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If you are not a theater person, you might not be familiar with the phenomenal talents of Chita Rivera, so please bear with me in todays post. Lately I've watched a series of interviews, which reminded me of why I have always admired her so much, and felt the need to share it here. 

The beautiful lady pictured above is Chita Rivera, who incidentally just turned 88 this past January!

Yes...EIGHTY-EIGHT!

Born in Washington, DC, the third of five children, Chita started off training as a ballet dancer at the young age of 5, but then eventually found her way to the Broadway stage. She has received 3 Tony Awards (nominated 10 times), The Kennedy Center Honors Award, and The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Chita is what theater people refer to as, a triple threat, because she dances, sings, and acts. And does all three fabulously!

But for as talented as she is, she remains humble and grounded; never forgetting to mention the many people who have helped her throughout her career. 

Chita is primarily a stage performer and is strongly remembered for originating the role of, Anita (pictured below), in the Broadway musical, West Side Story ...


She is also known for originating the role of, Velma Kelly, in the Broadway musical, Chicago. Here she is with the equally talented, Gwen Verdon as, Roxie Hart...


Chita has been in movies as well, but the one she is most famous for is, Sweet Charity, in which she portrayed, Nickie. *Left photo: second in from the right. *Right photo: far right, with Shirley MacLaine and Paula Kelly...

My story about how our paths crossed, twice:

The first time I crossed paths with Chita Rivera was in 1977, when I was performing in a Las Vegas musical review called, "Bottoms Up", at Harrah's Lake Tahoe, in Lake Tahoe, NV.

The producer of our show knew Chita personally, so he invited her one evening when she was in Tahoe to see our third show. We did three shows a night at Harrah's (10pm, 12am, and 2am).   

And I will remember this moment forever...

When the curtain went up that night, the cast was all onstage performing the opening number. And as we moved downstage (which is the area of the stage closest to the audience) my eyes caught Chita's eyes, and we smiled. I don't know how the hell that happened because I had no idea where she was sitting in the audience, but our eyes met the second the curtain went up and stage lights came on.

It felt like magic!

Anyway, after the show we were invited to go out into the audience and meet Chita Rivera. I was so excited, but also very nervous! I remember standing with the cast at the table where Chita was sitting with her friends, and thinking, "OMG...this is CHITA FREAKING RIVERA!!!!  We all said hello and thanked her for coming to our show. She was so sweet, kind and encouraging, saying that she thoroughly enjoyed the show and that we were all wonderful. Before we walked away from the table, I looked at her, smiled again, and said, "It was so nice meeting you." She smiled back.

And that was it. 

That is, until 1996, when I saw her again in the Broadway musical tour of, Kiss of the Spider Woman, in Tampa, Florida. I don't recall how I got the tickets or who I went to the show with, but I remember the show vividly. And Chita was AMAZING.

The musical is based on the movie, Kiss of the Spider Woman, which I saw during its initial release in 1985 and thought it was a brilliant film with a stellar cast. 

Here is both the movie poster and the Playbill program from the staged musical...


The show opened (1993) at the Broadhurst theater in New York City...


Below are several photographs from the original Broadway show.

Now, keep in mind that by the time Kiss of the Spider Woman went out on the tour, Chita Rivera was 61-years old, performing EIGHT shows a week in a musical that was extremely physical. The night I saw the show, I couldn't believe my eyes because she performed as if she had the stamina of 20-year old.

Oh, and one more thing. 

In 1986 in New York City, the car that Chita was driving was struck by a taxi, and she suffered a compound fracture in her left leg that required 16 screws and months of healing.

So yes, I was sitting in the audience that night in Tampa watching her and thinking, "This 61-year old woman has 16 screws in her leg, yet she is dancing like this? HOW?!?!?"

But that's what I love about theater performers -- their energy and tenacity. Their ability to always find a way around a challenge and adapt. Theater people are strong and resilient. They have to be, to do what they do night after night.  

Here is Chita Rivera as, Aurora -The Spider Woman. Aurora isn't a flesh-and-blood character; she exists only in the mind of the character, Molina. Aurora is a combination of a 1940's glamorous musical movie star, and the kiss of death. 


