Monday February 14, 2011 at 10:50

BETTY GARRETT (1919—2011)

I first became aware of Betty Garrett on ALL IN THE FAMILY playing the sassy and liberated next-door neighbor of the Bunkers, with Vincent Gardenia as her husband. My folks explained to me who she was, about her shining days in big musicals.

By the time I met her son Andy Parks (aka “the man born to play Kro-Bar”) I was well aware of who she was, so when finally I met her in 2001 I was somewhat star-struck. But that was impossible to sustain with someone so absolutely charming and funny and earthy and dedicated to being anything-but-retired. She had a small trampoline she worked out on, continuing to sing and dance her way (forgive the cliche but it’s true) into people’s hearts.

She liked LSoC and seemed to like what we were doing (perhaps a “throwback” personality she appreciated) so it seemed a no-brainer to ask her if she’d like to take part in our next one.  She seemed genuinely delighted, and so were we.

At the table read of TRAIL OF THE SCREAMING FOREHEAD at a Chinese restaurant everyone knew her; Kevin McCarthy, H.M. Wynant, Jimmy Karen, Dick Miller.  Same later, with DARK AND STORMY NIGHT (we had a fun table read at her quite awesome house), she and Marvin Kaplan were old friends—in fact they did a play together shortly after that.  And when we did a reading of TV LIFE, she and Len Lesser were reacquainted.

It wasn’t just having been in the business so many years—it was that welcoming, engaging personality, that sharp no-nonsense intelligence, that attracted people to her.

Not concerned with “the easy way” on DARK AND STORMY I believe it was her idea to nimbly step over the corpse on the floor—and it gets a laugh every time.  In fact her strange and seemingly oblivious Mrs. Hausenstaut turned out to be an audience favorite.

Her work in FOREHEAD is lovely, and we’re hoping with the UK release, a US DVD of the uncut version will be imminent.  I only regret that the TALES FROM THE PUB she shot (with Trish Geiger) has yet to be completed.  But it will be, and some small tribute.

Thank you, Betty, what a joy to know you and a gift to work with you.  I want to say RIP, but I find it hard to think of your spirit as anything but active.

— Larry Blamire

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