Kitty Carlisle Hart: TV personality of the 1950s and ‘60s. Veteran game show panelist (“To Tell the Truth”), fashion maven, society doyenne, chairwoman emeritus of the New York State Council on the Arts. Stage and film actress, nightclub performer and trained opera singer, icon of gracious charm and cultured wit.
And now, star of her own one-woman show.
“I’ll tell you something. My career has taken a turn for the best. Now that I’m 95, I have all these engagements.”
A delighted laugh sounds over the phone. Hart, whose name conjures up images of perfectly coiffed hair, couture gowns and strands of pearls, is in her Manhattan apartment, chortling over her latest venture: a musical celebration of the American songbook and of the Broadway royalty in her life, including her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Moss Hart, who died in 1961.
“I never remarried,” she comments, because “when you’ve had the best of it, why fiddle around? He was so wonderful. He was so witty and it was such fun to be with him. I loved it and I loved him.”
Hart’s next tour stop is the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, where she will appear in “Kitty Carlisle Hart: An American Icon in Concert” with her musical director and accompanist, David Lewis, Friday through Sunday.
The show includes more than a dozen songs by Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and other friends, sung “the way they wanted them sung,” interspersed with stories about the composers and other stage and film luminaries.
Hart, who says she’s out most nights at the theater, concerts, dinners and parties, exercises every day: “I get on the floor and I can get up by myself, not holding on to anything. I get on the treadmill; I swim.”
A decision made long ago that “life was too good to waste on sad things” helps, but Hart doesn’t necessarily wear rose-colored glasses.
On education: “I think people today aren’t learning as much as we did. They don’t understand world politics; they really don’t understand geography -- they don’t know where anything is.” On the culture of celebrity: “It’s based on, how should I put it, vulgarity. We had standards and we didn’t allow other people to debase our standards. It was a different time.”
Turning 96 in September won’t slow Hart down. She has a gig lined up on her home turf, at Michael Feinstein’s New York hot spot, Feinstein’s at the Regency, Sept. 26 to 30.
-- Lynne Heffley