New York Times editor Jacobs explores the life of colorful and brash actor Elaine Stritch (1925–2014) in this celebratory biography. Stritch was born in Detroit, Mich., into a middle-class Catholic family and moved to New York City in 1943 “in pursuit of fun, music, nightclubs, and theater.” So began a legendary, boozy career that would include roles on Broadway (in Noël Coward’s Sail Away and Stephen Sondheim’s Company, among many others), in films (Woody Allen’s September and Small Time Crooks), and on television (most notably in Tina Fey’s 30 Rock). Jacobs moves meticulously through Stritch’s decades on the stage, from her audition for the road company of Oklahoma! shortly after her arrival in New York, to such achievements as her 2002 Tony Award–winning one-woman show At Liberty. The author covers Stritch’s complicated relationships with men (including her sex-deprived marriage to actor John Bay), her loneliness, and her struggles with alcoholism. She captures Stritch’s big personality through amusing stories, including the time Stritch smuggled her dog into England in a bag. Jacobs ends by praising Stritch for her “wit, resilience, unusual forthrightness, and courage.” This book, lush with detail and heavy on Broadway history, will appeal to Stritch fans and theater geeks everywhere. (Oct.)
"So engrossing an exploration of [Elaine Stritch] that to call it a 'biography' feels somehow inadequate . . . Jacobs thankfully leaves no stone unturned, making herself a warm and welcoming guide for strangers to Stritch while also diving with fervor into the moments devotees think they know inside and out. It is a meticulously researched romp, a harrowing excavation, an emotional séance, and a glittering family reunion . . . Jacobs’s rigorous fact-checking of Elaine’s tales (some taller than others) is masterful. The way she incorporates her inter-view subjects’ contrasting versions of events never undermines the satisfaction of the anecdotes, but rather fleshes them out and encourages us to think about why the storytelling might have been fudged." Natalie Walker, Bookforum
“One of the more surreal, gratifying, and wonderful experiences of my career was when Elaine Stritch played my mother on 30 Rock. An acting lesson, a therapy session, a chance to know the great La Stritch. This book is your chance.” Alec Baldwin
“Elaine Stritch brought a raw truth to musical theater that had rarely been seen before or since. Her whole selfwarts, drinks, and all. In this biography, Alexandra Jacobs shows Stritch’s every pore, and we are all better for it.” Sarah Silverman
I laughed. I cried. Alexandra Jacobs lovingly pulls back the curtain on "Stritchy," a sacred cow of American showbiz, revealing her to be as talented, reckless, flawed and fabulous as I always hoped she was.
Simon Doonan, author of Drag and Wacky Chicks
“Alexandra Jacobs’s Still Here is a delicious, page-turning, and meticulous romp through the distinctive life of a feminist icon. The talented, urbane, smoking-and-drinking queen of Broadway’s tough dames lived a life of accomplishment, boldly frank opinions, and just as bold-faced names that defined the Great White Way (and Hollywood) of recent yore. Elaine Stritch balanced theatrical perfectionism, glamorous Manhattan evenings, and behavioral brinksmanship with the never-quite-dismissed lessons of her Catholic background in the Midwest. I learned as much as I was entertained and left smitten: my idea of a pretty terrific book.” Sheila Weller, New York Times–bestselling author of Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simonand the Journey of a Generation and Carrie Fisher: A Life On The Edge
New York Times features writer and cultural critic Jacobs makes her book debut with a biography of the glamorous, outspoken entertainer Elaine Stritch (1925-2014).
Stritch's career spanned nearly seven decades, ending in an acclaimed one-woman show that earned her the Tony Award she had long coveted. As an actress and singer, she had middling success, usually hired for a part when a bigger name was unavailable, or when a show went on national tour, or for summer stock. Often, she lost out to Angela Lansbury, who won many of the roles Stritch wanted: as Auntie Mame, for example, which made Lansbury "a definitive star of the musical theater," and as Madame Rose in Gypsy. "I'm sick of Angela Lansbury," Stritch once remarked. "I'm sick of people doing parts that I should be doing." In 1961, her performance in Noel Coward's Sail Away won accolades: She turned the play "into a one-woman show," one critic wrote. "Let's keep the busy Miss Stritch busier." But there were problems in keeping her busy: a reputation for "being tiresome, over-full of suggestions and not knowing a word" of her lines, as Coward noted; and, increasingly, alcoholism. "They all love Elaine," Lee Israel discovered when she worked on a feature story about Stritch. "But along the way lots of people have ceased to trust her," Israel wrote. "She drinks, they say." Stritch defended drinking as "a wonderful thing for social communication," but theater critic John Lahr saw a deep vulnerability. She was "the most panic-struck person I ever knew," he observed, "a hysteric, and completely terrified." In an engaging, thoroughly researched narrative, Jacobs chronicles Stritch's career, boosted by working with Stephen Sondheim and Woody Allen; her half-hearted attempts to get on the wagon; her friendships, romances, and marriage; kleptomania and refusal to pay restaurant tabs; and brazen money-grubbing. Put up at a Florida hotel for an event, for example, she brought her entire winter wardrobe for dry-cleaning "at the production's expense."
A sharply drawn portrait of an ambitious, fierce, and complicated woman.
Spoiler alert…she's not, y'know, still here (Elaine Stritch died in 2014), although in the sense in which the title is intended (a reference to "I'm Still Here," from Stephen Sondheim's Follies), Elaine ain't going away anytime soon. For better or, most likely, a whole lot worse, they don't make them like Stritch anymore. A fixture on Broadway's musical and dramatic stages for decades, with numerous television and film credits in her 50-plus-year career, Stritch is perhaps best known for her Emmy Award-winning performance as the mother of Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock, the fierce and sardonic Colleen. Here, New York Times journalist and cultural critic Jacobs presents a thoroughly researched and documented life story of a talented and complicated actor. A highly functioning alcoholic, Stritch could drink like a fish and curse like a sailor, and her acting and vocal chops culminated in her 1995 induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame. Stories and anecdotes abound from the cornucopia of professional colleagues and artists interviewed to illuminate her work with, among many others, Sondheim, Noel Coward, and Tennessee Williams. VERDICT An excellent biography of a true American theater original. For all performing arts collections. [See Prepub Alert, 4/8/19.]—Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX