Inside Private Lives
The Fremont Centre Theatre
Writer, actress and producer Kristin Stone has returned her wonderful and addictive show “Inside Private Lives” to Los Angeles, well, actually in Pasadena. This show, if you haven’t heard about it by now, is where the phrase ‘I see dead people’ originated. Not only do you see famous people from the past, they interact with the audience as they each tell their story. Stone has a rotation of “celebrities” speaking their peace and explaining their faux pas. It’s more of an eclectic and intellectual party, one that the late writer Truman Capote would have over for coffee. Over this past weekend, I had the fortunate opportunity to see Christine Jorgensen (Stone) who had a sex change, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson (Molly Hagan), former President Jimmy Carter’s good-time brother Billy (Bryan Safi), producer/writer Julia Phillips (Leonora Gershman), pianist virtuoso and kinda psycho Glenn Gould (Rick Steadman) and Tupperware lady Brownie Wise (Eileen O’Connell). I recognized only half of these personalities but I knew listening to everyone’s story would be a trip.
Stone played Jorgensen with sass, conviction and the life of the party. Her poise and charm made many people adore her. In character, Jorgensen’s dream is to be a Playmate. She drives a hard campaign to Hugh Hefner to appear in Playboy. She gives countless good reasons, one that she repeats is how “Oh, I got the goods.” And she does. She’s sexy, blonde and shapely. Why wouldn’t Hef insist on having the former George William Jorgensen, Jr., now Christine be on Playboy’s cover? As Jorgensen, Stone entertains with scintillation, while having the crowd side with her and speak to Hef personally for her spot on the magazine. Stone’s alter ego makes a good argument and easily sways the audience. Another good speaker, amazingly enough, was Billy Carter. Safi plays the younger Carter brother as the original good ole boy who loves his Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. He loved it so much that he decided to have his own brand, Billy Beer. The beer tanked in sales but the even bigger problem was over a millions cans were made. Dubbed the Ambassador of Good Time, Safi went all out holding on to his can of Pabst like the Peanuts character Linus does with his blue blanket, while explaining why he should speak at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. Safi showed what made the way it is: country, a bit naïve, arrogant but fun-loving, Billy makes the perfect drinking buddy, but, some relatives need to stay at home.
Leonora Gershman rocked it as the tells it straight with no chaser, producer, writer, ball buster Julia Phillips. Fitted in a white suit with a wine colored top peeking from underneath, Gershman comes out the gate dropping more F bombs than an experienced pilot flying a 747. She boldly admits her screw ups, especially her expensive cocaine habit, but, she also points out to the audience, who are the imaginary Hollywood suits that want her out of the just completed film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” that due to her heavy cocaine use and budget problems she is fired. By the way, the film grossed over $300 million. As Phillips, Gershman doesn’t make any apologies for her actions and you wouldn’t expect her to. Instead, she waves the imaginary middle finger at those same suits who have their own secrets that she’s intimately aware of and won’t hesitate to divulge it. Phillips could have used the blessings of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. A more gentile force to reckon with but don’t mistake her kindness for naivety. If you think you haven’t heard of her, check out Angelus Temple in Echo Park, which is a testament to McPherson. Molly Hagen plays Sister Aimee, which she was affectionately known, who quickly became a celebrity for her many contributions to the community and her radio shows but became more noticeable when reports of her kidnapping in June 1926 skyrocketed into media frenzy. Hagen spoke as if she was conducting her own sermon at her congregation while tightly gripping and waving her white handkerchief. Her Aimee was sweet and caring but adamant about her cause. Don’t mess with this sister!
Eileen O’Connell is the hysterical Brownie Wise, better known as the Tupperware Lady. She wasn’t the creator of the plastic bowls and cups but the perfect publicity figure for the product. Earl Tupper came across Ms. Wise when he heard about how she invited a few girlfriends over for a Tupperware party. She became so successful at it; she moved to Florida, started a broad networking system and outsold Tupperware in stores. Tupper quickly made Wise Vice-President, more as a gift then anything else, and she rolled with it. Ironically, the woman who was responsible for marketing campaigning, organizing parties and created the annual Tupperware Jubilee weekend, still advised the Tupperware ladies to not forget they are wives and mothers before anything else. Wise was born a few years before the woman’s movement. It’s easy to see that Wise refused to let go of her 1950s regalia wearing a white bubble dress, electric blue elbow length gloves, matching sash across her waist, and a beehive so high it greeted God. Surely, she gave the Lord the Tupperware cheer, bingo bango!
Glenn Gould is a name not many have heard. I sure didn’t until this production. I expected a handsome looking man, wearing a tuxedo with tails, speak with a clipped accent and impress me with spectacular playing. That didn’t happen. What the audience got was a neurotic man, dressed in a coat, underneath many shirts, a scarf, fingerless gloves and babbling his words as if his thoughts are outrunning him. Rick Steadman plays this madman with confidence. He doesn’t make Gould a bad person or someone you can easily make friends with but someone who truly lives by his FU motto. Gould is the prototype of the manic genius: a man dressed in rags, living on the streets but is a creative mastermind intellect, just like fellow pianist David Helfgott. Gould has a creative idea for his opera that would be talked about for many years. Don’t know if it will be a good idea but, like art, music is subjective.
Stone has created the most fascinating and interactive production that cannot be duplicated. The show is beyond funny, provides an in-depth look into the lives of people who preferred to keep it on the low. If they weren’t known before, Stone made them into stars and now we know better because of it. There is a bevy of personalities on rotation adding more flavor and lessons to be learned.
Inside Private Lives runs Saturdays only until July 31 at 8 p.m. at The Fremont Centre Theatre located at 1000 Fremont Ave., in South Pasadena. For ticket information call (866) 811-4111 or reserve online at www.fremontcentretheatre.com. For more information visit www.insideprivatelives.com