Wednesday,
April 16

 
CULTURE

Realtime Rita


Rita Moreno. Photo by Mike LaMonicaRita Moreno. Photo by Mike LaMonicaRita Moreno may still be best known for portraying “Anita” in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, but the 80-year-old actress, singer and dancer would need a two-terabyte hard drive to document her place in the history of showbiz. She's the only Hispanic performer win a Tony, an Oscar, a Grammy and an Emmy, but such industry footnotes might not interest the generations of diehard fans who've watched her slow dance – and romantic dip – with American pop culture through the latter half of the 20th century and beyond. From her distinctive glottal “Hey, you guys!” on Electric Company to her rendition of “Fever” on The Muppet Show and her role as Fran Drescher's TV mom, chances are that even the TMZ generation in Tweetdom has seen her somewhere.

She returns this week to the Alamo City with “My Life in Words and Music,” a cabaret show and fundraiser for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. But first, I caught up with Moreno at her home in Berkeley, California.

We talk while she applies her makeup.

My introduction to Moreno was via the 1982 television sitcom 9 to 5, in which she played the role originated by Lily Tomlin in the 1980 film of the same name. Seven decades of omnipresence in the business is a rare blessing.

“It's scary, isn't it?” she says. Her voice is energetic and youthful. “And I'm not only here but I'm very present. I'm working. I'm happy.

“What can I say?” she adds with a Jewish vaudeville inflection that requires no reply.


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