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December 26, 2013 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-12-26

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arts & entertainment

Of The Heart

PBS special remembers Marvin Hamlisch
— and what he did for love.


Suzanne Chessler
Contributing Writer

"I really like that Marvin tells his own story for the
most part:' she says. "The themes — his genius, abilities,
generosity, choice of work — are lovely because they're all
arvin Hamlisch — composer, conductor,
aspects of him.
pianist, singer, humorist — spoke with the
"It is especially humbling to me that the people who
Detroit Jewish News many times to advance his
stepped forward to do the interviews didn't have to grant
Michigan performances.
them. They did it out of love for Marvin. That is so mov-
During the last conversation, in 2008, he expressed
concern for the downturn of the auto industry and asked
The idea for the program was suggested shortly after
about its effects on people in the community Finalizing
Hamlisch's funeral by Dori Berinstein, producer, director
plans for a concert with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra,
and writer.
he ultimately decided to make the music hopeful and
"I think Marvin would want people to know that he
uplifting for audiences caught up in the difficult economic grew up with a very strong ethical foundation from his
parents:' says Blair Hamlisch, in her 50s. "He used to say
In March 2011, the entertainer opened the Berman
that his mother would tell him not to say anything if he
Center for the Performing Arts in West Bloomfield. Those
didn't have anything nice to say.
were happier times for the area, and it came across in his
"Marvin lived by that. He always had compassion for or
concert. Just a year-and-a-half later, on Aug. 6, 2012, came awareness of why people were behaving the way they were
the news of Hamlisch's sudden death at age 68.
behaving. He was a loyal friend and collaborator."
For Hamlisch fans — whether through his music-filled
Marvin Hamlisch built his career after studying the
plays, film scores or live shows — there will be in-depth
classics at Juilliard and deciding that he was more suited
recollections during a PBS American Masters documenta-
to musical theater and pops. He started out as a rehearsal
ry, Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love, airing 9-10:30 pianist before connecting with Quincy Jones to offer his
p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, on PBS stations.
own songs.
"Marvin loved the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and was
The Hamlisches met through their housekeepers, who
happy to go to the area; says Terre Blair Hamlisch in a
were very close and shared an instinct for matchmaking.
phone conversation about her husband and the program
"I wasn't told that Marvin was given my number:' Blair
from her New York home.
Hamlisch recalls. "I was in Los Angeles working for CBS.
"He gave more than anybody I have ever met and was
I knew of him and his music, and when he called, I was
generous without calling attention to it. He had integrity
confused because he wasn't on my interview list.
for his projects, and his
"I didn't know how funny
acts of kindness were noted
he was until I started talk-
through letters that poured
ing to him and realized how
in after his death"
fast his brain was. I had the
The televised tribute,
advantage because I knew
which has many segments
a little bit more about him
of the spotlighted star
than he knew about me"
performing or speaking,
In an interview with
includes recollections from
the Jewish News, Marvin
the celebrities who became
Hamlisch described how
personal friends, includ-
they clicked through long
ing Barbra Streisand, Carly
conversations. He also
Simon, John Lithgow and
revealed that seeing her for
Joe Torre.
the first time seemed ser-
There are references to
endipitous as he found her
Hamlisch's music for plays,
looks similar to an actress
Marvin Hamlisch's wife of 23 years, Terre Blair
such as A Chorus Line and
he found captivating on
Hamlisch, is interviewed for the PBS special.
They're Playing Our Song,
screen: Grace Kelly.
and movies, such as The Sting and The Way We Were.
Although Blair Hamlisch did not convert to Judaism,
Of course, there are the numerous songs themselves.
the couple did have a Jewish wedding. They were married
The title of one, "Nobody Does It Better:' could represent
by a rabbi under a chuppah.
his status as an EGOT winner, with the attainment of four
"His Jewish roots, family and culture were inseparable
Emmys, four Grammys, three Oscars and a Tony (he also
from Marvin:' she says. "It was all part of who he was:'
Blair Hamlisch, raised in Ohio, had worked in weather
was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and three Golden
Globes). The multiple achievements were matched only
reporting and moved to New York to become writer and
by composer Richard Rodgers.
producer for PM Magazine.
Blair Hamlisch, who had a career in radio and televi-
She was the first female sports reporter for Monday
sion broadcasting before their 23-year marriage, provided
Night Football when it aired on ABC. She also worked as a
material for the show as well as her own remembrances.
freelancer for the Today show on NBC.

Courtesy Pittsburg h Sy mp hon


Marvin Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for

the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and many other
orchestras nationwide.

"I established other interests after we married because
if I traveled with my career and he traveled with his, it
wouldn't be the marriage that I wanted.
"I wanted a marriage that was solidly based on a rela-
tionship. I spent the first six years understanding him and
his life and went to all of his performances. I developed
interests with music at the forefront"
Before and since his death, she has been doing research
into ethics.
"I remain curious and am the happiest when I'm learn-
ing and exploring issues that have to do with life, values
and happiness:' she says. "Marvin had many interests,
including politics and sports"
Immersed in music, Blair Hamlisch says that the couple
never had a song they considered theirs. If anything, it
was the song in Marvin's head at the moment, and songs
were in his head 24-7.
"I connect to different songs of his right now depend-
ing on what stage of grief I'm in:' she reveals. "When
Kelli O'Hara stepped out on stage for the New York
Philharmonic's tribute to him and sang 'That's How I Say
Goodbye' from Sweet Smell of Success, it was very power-
ful. It felt like Marvin was talking to me.
"The other song that is very powerful and poignant to
me at this time is a song from The Nutty Professor (soon
to be headed to Broadway) written by Marvin and Rupert
Holmes. It's called 'While I Still Have the Time:
"It's about feeling everything, tasting everything, seeing
everything and not wasting a moment. Marvin was like
that. He wasn't afraid to live. He had an ebullient person-
ality, and that song resonates with me:'
The National Portrait Gallery has accepted a painting of
Marvin Hamlisch, but it hasn't been unveiled yet. In taking
on the assignment, the artist asked the composer-entertain-
er which piece of music should be in hand as part of the
image. He chose "What I Did for Love from A Chorus Line.
"That song was so important to him" Blair Hamlisch
explains. "He wanted people to know that his life — the
music that he wrote and what he gave in helping people
enter into joyous experiences at symphony halls — was all
about love:'

Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love airs
9-10:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27, on Detroit Public
Television-Channel 56 and other PBS stations.

December 26 • 2013


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