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Rita Moreno Celebrates 70-Year Career

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

Q&A With Rita Moreno

Why did you decide to stage an autobiographical one-woman show now?

RM: I think a lot of people don’t have a clue about my life. I have all of these awards and they don’t know the struggles behind all of that. During Master Class, I used to regale Tony [Taccone, the play’s director] with stories about Hollywood, another Hollywood that doesn’t exist anymore, and he said, "Really, you’re a dinosaur. You should write about this because nobody’s going to know about that part of Hollywood." And about two years ago, he said, "You know, you’re 78 now. I’ll ask you one more time." And I thought, "He’s right.”

AARP VIVA: Tony Taccone wrote the script for this play. What's it like to read a script about yourself?

RM: We spent a year and half with Tony interviewing me every week. He told me it would be three hours at a time, and I said, “That’s nothing, you know, I’m a chatterbox.” But those sessions were killer. I was whipped and so was he because he got very involved in the story, too. He saw every movie I’ve ever made, which is a curse. He had to see some of these ghastly Westerns where I play little Indian maidens and stuff. I was playing anything that had a dark skin. It was very necessary to see these dreadful movies to understand my plight. They were humiliating kind of parts. I didn’t watch those again.

AARP VIVA: Your husband, Lenny Gordon, died last year at 90. This must have been a very hard year.

RM: He carried me through some really difficult times in my life. But you know, two months after Lenny died, I had my knee surgery; and two months after that, I did my first show sitting in a chair. I owed some concerts, and I'm nothing if I'm not responsible. It actually turned out to be a great thing. It distracted me. Suddenly I was loved again — only this time by the public instead of just Lenny. You just do it, and in a way, it makes you strong.

AARP VIVA: This year you’ll be turning 80. Are you going to slow down?

RM: Hell no! I mean, no, not at all. It’s what I do. You know, it will come quite undoubtedly, when the other knee will go or something, but I just don’t think that way. I’m in a great place right now. And I think I’m in a great place essentially because I have the work. And I am very close to my daughter and my little guys [her grandchildren].

You may also like: John Leguizamo's one-man show.

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