Eddie Shapiro is the author of Nothing Like a Dame: Conversations with the Great Women of Musical Theater. He is a journalist whose writing has appeared in Out Magazine, Instinct, and Backstage West. He is the coauthor of Queens in the Kingdom and The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors.
Q: Was there anything that particularly surprised you as you conducted your interviews for the book?
A: Every single one of these women surprised me in one way or another. Either things that they said or the way they were as humans.
Some of them were exactly as I expected them to be; Angela Lansbury is classy and lovely and kind. Carol Channing is daffy and delightful.
But some of them were NOTHING like I expected them to be; Patti LuPone is far, far less the diva than I'd ever imagined and Bebe Neuwirth is incredibly cerebral.
In general, I was surprised at the candor they all displayed. And I was surprised by the almost unanimous insecurity. I sort of figured that once you hit the very peak of your profession, insecurities abate. I was wrong.
Q: You write of Elaine Stritch, “Of all the women in this book, she was the only one I was scared to meet.” Why, and did it turn out to be a scary encounter?
A: Why did Elaine Strtich scare me? Are you kidding??? She was a scary lady! She has a very mighty bark and absolutely no filter. And yes, it was a scary encounter.
As you read the chapter, you can see that she was testing me, almost willfully dodging questions. But she warmed up once I demonstrated that I could handle it. But yeah, she was formidable.
Q: How did you choose the book’s title?
A: Seemed to work, don't you think?
Q: What are you working on now?
A: The men, of course!
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The goal of the book was for the reader to be able to feel like a fly on the wall, bearing witness to these conversations. Hopefully, that's what you come away with, knowing these women in a whole different way. HOPEFULLY!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Eddie Shapiro will be participating in the Lessans Family Annual Book Festival at the JCC of Greater Washington, which runs from November 6-16, 2014.