Kitty Carlisle Hart Memorialized at Majestic Theatre
The first of the afternoon's speakers was Dr. William Baker of PBS, who said that Kitty was "charming on the outside, tough on the inside" -- a persona that stood her in good stead as chair of the New York State Council on the Arts. Baker also announced that the PBS documentary Kitty Carlisle Hart: My Broadway Memories will be re-broadcast this fall.
Barbara Walters lauded Kitty for her "great legs and dazzling smile," commenting that "she always had a beau." She said that Kitty was "as close to being an angel on earth as you could ever find." Walters also noted that her ex-husband Lee Guber had produced the flop Broadway musical Sherry, based on The Man Who Came to Dinner, the classic comedy by George S. Kaufman and Kitty's husband, Moss Hart.
David Lewis, who accompanied Kitty in many performances in recent years, commented on how much she loved to sing and said that she had once told him: "When I die, I want you to play 'The Man I Love' in my key at the memorial service, and if I don't walk out on that stage, you'll know I'm dead." Lewis then proceeded to play the first chorus of the Gershwin song, and though Kitty did not show up, her presence was felt throughout the theater.
Kitty's daughter Cathy, who bears a striking resemblance to her mother, shared an amusing anecdote about how her mother once mollified short-tempered riders on a New York City bus by singing Christmas carols. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that Kitty was "as classy as they come" and that she embodied the dream of New York. Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York State, recalled how he was completely unable to resist the charm that Kitty exuded in seeking funding for the arts -- no matter how hard he tried.
Remarks were also offered by Matilda Cuomo; Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization; Agnes Gund, president emerita of MOMA; Mary Hays, who worked with Kitty at NYSCA; and Anne Kaufman, daughter of George S. The memorial featured musical performances by Kristin Chenoweth, KT Sullivan, and Michael Feinstein, who played and sang "By Strauss," noting that Kitty had learned the song from the composer himself: George Gershwin.
The program included clips of Kitty's film appearances with the Marx Brothers (in A Night at the Opera) and Bing Crosby, as well as some very funny scenes of her in action as a panelist on television's To Tell The Truth. One of the most fascinating clips was from an interview in which Kitty told how she had held up production of A Night at the Opera for three days until she was assured that her own singing voice would be used in the film.