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December 22, 1989 - Image 88

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I ENTERTAINMENT I

Qid 400

NEW!

FROM SEA LEGS

Actress Lainie Kazan
Returns To The Stage

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hanks to several of her
celluloid roles, she be-
came the quintessen-
tial Jewish mother; a mother
who, she reveals, was model-
ed in part on her very own.
"My mother wasn't your
typical, aggressive Mama
Rose type of stage mother,"
says Lainie Kazan. "But, in
her own gentle way, she
always encouraged me and
always told people what a
talented daughter she had.
She suggested they might
like to hear me sing or watch
me dance. She did it in sort of
hushed tones, but she always
made me feel as if I had
something special and loved
to tell other people all about
it."
Kazan's life-long career in
show business began with
dance and voice lessons at the
age of three. A few years later,
accompanied by her mother,
she made the rounds of shows
like Startime.
Kazan feels her mother pro-
bably had dreams of entering
show busness herself but
chose to live vicariously
through her daughter's
talents instead.
"It wasn't very acceptable
in my mother's day for a
young Jewish woman to go in-
to show business," Kazan ex-
plains. "And my mother
wasn't about to strike out on
her own and become a pioneer
in any way. So when I came
along, first it was just a game
for her to give her daughter
some lessons. But when I
showed some talent, I guess
she thought it would be nice
if I showed it off. And because
I was so accepting, I would go
along with it. In fact, I en-
joyed it.
"I never seemed to be
frightened of any sort of
public display," Kazan con-
tinues. "But when I got to
high school I stopped. I just
wanted to be your average
teenager. It was not popular
in my day during the late '50s
for a woman to be in show
business either. And by that
time, I didn't want to stand
out and be different. I just
_wanted to be like any other
kid."
Born and raised in
Brooklyn, Kazan behaved
like all the other "nice Jewish
girls," even entering Hofstra
University at her parents'
urging. The big difference is
she went on a drama scholar-
ship, and it was while there

that her serious life choices
were made.
"That's when I really decid-
ed what I wanted to with my
life because I had some great
training at college. They had
a wonderful theater arts
department that inspired me.
By the time I graduated, I
had already been in a Broad-
way show, some off-Broadway
shows and done some summer
stock. So I was already ex-
perienced and raring to go."
Kazan got her first big
break while understudying
Barbra Streisand in the
Broadway smash, Funny Girl,
managing to replace Strei-
sand, for two performances.
But the constant comparisons
between the two singers
became somewhat of an

"When Shelley,
who couldn't do it,
called to say that I
should, I said I
couldn't because
Bette and I are
about the same
age."

albatross around Kazan's
neck for a long time after the
show ended.
"It was horrifying and very
frustrating" Kazan recalls. "I
really didn't appreciate why
people did that at the time,
but I do now We both chose
the same kinds of songs, we're
around the same age and we
were both influenced by the
same singers, the same enter-
tainers. I think we both
understood music with the
same kind of passion. And we
both had that Brooklyn,
Jewish sensibility. It's
something you can't really
put your finger on, but it's
translated and accepted by
most people around the coun-
try. It's a very human qual-
ity?'

It's a quality that also led
Kazan to her many fine film
roles, beginning with a starr-
ing role in college classmate
Francis Ford Coppola's One
From-The Heart. Kazan has
gone on to portray a variety
of characters in such films as
My Favorite Year (for which
she received a Golden Globe
nomination), the cult favorite
Lust in the Dust, The Journey
of Natty Gann, Delta Force
and Steven Spielberg's Harry
and the Hendersons.
Her most recent hit was her
role as Bette Midler's mother
in "Beaches," a role original-

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