Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Lunch With Mrs. Robinson

This is Anne Bancroft Day on TCM, and they are showing her in movies ranging from Anne Sullivan, the determined teacher of deaf-and-blind Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker" to the boozy Mrs. Robinson seducing Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate."

Before those triumphs, there was an unforgettable lunch with the young actress born Anna Maria Italiano in the Bronx. When we met at an elegant Park Avenue hotel in Manhattan soon after she won a Tony as the free-spirited Gittel in "Two for the Seesaw," she confided she was too shy to sit in the crowded dining room.

An understanding maitre d' took us to the far end of a huge, darkened main room that was closed for lunch and had a waiter serve us there.

She ordered a shrimp cocktail but when it arrived, the little fork was nowhere in sight. She apologized profusely for sending the waiter off on a long walk to find one but, as he was reentering the room, she gasped, "Oh my God" after finding a cocktail fork in the folds of the tablecloth.

Without hesitation, she slipped it into her bra and gave the waiter a dazzling smile of thanks as he set down the new one.

After becoming instant co-conspirators, we had a lively talk about growing up poor and ambitious in an outer borough and, for years afterward, I envied Mel Brooks who a few years later would bribe someone to find out where she was having dinner and show up to woo and wed her for a 40-year-marriage that couldn't possibly had had a dull moment.

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