Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Sui generis …

The American Scholar: What a Great Talker She Was — Willard Spiegelman. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What did she do? She stood or, later in her career, sat on stage, sometimes with a table to go with her chair. And she talked. In the last years of her life, she made a series of recordings for RCA, although she had resisted the offer to do so at first, reluctant to perform without an audience, a stage, and her modest props. Arthur Rubinstein helped convince her. Arturo Toscanini, also a fan although he barely knew English, assigned his chief engineer to the project. It was long thought that after the initial run-throughs proved unsuccessful, the producer secretly turned on the tape during a warm-up. Some experts dispute that story, arguing that Draper knew she was being recorded. At any rate, her recorded legacy, which includes 17 examples of what Draper called her “company of characters,” made fans of Lily Tomlin, Mike Nichols, Simon Callow, Tom Waits, and countless others, including me.

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