhile. Even when director John Znidarsic was putting up
the show with his cast last October, they knew they were racing against
the clock. Everyone wanted her to see it before time ran out, and
like a Hollywood ending, Portia, as frail as she was, rallied enough
strength to make it to the very last show, which was jammed with well-wishers.
Portia was so beloved in the cabaret community. Andersen said, "Not
only was she amazingly talented, she was just one of the nicest people
in the business."
As Portia requested, there will be no funeral services - a memorial
service is being planned for some time in May - closer to Portia's
birthday. Portia requested that there be
no flowers, but donations should be made in her memory to The Actors'
Fund of America, 729 Seventh Avenue, NY, NY 10019.
Further details will be posted on the Official
Portia Nelson Website.
(far left) hails the cast of "This Life." Front row, Deborah Tranelli
and Terri Klausner; back row, director John Znidarsic (in cap), musical
director Paul Katz and Tom Andersen.
Mama, October 2000
COURTESY OF JOHN HOGLUND
Thought you might be interested
in some things I remembered (or came up with.) She was known as
a "Renaissance Lady." In theater, she was in "The Golden Apple"
with Kaye Ballard. And, she toured with Patti LuPone in "The Baker's
Wife." Her book, "There's A Hole In My Sidewalk," was published
in 1977. Her celebrated poem from that book has been published in
many self-recovery books - and printed as a poster!
& The Mabel Mercer Foundation honored her with a special evening
at the Cabaret Convention a few years ago. She received the Cabaret
Masters award that night.
the Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award from Back Stage 5
years ago at The Supper Club - where she closed the show - performing
for the last time singing "This Life."
she was not the one to make it famous, Portia is the first person
to sing "In Other Words" (aka: "Fly Me To The Moon.") Kaye Ballard
and Peggy Lee later recorded it and brought it into prominence.
Bart Howard at The Blue Angel (the original one) and they were associated
for almost 50 years. In the heyday of legendary nightclubs and performers,
she was embraced by the elite of cafe society and celebrities. In
the moves, she appeared in "The Sound of Music," "Dr. Doolittle,"
"The Order" and "Trouble With Angels."
2 bouts of cancer and debilitating throat surgery. She remained
fairly active until last year.
liner notes for "This Life" her last recording with her friends:
Ann Hampton Callaway, Amanda McBroom, Jaymie Meyer, Deborah Tranelli,
Margaret Whiting and Nancy LaMott, Rex Reed recalled writing about
her in the Daily News: "Her magic had the reverence and excitement
of a visit from royalty in a bygone era."
FROM CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE READERS
I was so
saddened to hear about Portia. She had given me her book and we
had spent time together at her home when she gave me the music to"
As I Remember Him." I would like to go to a service if there is
letting everyone know about Portia's passing. What a treasure she
was to everyone in the community. I met her ages ago at The Bradston
Country Hotel. Although not in good health, even then, she was charming
and friendly to all of us there. And was always incredibly supportive
of all of us "in the business." She is, and was, an impressive role
model for anyone who is in the performing arts.
was one of those special artists who come around once in a lifetime.
As I remember her, she ''made a rainbow'' everywhere she went, and
her legacy will live on in her songs and in our memories.
Wong, the N.Y. Daily News
to hear about Portia's passing. I recently saw "Sound of Music"
and looked to see which nun she was. I hope to use her song about
a hole in the sidewalk in my next show, which is about moving on
-- in SO many ways. I posted the lyrics outside the office of my
door at work shortly after the cabaret convention.
was so many things: a great singer, writer, actress and human being.
I'm so honored I got to perform her incredible songs (in ''This
Life'') in front of her. Her passing is a huge loss not just to
cabaret but the entertainment industry.
Oh Lord, what sad news. Portia was a very special person to me.
Even as her body and spirit deteriorated, she was able to find ways
to encourage myself and those around her. She was one of the most
"available" people in this city (let alone, cabaret).
I think my favorite memory of her was calling her one night after
I had watched a broadcast of "The Sound of Music." I asked her to
pardon me as I pointed out that it had never occurred to me until
then what a "bitch" she was in that movie. She laughed and spoke
of how she had no idea of how it was coming across (after all, she
was playing a nun!) until the movie was being edited. She would
get calls from people on the film saying the same thing. They all
thought she was wonderful, but yes, they agreed that "bitch" was
the proper adjective. All this about one of the most loved people
in New York.
The time I spent with her will be most treasured. She even proposed
a writing project of the two of us which I was never able to follow
through on -- no one's fault but mine. I am only sorry that I was
not there for her in her last few years as she was for all of us
her entire life.
knew Portia Nelson for over 25 years. I met her through Nancy Dussault
while she was visiting here. Nancy has known Portia since she was
16 years old. Through the years I would see Portia often at the
theatre, shows, and cabaret. I was often called upon by Portia to
cat sit. She was a sweet and special lady.
I was presenting my first "Cabaret On the Record" benefit show,
I asked Portia to be one of my guests. She had a newly released
CD come and she was thrilled. She asked me to come up to her apartment,
as she had a song she had just written and wanted me to hear it.
It was "Love Hate New York" and of course I loved it. The rest is
history. She also appeared on my second "Cabaret on the Record"
show and went up to WQEW to do the Stan Martin radio show with myself
and Karen Mason.
always kept me informed, sending me sheet music at Christmas. This
past year, after a few years not getting a Christmas Card, I got
one from her, which I will treasure. Portia will be missed by the
world. I was especially thrilled for her when her song, "Sing a
Rainbow" was performed during the inauguration of President Clinton.
wonderful, when the Songwriters/Mac show saluted her, to see her
barely be able to get into the theatre and then after the show,
she was flying high. She was able to see this tribute, as well as
the beautiful show done at Don't Tell Mama. I shall never forget
the smile on her face!
rest in peace and say hello to a lot of friends who will now be
neighbors with you up there. I miss you already.
If you wish to add a thought of rememberance,
send me your comments at email@example.com
and if deemed appropriate, it will be added to this page.
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