With Brent Carver as Molina, Anthony Crivello as Valentin.

Chita, Brent, and Anthony all won a Tony award for their performances. So did the show that year for Best Musical....


Look at the way she lifts her leg....




After I saw the musical that night, I thought about waiting outside the stage door just to say hello to Chita and tell her that we met years ago in Lake Tahoe, but alas...I didn't.

With all the many people she has met throughout her career, I doubt very much if she would have remembered me. 

Besides, simply crossing paths with Chita Rivera, twice, was good enough for me.  

And I'm in awe, knowing that she is still on this planet dancing, singing, and inspiring all those who are blessed to encounter her.

I conclude this post with a quote from Steven Holden, the New York Times critic:

“In her every move, she seems to beckon you to throw off your cares and join the procession on Planet Chitah, a place of continual movement, endless fun and pure joy.”

Rock on, Chita!


Have a stellar week, everyone! 💗


28 comments:

  1. How exciting for you, Ron! Yes, I did know who she is, mostly that she was in the original West Side Story role. I’m not sure I remember you talking about being in the Vegas show in Tahoe? How interesting! How long did it run? I love that you remembered the moment when your eyes met. So thrilling, I’m sure! Thanks for the mini biography on a legend.

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  2. Ron, you really should write a book about your theater career experiences and all the people you encountered. What a fascinating story! I am a closeted theater person who secretly wished I had pursued a career onstage. I love the theater. I enjoy films too, but theater to me is thrilling to experience! I did a couple plays in high school, but didn't have the guts to persue it any further. I think I'm someone who enjoys and appreciated theater as an audience member, but didn't have the guts or talent to pursue it as a career.

    I saw Chita Rivera in Sweet Charity, several times. And I also the remake of Chicago, where she had a cameo. That picture of her in Kiss of the Spider Women with Brent and Anthony shows what great shape she was in. Her shoulders and arms are amazing!

    Great post, Ron! So cool that you met her! xo

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  3. So, you are familiar with Chita Rivera? That's AWESOME! Yes, I think it's her role (as Anita) in West Side Story that many people remember her from. It's a shame she didn't get to do the role in the movie version thought. Rita Moreno did. But it's funny to hear her talk about that in interviews because although she was disappointed, she holds no hard feelings toward Rita. In fact, they are close friends.

    I think I may have posted about my Las Vegas show experience many years ago, when I first started this blog. Maybe it was before you and I met. The show ran for two months. I got cast in New York City; rehearsed the show in Vegas; and then traveled to Tahoe, where we did the show at Harrah's for the summer. OMG...it was so much fun! I met so many celebrities while I was there. Everyone in Vegas, knows one another, so I was constantly being introduced to people that other people knew, like: Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace, Jim Nabors, Charo, Juliet Prowse, to name a few. It was two months of working, partying, working, partying. LOL!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a faaaaabulous week!

    X

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  4. Hey there Candice!

    It's funny because every so often I will recall an experience I had when I was still doing theater and be reminded of how much I appreciated it. For some reason, one day while I was on You Tube, I spotted several interviews with Chita Rivera so I decided to watched them all. It was then that I remember meeting her. Such a fabulous lady, with so much talent! And she is still performing!

    "I am a closeted theater person who secretly wished I had pursued a career onstage. I love the theater. I enjoy films too, but theater to me is thrilling to experience! I did a couple of plays in high school and had so much fun. "

    That's AWESOME!!!! I agree with you. I enjoy films very much, however, theater (particularly as an actor), is much thrilling to experience because it's LIVE and happening in the moment. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to do theater professionally. I had such a wonderful time and learned so much. And not only about acting, but life as well.

    Yes, I have the movie version of Chicago and was so happy to see her cameo!!!

    Doesn't she have a great bod? Even still, she exercises and stays in shape. That's probably why she still has the energy and stamina to keep performing.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a terrific rest of your week!

    X

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  5. "So yes, I was sitting in the audience that night in Tampa watching her and thinking, "This 61-year old woman has 16 screws in her leg, yet she is dancing like this? HOW?!?!?"

    WOW, Ron! Mind blowing!!! But it's as you said, artists who perform live have to be strong and resilient because they have to show up every single night and put-out. They're like atheletes!

    What a fascinating story! Did you like your time in Vegas/ Tahoe? I've never been there, but imagine it being a place that is non-stop with everything being open 24/7. I hear Tahoe is gorgeous.

    Thanks for sharing, dude! I would love to hear more stories.

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  6. Love this post, Ron! While I've never had the pleasure of meeting Chita myself, your memories of her make me feel like I have. What an energetic, fascinating woman! I really admire folks who persevere despite hardships (16 screws in her leg??) and show us how to enjoy their golden years!


    You're fortunate in having met so many interesting people, my friend. I wonder how many folks tell their friends about the times they met YOU?!?


    Have a wonderful Wednesday! xx

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  7. Thanks, Mark! And thanks so much for stopping by!

    X to you and Tara

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  8. Hiya Matt!

    Yes, mind blowing indeed! It was AMAZING to watch her onstage because the dance numbers that she was in were very complex and physical, but she moved through them effortlessly! And you're so right, dancers are athletes!

    I had a great time in Vegas and Tahoe, I really did. But I have to say that when the show was over, I was not sad about leaving because Vegas is a lifestyle that I wouldn't want to be around forever. My parents on the other hand LOVED Vegas, and would go there 1-2 times a year because they loved to gamble. I on the other hand, had no interest in gambling. Vegas to me is like Disneyworld for adults. However, I ADORED Lake Tahoe because although there are still the casinos and such, it's gorgeous. We lived in a home on the side of a mountain that overlooked Lake Tahoe. It was a stunning view, particularly at night.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Hope you're enjoying a faaaaaabulous week!

    X

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  9. Helloooooooo there, Debbie!

    So glad you enjoyed. I know that not everyone is as into theater as I am, so Chita Rivera is not someone that everyone would know.

    "What an energetic, fascinating woman! I really admire folks who persevere despite hardships (16 screws in her leg??) and show us how to enjoy their golden years!"

    I know, isn't that AMAZING?!?!? And even now, at 88, you should hear how she talks about doing things and keeping active in her life. She is truly a trooper and such an inspiration for anyone who getting up there in age because she has such a great attitude about aging.

    "You're fortunate in having met so many interesting people, my friend. I wonder how many folks tell their friends about the times they met YOU?!?"


    Aw...you are sweet in saying that. It's funny because every so often I will remember certain people that I met while I was still acting and think, "WOW...I forgot about that! And then I'll remember the experience in detail." I am so grateful for the different paths my life has taken because I've met a lot of diverse people who have touched my life.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend! Have Wednesday too!

    X

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  10. My goodness, Ron, this story is pure magic!

    Chita Rivera is a living legend and it's so cool that you got to meet her! Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

    These images from "Kiss of the Spider Woman" are incredible. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to see it. And to think she danced with terrible injury--what a trouper.

    It would've been cool if you did wait for her outside the theater. You never know--she might have remembered your face...or your bottom!

    Great post, buddy! Take care!

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  11. "You never know--she might have remembered your face...or your bottom!"

    OMG, Rob....that made me LOL! You are so quick witted and sharp! HILARIOUS! And you're right, she may have remembered meeting me. But I was more concerned about her being embarrassed if she didn't.

    "These images from "Kiss of the Spider Woman" are incredible. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to see it. And to think she danced with terrible injury--what a trouper."

    I would have love to actually seen it on Broadway at the Broadhurst. It ran on Broadway for two years and then went out on the road for a US tour. Chita remained in the cast, however, the two leading men were recast. And I have to say, they were both AWESOME!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy! Hope you're having a fantabulous week!

    X

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  12. Oh, Ron, I loved reading this post and hearing all about your paths crossing. What a GREAT story! I don't think I remember you sharing about your time in Lake Tahoe. Wow...you have certainly had a diverse career in the theater. How exciting!

