Tuesday, May 23, 2006
betty's birthday

Today is my dear dear friend Betty Garrett's 87th Birthday. Yup! This amazingly talented and beautiful woman is 87 years old on this Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006. I have to tell you that there is no one like Betty...no one. Her attitude in life and about life is remarkable, to me. She has more friends than anyone I have ever met and is the least judgemental person I have ever known, too. She takes people as they are and always sees the good part of them...if there is a good part to see. It isn't that she doesn't recognize evil. She does, and abhors it.(I don't think she ever could see the good side of Hitler...!) It's that she can see beyond certain outer qualities of a person that might turn most people off...and because she is so incredibly accepting, most people who have this hard armour that completely surrounds them, drop that when they are with her.

An amazing thing that I have noticed for all the many years we have been friends...and I'm talking 44 years here...wherever I have gone with her...weather it is to the theatre or dinner or a Museum or shopping, people come over to her and speak to her because they recognize her. That in itself is not that unusual. What is unusual is the way they talk to her. 100% of these people speak to her with such love and admiration. They are gentle and sweet and always, always, ALWAYS tell her how much she has touched them in some way...how much they love this film of hers or that performance or tv show she was in....and she is always incredibly gracious, incredibly polite, and incredibly sincere. What you see is who she is and what you see is what you get, in spades. Betty is the same with everyone...weather they are her family or her friends or her co-workers or her fans.

There are all sorts of reasons for Betty to be bitter or angry or jaded...at 87 she has lived through a tremendous amount of heartache and pain along with all the good stuff, too. But, there is nothing about her that is bitter or jaded or angry. I think what I saw when I first saw Betty on Broadway before she was signed to a contract by MGM was not only this incredibly talented woman, but this really beautiful soul---a person who has such love of what she does and projects that across the footlights in a way that makes audiences fall in love with her. THAT is exactly who Betty was and still is...and there is no doubt in my mind she always will be this incandescent person. I fell in love with her in "Call Me Mister" and I fell in love with her dear sweet husband, the late Larry Parks, in "The Jolson Story". I believe people come into your life for a reason. It was no accident that Betty & Larry came into my life 16 years before I actually met them. And guess where that was? Theatre West. Because of Theatre West and "Spoon River Anthology, I met Betty and then Larry, too. Never in my wildest imaginiation could I have predicted or even known what great friends they would both become when I had first seen each of them performing. No way could I have predicted that Betty and I would be in the same show...a show that was a rare rare experience in the theatre. From our little 50 seat workshop in Los Angeles to The Booth Theatre on Broadway...these kinds of things happen almost never! And the friendships formed and cemented all those years ago...still thrive today. There were only 6 of us in that cast. Unfortunately, two of those cast members are dead. Charles (Chuck) Aidman--adapter, directer and lyricist--and Robert Elston....both gone. Betty, Joyce Van Patten and myself...still the closest of friends...(and Hal Lynch, my fellow 'Folk Singer' who lives in Opp Alabama and still in contact....) we are still here, alive and kicking, and Betty, the busiest of all of us! I treasure her and I treasure our life-affirming friendship. Betty is a nurterer without even knowing it...the best kind to my way of thinking.

A Very Very Happy Birthday, Dear Dear Friend...May there be many many more to come...You are the "best"!

This is a snapshot I took on Betty's birthday in 2001 when she was playing on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim's "FOLLIES"...That year her birthday fell on a Wednesday and she had a Matinee and Evening performance. So we went across the street from The Belasco for dinner between shows. Her two sons, Garrett on the left and Andy on the right, her cousin Carol and me. We had all flown in from California especially for her birthday....Carol and I went to both the matinee and evening show that day. Betty was fantastic. She sang "Broadway Baby". Right after the matinee, we were in the dressing room...(the very same drsssing room that was Betty's back when we were doing "Spoon River" and had to move from The Booth to The Belasco....amazing, amazing...it looked just about the same too, all those years later...) Betty shared the dressing room with Marge Champion during the run and at that matinee Patti Lupone had come to see the show and had come backstage to visit someone she knew in the cast. She stopped to introduce herself to Betty and Marge and I said I'd love to get a picture of the three of them. Patti Lupone was more excited than anyone. I did send her a copy of this photograph. BTW Betty's swetshirt says, "age isn't important unless your a cheese"...appropriate saying on one's birthday, wouldn't you say?

This next photograph was taken backstage in Betty's dressing room when she did "Meet Me In St. Louis" some years before...it was opening night and we were going to the opening night party. It was a wonderful special night in so very many ways. Betty's son Garrett met his future wife Karen that night...(Karen was in the show, too). I had the joy of performing their wedding ceremony when they married a few years later....that was a great day, too! I love this picture...We were all so happy to be there and wanted the show to be a big big hit. It did not get good reviews but it ran for about six months anyway. Audiences loved it and Betty was delightful in it! I came back to New York another three times during the run...once again at Christmas and then again to visit my brother-in-law who was in the hospital dying...and then once again for his funeral. So I got to see part of the show three more times...

And last but not least...here is Betty's book...it's available in paperback and it is a great great read...Betty is a true inspiration in so very many ways, not the least of which is that she is still performing. Singing and acting and completely involved in many many things despite her age. In fact, I think 'performomg' is what keeps her going. She is so alive on stage... Again, I want to wish you the most wonderful birthday ever my dear dear friend...you are loved by so very many people including me...so I sing to you....'Happy Birthday To You, Happy Birthday To You, Happy Birthday Dear Betty, Happy Birthday To You'.

Long May You Wave!









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32 Comments:
had this to say:

I wondered and hoped you would post something about Betty on her B'day!! (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BETTY!!!..and many more!)

I love everything you wrote about her.. its so wonderful to have a friend for so long.. they are few and treasured beings.

It's a beautiful day here today and I hope it is the same where Betty is!!

For the very reasons you listed about how people stop Betty and tell her how much they love her and how "such and such" that she did affected their life is exactly (EXACTLY) why I enjoy helping people at autograph shows! I get a full day of stories from people I've never met, and probably never would have, were I not sitting next to a guest that was autographing.. I think i love hearing the compliments and stories every bit as much as the guest does!! (I know i do!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 3:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Happy Birthday to your friend Betty.
With all what you said about her, I know she is a great person. with so many loving her, she must be a happy person.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 3:45:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

First of all I'd like to congratulate you for a beautiful template. Second, I'd like to greet your good friend Betty a Very Happy Birthday! To be 87 years old is definitely a big achievement. Third, I'd like you to know that I really enjoy reading your posts whether they're about your plants or the people you shared happy memories with on stage.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 4:28:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh what a gorgeous lady! It's so nice to know she's as wonderful and sweet as I always imagined. I've never seen her on Broadway, but did see some of photos of her in one of the theatres when I went to see Wicked this past Dec/Jan. I think truly good people project that goodness outward and people behave accordingly. Thank you for sharing your photos and your friendship.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 5:08:00 AM PDT 

Blogger mar
had this to say:

Your post is such a wonderful birthday present to your friend! She seems just as beautiful inside as her external looks, love the picture of the two of you. Happy birthay, Betty, and many, many more! Cheers!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 5:11:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Congratulations to Betty Garrett!
What a remarkable person she is!
Love to know about her personality and career.
Naomi, what an interesting and great life experience you have.

Last but not least I love your photo with Betty, you look gorgeous!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 5:32:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I was reading our newspaper this morning, and I saw in the birthday column that today was Betty's 87th. I cam right to the computer to tell you to wish her a Happy Birthday for me! Mr. kenju mentioned this a.m. that he saw an old movie that Betty was in this week, and we both remarked what a beautiful woman she was and still is. Great bone structure! I hope Betty has a fabulous birthday - and as many more as she is allowed!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 6:01:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a beautiful tribute on your dear friend's birthday!!! I love Betty Garrett as a performer having found her to be the funniest character on Laverne and Shirley when I was little. You are lucky to have her so close in your life, and she is lucky to have YOU.

C

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 8:01:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

A Very Happy Birthday to your darling Betty from over here in the UK [waves madly] can you see me waving!

And many, many more of them :-)

And Naomi - what a wonderful, loving post. You and Betty are lucky to have each other as friends.

(and I love the photos! So that's our Naomi!)

cq

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 8:29:00 AM PDT 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

Happy Birthday to someone who is obviously a lovely lady. I'm sure I've seen her on TV before or in movies. Some people just have a comfortable presence, even on TV. You sit and think "I could feel really safe with her." How blessed you are to have such a friend.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 9:54:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I loved Betty Garrett long before I got to meet her. I believe she was one of the MOST talented of all the MGM stars and I always thought it a crime that they didn't use her more. But the films she did make are truly classics and I've seen them all a million times. Betty is always AMAZING at the S.T.A.G.E. benefits (wasn't she already in her 80s when she was rollerskating all over that stage? Oy!) and I loved seeing her perform at Theatre West.

I think Irene Lorenzo's character on "All in the Family" was an unheralded groundbreaker for women on TV (she was way more liberated than Maude!). I'm not surprised to hear what you say about how fans talk to her because she exudes the kind of warmth and sincerity that you can't learn. What an amazing woman! Last year I watched an interesting TV show starring Betty and Larry at the Museum of Television. I think it was called "A Smattering of Bliss" and they played comedy writers. And I was thrilled to attend her wonderful 80th birthday party at that theatre--I hope they'll have a similar event for her 90th!

