Broadway Features and Reviews
Looped: Broadway Gets Tallulahized
By Andrew Walraven, Broadway Magazine
For all the love people have toward celebrity personalities, it seems that not enough attention can be paid to those who originate different styles. People gawk at Lady Gaga's wardrobe as though they have never seen Cher on stage. Kanye West seems oblivious to the fact that his societal frustrations were equally felt by Louis Armstrong nearly a century earlier. Even Megan Fox wears her heart on her sleeve in the form of a Marilyn Monroe tattoo.
Every generation idolizes its divas, its renegade bad boys, its intellectuals- to name a few. Yet these character types have always existed, and most likely, always will.
One of the women who took the personality of an aggressive socialite and imbued it with her own original style was Tallulah Bankhead- the film and stage actress of the middle 1900's. Her influence is felt today without many of us even realizing it.
Simply put, children might never have learned to fear Disney's Cruella de Vil if Bankhead had not come around first. In fact, Tallulah Bankhead's self-made acting career, including a lifestyle of painkillers and sexual promiscuity, have become virtually cliche after all the starlets that have followed in her footsteps.
Spending much of her time in London, Bankhead managed to create her own cult following. Before the opening of each of her shows, lines of middle class working women would line up in anticipation of her vibrant on-stage atmosphere. Just like today, people wanted to live vicariously through their idols.
Eventually Bankhead's followers began to imitate her outfits and speech mannerisms. Her most common phrase was "dahling", which she liberally used to refer to each of her acquaintances. When asked why she referred to everyone in this way, Bankhead responded "Because all my life I've been terrible at remembering people's names. Once I introduced a friend of mine as 'Martini'. Her name was actually 'Olive'."
Has it always been the dysfunction of celebrities that attracts us to them?
People frequently strive to relate to a lifestyle they would never lead themselves. For example, today fans are fascinated with "Bradgelina", the fights and the children, because they can feel so foreign to our own lives. The same could be said of Tallulah Bankhead and her disregard for social norms and her own well being.
Perhaps this explains a newspaper headline from when Bankhead suffered an illness that read "Tallulah Hospitalized, Hospital Tallulahized". It must have been as though an alien force was now present among the rest of the hospital population.
Today Tallulah Bankhead is back in the spotlight with a new show featuring her life coming to Broadway March 14 at the Lyceum Theatre called "LOOPED". The show recounts the events of a 1965 recording session when Bankhead, late in her life, is called into a recording studio to rerecord a line of dialogue from her last movie Die, Die, my Darling.
Tallulah Bankhead may have died in 1968 but her presence in theater and film have never truly left, and it is our job as an audience to recognize this influence.
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