Until this weekend, actress, singer and dancer Mitzi Gaynor had only been on Kauai once before. That visit was over 50 years ago when she was on-island to film South Pacific.
Still youthful at 76. “Don’t believe reports that I’m 78,” Mitzi said. She walked on stage today at the Kauai Marriott, looking spectacular in a Bob Mackie pantsuit, ready to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the movie.
During a 90 minute “preview” performance with film clips shown on two large screens, Mitzi delighted the audience with stories of Hollywood and the people she’s worked with.
Giving terrific impersonations of Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Ethel Merman and Noel Coward, to name drop a few, Mitzi showed great aplomb at working the audience and sharing movie history.
She also launched into a hilarious description of 1950’s clothes while discussing her preparations to meet the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. “You could floss your teeth with the tips of those high heel shoes.”
I still want to know why it took Mitzi 50 years to return to Kauai. When asked by an audience member, Mitzi welled up saying she thought it would be too hard to relive those memories but now she’s glad she did.
Mitzi on the Coco Palms Hotel. She lamented the condition of the legendary property, where she stayed during filming of South Pacific, and urged that it be restored. “It’s part of your island history. All of the early production companies stayed there. It was THE place on Kauai.”
I was touched when Mitzi said she remembers (and still finds) Kauai as a place where people give and not take away from one another.
Ever vogue South Pacific. Mitzi thinks the popularity of South Pacific is due to the terrific music and to the fact that many people can still relate to the time period and World War II.
She got the part in South Pacific with some help from Frank Sinatra. Mitzi was filming a scene with him and the producers did not want to release her for the South Pacific audition. Frank stepped in and asked that scene be filmed around Mitzi to she could have the day off.
Mitzi recalled shooting, “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair,” and having to stop when the shampoo created an eye irritation. She remembered seeing No Tears baby shampoo at Lihue General Store and someone drove 2 hours each way for a bottle. It saved the shoot, according to Mitzi.
Howard Hughes’ girlfriend. Early in the program Mitzi recalled her romance with Howard Hughes saying the other girlfriends are all dead. Mitzi is still here and shows no signs of letting up.
Mitzi’s going back to work. Right now she’s rehearsing for a new show in 2010 that will add dance and singing to her program. It’s called, “Razzle Dazzle, My Life Behind the Sequins.”
As I walked along the beach after the performance, I thought about all the changes that have happened on Kauai since South Pacific was filmed, and delighted in the fact I could connect with that time gone by.