Rita Moreno, the first person, and one of the few ever to win all four major entertainment awards, the Oscar®, Tony®, Emmy®, and Grammy®, told her life story at a celebration at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery on July 9.
The actress, dancer, and singer was interviewed by Taína Caragol, curator of Latino art and history at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG). A reception feted Moreno and her many achievements.
Moreno, the only Hispanic person to have won all four key annual performing arts honors, also received the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award last year, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian award, in 2004. At the ceremony, President George W. Bush termed her "a lady of incredible talent and style, energy and beauty".
A decade later, that still holds true for the vibrant 82-year-old Moreno.
Born Rosita Dolores Alverío in Humacao, Puerto Rico in 1931, her career has spanned almost 60 years, which she wrote about in a memoir "Rita Moreno" (Penguin, 2013).
She dishes about lovers including Elvis and Brando. Her passionate, abusive love affair with Marlon Brando led her to attempt suicide.
Rosita was five when she and her mother arrived in New York and settled in a Bronx barrio. At age 13, she made her Broadway debut, and a star "Rita Moreno" was born. The play "Skydrift" co-starred Eli Wallach (who died on June 24 at age 89).
In Hollywood, MGM's Louis B. Mayer discovered her and said, "She looks like a Spanish Elizabeth Taylor."
Gene Kelly cast her in "Singin' in the Rain".
But all her roles are overshadowed by her Oscar-winning spectacular performance as Anita in the 1961 film "West Side Story". (Anita was played by Chita Rivera on Broadway.)
Moreno's next breaks did not come until 1971. Her next major film role was in "Carnal Knowledge", as a prostitute.
From 1971-1977, she played Millie the Helper, among other roles in the children's TV show "The Electric Company", Moreno won a 1972 Grammy for her work on its soundtrack album.
She won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in Terrence McNally's 1976 "The Ritz". She recreated the role of Googie Gomez in its film.
Moreno won Emmys for appearances on "The Muppet Show" and "The Rockford Files" in the 1970s.
So "Hey, you guys," as she said in opening each Electric Co. show, hear Moreno tell all about her wide-ranging, fascinating career and life.
Reception and program: http://bit.ly/RitaReception ($50).
See Moreno also in the NPG's special exhibition "Dancing the Dream". Her life epitomizes the American dream.
For more info and tickets: National Portrait Gallery, www.npg.si.edu, Eighth and F Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. Toll-free 1-866-868-7774. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Program only: http://bit.ly/RitaProgram ($15). Reception and program: http://bit.ly/RitaReception ($50). "Dancing the Dream" through July 13.