April 28, 1941– Ann-Margret Olsson
When I was a little baby gay my mother dropped me off, all on my own at 9 years old, at Spokane’s Post Theatre for the Saturday first matinee showing of the film version of the Broadway hit Bye Bye Birdie. I was gobsmacked & have never quite recovered. The very next day, after church, I set up my room’s summer window fan in the bathroom as a wind machine, & sang the title song in the manner of Ann-Margret, moving closer to the bathroom mirror & pulling back to gain the effect of the camera work. I was especially adept at having that little catch in my voice, just like the 22 year old star of the movie. I can still do it today, although I no longer have hair to be blown around & flounced.
Since making her debut in A Pocket Full Of Miracles (1961) opposite Bette Davis, Ann-Margret has acted in 75 films & receiving 2 Oscar Nominations: Carnal Knowledge (1971) & Tommy (1975). She has won 5 Golden Globe Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, & 5 Emmy Awards. Besides the 2 films mentioned, I especially admire her work in A Streetcar Named Desire (1986) as an especially vivid & unhinged Blanche DuBois, great comic work in the 18th century set Joseph Andrews (1977) as Lady Booby, & showing her acting chops in the horror thriller Magic (1978) opposite Anthony Hopkins.
She was born in Sweden, but Ann-Margret moved with her family to Chicago when she was 6 years old. While singing in a musical act at 18 years old, she was discovered by George Burns, who put her in his nightclub act. She had a passionate affair with Elvis Presley while filming Viva Las Vegas (1964). He asked Ann-Margret to marry him. Thankfully she declined, or she might have eventually become a Scientologist.
At the finish of filming of Bye Bye Birdie there was a wrap party, & the director, producers & the cast including stars Dick Van Dyke, Paul Lynde, & Janet Leigh, all gave speeches extolling the extraordinary talents of Ann-Margret. When it was her turn, Maureen Stapleton, who played Van Dyke’s overbearing mother announced:
“I guess I’m the only person in the room who doesn’t want to fuck Ann-Margret.”
In 1972, Ann-Margret survived a dramatic fall from a concert stage in Lake Tahoe that shattered her face & left her in a coma. She fought back through tedious reconstructive surgeries & convalescence. Within a year she was back on stage. Ann-Margaret:
“I really believed I was spared by God in 1972 because I had so much left to do.”
She has been married to Roger Smith for 48 years, known for his acting & his hotness in the hit series 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64). Smith has managed her career since they met.
She is my kind of entertainer: nightclubs, Vegas, films, TV, & stage. She turns 74 years old today, she still looks gorgeous, & she still keeps working. Ann-Margret was a guest star in an episode of Law & Order: SVU in 2010 & she won an Emmy for that performance. She had a terrific story arc on Showtime’s Ray Donovan last season. I have been so inspired by this beautiful & talented lady, that I have a chapter in my own upcoming memoir Jockstraps & Vicodin, titled Kitten With A Whip.
Ann-Margret tells this story about when auditioned for Burns:
“I wore this light blue lambswool sweater & black stockings & little black one-inch shoes that I had worn all through the summer, because that’s all I had! & that’s the way Mr. Burns saw me. So on opening night, that’s what I wore. But then I searched all over the place for something that I thought would be really nice in Las Vegas, & it was more money than I had ever spent. It was an orangey-red velvet pantsuit, & pantsuits were just coming into style. At dress rehearsal Mr. Burns saw this outfit, & he said: ‘Where’s the sweater & pants that you wore on the audition… the tight sweater & the tight pants?’ I said, ‘Well, I thought that this was really nice & that you’d like it.’ & he said, ‘People don’t want to only hear your voice, they want to see where it’s coming from!’ I never forgot that.”
Ann-Margret sang Happy Birthday to George Burns on his 100th birthday. You may never feel the same about baked beans after you have seen her in Tommy: