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Rita Moreno Celebrates 70-Year Career

The legendary star premieres Life Without Makeup, a one-woman show about her life

In her one-woman show, Moreno dishes on the men — mainly her tumultuous relationship with Marlon Brando (who was jealous of Elvis Presley, less so of her dates with Howard Hughes). She describes sexually predatory tycoons and moguls she met throughout her career, and relives a blind date with a man named Lenny Gordon, who became her husband of 35 years until his death in 2010.

The star’s immense musical talents are showcased in numbers from The Electric Company and West Side Story, and standards such as “Stormy Weather” and “Broadway Rhythm.”

Moreno regales the audience with behind-the-movie-set stories about the making of West Side Story. About director Jerome Robbins, she says, “The man was a flat-out genius,” although his artistic vision at times reflected some unenlightened choices. “We were all lumped together into a gang of darkies,” Moreno says in the play. Robbins insisted that the Puerto Rican characters speak in accents and wear the same dark make-up: “pancake makeup number 10, appropriately called Texas Dirt.”

Breaking through barriers and breaking away from Hispanic stereotypes has been “a ferocious struggle much of my life,” Moreno says. But that's changing. She's now playing a Jewish mother in Fran Drescher’s new sitcom, Happily Divorced,” which premiered in June on TV Land. “You know,” says Moreno, finishing her lunch, "I never thought I’d live to see this day when there would be people like myself playing an old Jew. And I love every minute of it.”

And Moreno makes it clear in the show that she doesn't intend to stop. "People say that when you get to a certain age that you start to mellow,” she says. “They say as your bones start to calcify, you have to slow way down. ... Mellowing has never done much for me. ... I figure if I keep my spirit in shape, the bones will take care of themselves."

Next: Why did Moreno decide to stage an autobiographical one-woman show now? >>

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