Absolutely hysterical account on Stargayzing of the night, ten years ago, when Elaine Stich pulled the ultimate diva stunt on Elton John.
It was July 2004, and Elton John was performing a symphonic concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Halfway through the beautiful set, Elton paused before “Your Song” and dedicated it to “One of the greatest theatrical personalities ever to grace the Broadway stage..” Suddenly, we look up about ten feet to our right, and Elaine Stritch is on her feet basking in the glow of a spotlight and Elton’s uncharacteristically sincere (and long) introduction.
But then something weird happened: Elton finished his dedication to Stritch, turned back to his keyboard, began to play the oh-so-famous introduction to “Your Song,” but Elaine did not give a final wave to the crowd and sit down; that would have been far too conventional for an experienced scene-stealer like Stritchie. Instead, like a broken jack-in-the-box, Elaine continued to stand planted in her spotlight and proceeded to extend the dedication for the full duration of the song. This move most certainly infuriated Elton, no shrinking Violet he, as she hijacked the number in its in entirety by pulling focus from the ninth row.
It was true. No one watched Elton: instead, 6000 people watched Elaine Stritch receiving his love and giving her own separate performance; more of an indication of a great lady being touched deeply by the poignance of Elton John’s serenade than an honest reaction. It was wildly effective and, as was its objective, completely distracting. With practiced sleight of hand, she made one of the greatest showman in the world a sideman in her production number: it was funny; it was phony; it was brilliant; it was sad; and so typically Stritch. Elton didn’t have a chance: once hit with the bright light and narcotic-like energy from the stage, she simply wouldn’t—couldn’t—relinquish it. She needed it way too much. Elaine Stritch, truly a theatrical cat burglar, didn’t even need to be on the stage, she just needed an entry point and she could, as Barbara Stanwyck used to say, “take the scene.”
Read the entire account here. (Elaine Stritch photo: Pacific Coast News, Radio City Photo: author’s own)