We also met you because of Betty, Naomi--yet another mitzvah! And now I'm going to listen to her fantastic, hysterically funny rendition of "South America, Take It Away" on my iPod...

HAPPY 87th BETTY!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 10:24:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

It's hard to believe she is 87! Happy birthday Betty! What a wonderful tribute to her :)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 11:20:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Beautiful story.
Beautiful Betty.
Beautiful, Naomi.
Thanks!
love,
lucyd

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 4:41:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It's an honor to share a birthday with such a fantastic and accomplished woman. Sending best wishes from one birthday girl to another...via you. ;)

By the way, I love the new template!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 6:26:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a beautiful birthday tribute to a beautiful lady! You are so blessed to have such a wonderful friend!

Happy Birthday Betty!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 7:19:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Yeah !! I rushed over here to see if you had posted a birthday tribute and pictures yet and sure enough you didn't let me down.
I am thinking I will definitely have to get a copy of the book. ( hmmm a signed copy would be great LOL)
Wonderful pictures. BTW when you get a chance check out todays Wordless Wednesday on my blog it will make you laugh. At least your neighbours are warned HAHA.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 7:51:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Happy Birthday to your dear friend, Betty.
What a lady!
I wish her many more years of enjoying life, love and friendship.
Thanks for sharing the pics.
I'm glad you have had so many years of wonderful friendship with each other.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 10:10:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Happy Birthday to your friend, Betty and a very happy year for her. What a great tribute to a great friend. Her soul shines through in her photos. And she looks SO familiar to me. I know I've seen her on tv. Your path has certainly been crossed by some very special people. I've added her book to my list. I hope it's still available.
http://www.islandwriter.net

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 4:37:00 AM PDT 

Blogger Sue
had this to say:

Here via Michele's today. I am telling you, you know the best people. I have always loved Betty Garrett. Happy Birthday to Betty. Beautiful tribute :)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 4:51:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I am glad you posted the picture of her book. Now I remember why she looks so familiar; Irene on 'All in the Family'! I think she was really the only character who completely stood up to Archie on that show. Your recent pictures of her show her to be even prettier than I recall her nearly what..30 years ago? I only hope that I will look and feel half that well! Thanks for sharing another friend with us, Naomi! I'm here from Michele's today. Happy Birthday, Betty!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 5:16:00 AM PDT 

Blogger dan
had this to say:

Life is so much more boring without friends.

Happy Birthday Betty!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 10:23:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

She is still beautiful. She has "happy" eyes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 7:07:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BETTY!!!..
Thank you for giving us so much ,I loved her in Take me out to the Ball Game,What an Grand Lady ...

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 11:38:00 AM PDT 

Blogger jac
had this to say:

what a wonderful tribute to your lovely friend on her birthday. i was surprised to learn that she shares a birthday with my mother. Happy Belated Birthday Mrs. Garrett!

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 5:37:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a lovely tribute to your wonderful friend Naomi. It's so great that you are such close friends and have been for so long. Very wonderful indeed!

Thursday, May 25, 2006 at 7:50:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I was reading your last post and though hmmm... I know her from somewhere. After reading your comments here I realized she was the one and only Ms. Babish! I remember her teeny tiny waistline, and her character's sophisticated up-do's. After seeing her birthday pics I can tell she's still got it going on... as they say! Belated wishes from me! Great posts!

Friday, May 26, 2006 at 6:52:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow, I know I've seen movies with Betty Garrett in them. What a small world. I knew she looked familiar when I stopped by earlier today and now I know I wasn't crazy. Honestly, Naomi, you know EVERYONE! I'm back again via Michele's and hoping you're having a great day!

Friday, May 26, 2006 at 8:44:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Betty seems like a great friend. So do you--what a tribute!

Friday, May 26, 2006 at 10:18:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I loved her on All in the Family!!! You have the coolest friends, Naomi!

Saturday, May 27, 2006 at 5:10:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Great! Great! Birthday Tribute to a great Lady giving us even more insight to this Wonderful Entertainer. Thankyou for the tribute and the Pictures. I will be adding your link to my Larry Parks Web Site which includes many Pix of Betty. janess51@msn.com

Friday, July 21, 2006 at 10:32:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Lyn M.
had this to say:

Betty has my eternal admiration for all that she is and all she has done with her life; for the mother she is to her two sons and for the ache she holds in her heart for her husband of 30 years. She is all that and so much more.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 8:32:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Brad
had this to say:

Urgh!

This is so beautiful!

And Ms. Garrett seems such a beautiful woman... I am elated to know that she is just as genuine a person as she is a performer.

Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm glad I found it!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 at 8:35:00 PM PDT 

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