    The pictures from the show are so great. I can't get over the BOD on Chita -- and in her 60's!! I don't look that good for being in my mid-30's LOL! And how impressive that she continued to dance after her car accident in spite of having 16 screws in her leg. How impressive! I love her makeup and hair.

    What a great tribute to a talented and beautiful lady! Wouldn't it be wonderful if Chita Rivera discovered this post online and responded to you? You NEVER know!

    Thanks for sharing, sir Ron! Have a wonderful rest of your week. xo

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  13. Hola Denise!

    Way back in my blog archives, I shared a post in which I mentioned something about performing in Vegas/Tahoe, but the post was more about Phyllis Diller.

    I know!!!! Doesn't Chita have a great BOD? Even now, she is still in great shape. I saw an interview in which she talked about working out and staying active, and how important it's been for staying healthy (mind, body, and spirit). I was in AWE watching her in Kiss of the Spider Woman, knowing she had surgery on her leg, yet you couldn't tell at all. She danced full-out, as if nothing had happened. It was truly amazing!

    "Wouldn't it be wonderful if Chita Rivera discovered this post online and responded to you? You NEVER know!"

    OMG...I would DIE!!!! But you're right, with everyone on the internet now, you never know! And it's funny you mentioned that because I just recently had someone contact me via email who I had written a post about in 2012, in which I shared one of her videos. She said that her aunt found my blog post and sent her the link. So she contacted me to let me know she loved the post!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, girl. Hope you're having a faaaaaabulous week!

    X

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  14. What a great experience, Ron! And I loved reading about it! I am a bit star-struck myself, so I get very excited/nervous meeting celebrities, so I know how you felt meeting Chita. I almost become paralyze and don't know what to say or how to act around them LOL!

    You did three shows a night, and your last one was at 2am?!? Wow. What time did you get home?

    I saw the movie, Kiss of the Spider Woman, but didn't know there was a musical version?! I loved the movie too. Both William Hurt and Raul Julia were so good. I was so saddened when Julia passed away. And at such a young age.

    Fun post, Ron!

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  15. Hey there Clair!

    OMG...I am BIG TIME star-struck!!! Particularly if it's someone who I really admire. I've met a lot of actors/actresses over the years, and I am always in AWE. I remember going to a movie screening and Q & A of Susan Sarandon and I couldn't even get up the courage to ask her a question because I thought I would screw up what I wanted to ask. HA!

    Yes, three shows a night. Usually after the last show (which ended at 3am) the cast would go to party or go out and eat breakfast. I usually didn't get to bed until 5 or 6am; sleep all day, and then do it all over again at night. It was a lot of fun, but I was not sad when it was over.

    Wasn't the movie, faaaaaaaabulous? They were both so good in their roles. I know, Raul Julia passed away WAY too young.

    Thanks so much for stopping by. Always a pleasure to see your comments. Have a great rest of your week!

    X

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  16. Thanks for answering my question, Ron! I had a feeling it would be that way. I would really like to visit one day, but I imagine it's a place that you enjoy for a vacay, nothing indefinitely though. I like how you referred to it, a Disneyworld for adults. LOL!

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  17. Yes, and yet people DO live there and make it their home. One of the things that sort of surprised me were the slot machines they have in the grocery stores that people can gamble with when they're shopping. I kid you not! THAT'S how much of a gambling city it is LOL!

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  18. Ron, when I was teen, I had the original Broadway West Side Story album (LP) with Chita Rivera on the recording as Anita! I was obsessed with that album and played (blasted) it constantly in my bedroom. I loved Anita's song, "A Boy Like That" duet with Maria's song, "I Have a Love." My girlfriend and I would pretend to be Anita and Maria and sing along with it. My mother got so sick of hearing the album, she threatened to take it from me (and smash it) if I blasted it one more time LOL!

    I am so flabbergasted that you met Chita Rivera. And I had no idea you performed in a musical in Lake Tahoe?! I would died, had I met her because I am such a huge fan.

    I have the recording (CD) of Kiss of the Spider Woman, which I purchased back in the 90's. And I still have it. Didn't get a chance to see the show when it was on Broadway, damn it. I bet Chita was wonderful! Being a fan, I knew about her car accident and couldn't believe she went back to dancing after she healed. What a woman!

