Friday night, I met a living legend, actor Joel Grey from Cabaret fame! He is also the father of famous actress Jennifer Grey from Dirty Dancing.
At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, I enjoyed an exclusive presentation of items from the film Cabaret with its Academy Award winning star Grey. The donation of the items were made in the exclusive Warner Bros. theatre. Also, helping with the presentation was Director of National Museum of American History John Gray and entertainment curator Dwight Bowers. Outside the theatre are costumes from various Warner Bros. films from over the years (on loan) including Clint Eastwood’s outfit from the movie Unforgiven and an outfit Bette Davis wore in a film.
Mr. Grey donated the straw hat he wore while dancing with the “gorilla” during the dance and song sequence “If You Could See Her.” The items joined other items donated from Cabaret previously in 1989, that include a wig, cane, pink satin vest, shoes and special makeup box.
Mr. Grey gave a heart-warming speech about donating the items. He even sang a couple of lines from Cabaret. He posed with the straw hat and also posed gamely with his Academy Award that was dressed up.
A publicist from Warner Bros. explained this is the 40th Anniversary of Cabaret. There was a tear in the original film, and it took extensive work and money to repair it. The cast recently gathered for the 40th Anniversary showing of Cabaret in NYC at the Ziegfield Theatre with cast members Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Marisa Berenson, and Joel Grey. When Cabaret premiered, it was shown at the Ziegfield. So many people came to the 40th Anniversary that some of Mr. Grey’s friends couldn’t get into the theatre.
I also got to interview Mr. Grey for eight minutes. I was nervous being with living history, but he could not have been more gracious.
I asked him what it was like being here donating items again to the Smithsonian. He joked, “I hope I’m not overstaying my welcome.” He shared Liza Minnelli is like a little sister to him, and he is very protective of her even if she doesn’t need it as a grown woman. He claimed while he is not much of a dancer, Minelli is, and the number they did together “Money, Money,” was difficult because she would nail her part and he would keep messing up.
He took the job in Cabaret because, “I needed a job.” He was about to quit the acting business, and Cabaret was like his last swan song. Working with director Bob Fosse was amazing, but challenging. Fosse had them do take after take. Fosse was a risk because his last film Sweet Charity was a failure, but he succeeded with Cabaret beyond all measure.
Grey also revealed that Germans were wary of the film because it revisits their Nazi past shame, but after a couple of weeks of filming they were more comfortable with the film. The movie was filmed primarily in Germany.
Grey shared he looks so great in his 80s because of his positive attitude. He still performs on Broadway and that is his favorite way to perform. His career achievement was being in Cabaret which he won an Oscar for.
In the evening, there was a reception with German food and open bar. Mr. Grey answered a couple of questions from the curator Dwight and from the audience. We then watched the movie, which is fantastic! I never remembered the movie being so progressive with addressing issues like bisexuality, Nazis, abortion, cross-dressing and so forth. Grey and Minnelli steal the show.
The 1972 film Cabaret, won eight Oscars, including Best Director (Fosse), Best Actress (Minnelli), and Best Supporting Actor (Grey).