ARTHUR: Oh, yes. That's my 11 o'clock number! I'm also doing another Billy Goldenberg song, from Harold and Maude.
TM: At the Lansbury tribute, you told me that you felt you were the only person in America who hasn't seen the movie.
ARTHUR: That's true. I still haven't. And I don't want to see it until I see what happens with the musical. They're doing a production of it out here right now [at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum]. It got quite a nice review.
TM: I was thinking of shows that would be great for you if you wanted to come back to Broadway, and 70, Girls, 70 came to mind. When they did a reading of it at the York Theatre last season, it went over like gangbusters. Would something like that interest you?
ARTHUR: I'll tell you, if I'm going to do something, I want it to be my show. Don't misunderstand me; it's wonderful to be part of an ensemble. But if I'm going to uproot myself for a show, I really want it to be mine. I have a wonderful life here--a beautiful place, two Dobermans. My kids are here. To pick myself and go back to Broadway, it would have to be a show that really knocks me out.
TM: Is that why you decided not to continue in Thoroughly Modern Millie?
ARTHUR: Yes. And they understood. But it was such fun doing it, particularly after all those years on TV. I haven't done that much stage work lately. I've come to the point where I'm very choosy. This is so funny: Alex Cohen wanted me to play the Rosemary Harris role in Waiting for the Wings! But I didn't care for the play, and I also didn't feel I was quite right for it. Luckily, Michael Langham, who directed it, said--and this broke me up--that I was too much like Betty Bacall! Anyway, my point is that I want to be thrilled with what I'm doing. I don't want to work just for the sake of working.
TM: You've certainly earned the right not to do that, but it's interesting how people look at things differently. Some stars of a certain age feel that they don't want to carry a show, because it's too strenuous and/or too much pressure.
ARTHUR: That never entered my mind. Never!
TM: You've worked with some legendary artists in your time, including some who are famous for being extremely difficult. Would you care to say anything about Jerome Robbins?
ARTHUR: I mention him in my show. But there is one story that I couldn't mention; this is incredible. It was the very first rehearsal for Fiddler, and Zero Mostel was on stage. He started saying a few lines of the script, and Jerry said from the audience, "Wait a minute, Z. When you..." That's as far as he got. And Zero said: "Look, you don't like what I'm doing? Hire f**king Red Buttons!"
TM: I know Mostel hated Robbins for having testified in the McCarthy hearings. I guess they had an uneasy truce.
ARTHUR: That's right. Zero was a bit of a tyrant, also. I came out unscathed, because I had no scenes with him in the show.
TM: But Mame, you've said, was a wonderful experience from start to finish.
ARTHUR: Absolutely. Angela Lansbury is a terrific lady.
TM: Well, thanks for your time, Miss Arthur. I can't wait to see your show at the White Barn. I'm coming to the first performance.
ARTHUR: Good. I'm gonna look cute that night; I'm getting my hair and make up done!
TM: Wow. It sounds like you're really looking forward to being on stage again.
ARTHUR: Yes. There's a lot of love for the theater expressed in the show. You know, we're so lucky to be in this business and make a living, let alone to become some kind of a celebrity. It's joyful.