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. I shared it with my husband and enjoyed it too. We loved all the photos!

    Have a great weekend, Ron! x

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  19. OMG Elaine, I was rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off at your comment about blasting the album in your bedroom and singing along with your girlfriend for two reasons. One, because I think that is HILARIOUS! And two, I used to do the SAME THING when I was a kid. I couldn't wait for my parents to go out at night because I would play the record on our stereo in our living room and lip sync to the songs, I kid you not! And I would play all the parts. Sometimes my friend Danny would do it with me if he was there. We had so much fun!

    I too have the CD of Kiss of the Spider Woman! I took it to Japan with me when I was there for the summer performing in a show, and would listen to it before I went onstage because it would inspire me! My favorite song on the CD is, "Where You Are." And to have seen Chita do it in person, in the show, was amazing!

    Thanks a bunch for stopping by and sharing your story. I LOVED it! Have a super weekend, my friend!

    X

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  20. Ron, thanks for this wonderful post on the amazing Miss Chita. I was aware of her talents, but admittedly have not seen her perform in many productions, either on film or stage. That said, this post has inspired me to seek out some of those online, because as we all know, you can find SO much online on YouTube.

    How exciting to have been able to meet her too and to have recalled that encounter so vividly. It's clear that she made quite and impression on your and still does.

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  21. Hey there D!

    Thank you. Glad you enjoyed!

    " I was aware of her talents, but admittedly have not seen her perform in many productions, either on film or stage. "

    Yes, and I think many people are the same. Her name is familiar to them, but since she is primarily a stage performer, she's not as exposed as say, a film or television star; therefore her work is not as known.

    And you're so right, you can find SO much online on You Tube. In fact, that is where I've been watching the interviews I've seen over the past few weeks. What would we do without the internet or Google??

    She most definitely made such an impression on me, even before actually meeting her. To theater people she is considered Theater Royalty. And what's even more impressive is that she is still performing...at 88!!

    Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a wonderful weekend!

    X
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  22. Oh Ron, that is SO FUNNY! The two of us were singing and dancing to the same album when we were kids! I wish we knew each other back then because we could have done the WHOLE show and charged admission LOL! I used to lip sync to it sometimes too.

    Good weekend!

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  23. Hey listen, when I was a kid I used to put on shows in my room, with lights, music, and scenery! And whenever I did that during a time when my family was visiting for, say, the holidays, I would charge 10 cents for anyone who came to the show. And not only that, but I would serve the audience candy and popcorn! Even back then I had dreams of going becoming a stage actor, HA!

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  24. I know the name, but not much else about her, so I really enjoyed this. She sounds like a phenomenal performer. And how stoked you must have been to meet her! That just sounds amazing.

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  25. "And how stoked you must have been to meet her! That just sounds amazing."

    OMG, yes, SO stoked because I had admired her talents since I was a young kid. And being that I she was more of theater performer, I admired her even more because that's what ended up doing when I graduated high school. I moved to NYC at 17 and pursued a career in the theater.

    I also admire her longevity; not only as a performer, but as someone who has never allowed age to limit her. She just keeps rockin' on!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my Libra friend!

    X

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  26. Why a phenomenal talent! I can totally see her as Velma Kelly in Chicago! I had not heard of her so thank you for schooling me on yet another theatre performer! You've had so many interesting encounters with celebrities. You should write a book!

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  27. Isn't she, Lisa? And to see her in person, onstage, was such a major treat for me because I had admired her for so many years.

    Right? Doesn't she look like the perfect Velma Kelly? I wish I could have seen her (and Gwen Verdon) in "Chicago."

    I feel so blessed to have had these encounters with celebs. And being such a star-struck person, I'm surprise I haven't made a complete fool of myself, when meeting them LOL!

    I have another post planned for sometime this summer to share about the time I met Liberace (in his dressing room) in Vegas, after I saw his show. What a treat that was!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Hope you're enjoying a faaaaabulous week so far!

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