Diva is one of those terms that is overused and commonly misused to characterize women in a negative light. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of this four-letter word and don’t yank it out of my vocabulary lightly. However when you explore the colorful life and times of Patti Lupone, its hard to ignore the obvious. If anyone in the Broadway community is deserving of the label, its Patti Lupone. You can’t help but stumble upon account after account of questionable behavior that help her live up to the title, or at least falls victim to these sorts of moments regularly. Of course, one could argue that Lupone’s divaness all depend on how you look at the situations that have unfolded.
Patti Lupone vs. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glenn Close
Patti Lupone headlined the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1993 stage adaptation of the film Sunset Boulevard. So, when she was publicly released from the role in favor of Glenn Close after receiving a contract that said she would open for the New York production, she didn’t bow out from the role quietly. Reportedly, the star trashed her dressing room which she did address in an interview she gave on the daytime television talk show The View years later. According to Lupone, this came after months of being told she wouldn’t be fired, devastating press in America, and the cringe-worthy act of finding out about her dismissal via Liz Smith’s column. See exactly what she had to say here starting at 4:25:
Lupone was apparently so hurt by the experience she vowed in her memoir entitled Patti Lupone: A Memoir, “I’m never going to work with him again,” in reference to Webber saying, “It was a cruel experience.”
As you can imagine, Lupone’s dismay didn’t overlook Glenn Close’s role in the back stabbing. Lupone also wrote in her book, “Do I think Glenn Close was complicit in what happened to me? Hard to say. But what I do know is that from the time she was announced, I never heard from her.”
Patti Lupone vs. Betty Buckley
Over the years, there has apparently been some sort of dispute between Patti Lupone and Betty Buckley over who originated the song “Meadowlark.” Both stars have sung this song for years during their concerts, each claiming it to be their own.
Buckley has said the song was written specifically for her while Lupone says the song is hers because she sang it in the pre-Broadway tour of The Baker’s Wife which didn’t even make it to New York. Despite the disagreement, this mini feud has never really escalated beyond their claims so I wouldn’t really classify it as diva.
Patti Lupone vs. Bernadette Peters
This feud seems to be more media driven than fact driven, but it gained a little steam so I thought it was worth a tiny mention. In an interview with ONTD, the actress said that Bernadette Peters got billing and everything else she wanted in reference to breakdowns in negotiations for her to play the witch in the original Broadway production of Into the Woods. Lupone also said at another time that she felt Peters was a surprising choice for the role, though her comments on the actress went no further than that. Her comments seem more like a simple career disappointment than a negative attitude towards Peters to me, though the media has tried to suggest that Lupone was and still is jealous.
Patti Lupone and the Gypsy Incident
Patti Lupone’s Gypsy incident seems to be one of the defining moments that lead many, including myself, to believe that the star is indeed a true diva. Though it should be noted that members of that night’s audience seemed to be in support of the star. The day prior to the closing of the performance, Lupone was in the middle of “Rose’s Turn” when she stopped mid-performance to berate a member of the audience who had been taking photos during the show.
The moment, which ironically was captured by another member of the audience without her approval, was posted on Youtube and subsequently spread around the Internet for the world to see. It starts with Lupone saying, “Stop, stop, stop, stop! Stop taking pictures right now!,” and continues on for about a minute before she gives a tiny speech about manners in the theatre (how interesting). Due to a copyright claim by the Actors Equity Association the video footage itself is no longer available, but you can take a listen to her outburst here:
Do I think Patti Lupone is a diva? No. Do I think she has had some moments that can be categorized as diva-like? Without question. But whatever these incidents are, I simply think they are a reflection of her deep and undying love for the theatre. While I may not understand why she has made some of the choices she has and while I may not agree with her methods at times, I do think the motive behind them is pure and good-hearted.
Of her own moments of diva behavior, Lupone said in her interview with ONTD, “It’s never been about, ‘My wig is wrong, I’m not going on.’ It’s all been about what’s in service of the show.” I think that pretty much sums it all up.
Author: Diamond Grant