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Saturday, January 23, 2016

83 Groovy Things about Chita Rivera on her birthday

Today I'm celebrating Chita Rivera's 83rd birthday by sharing a "few" groovy things about her life and career:

1. Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero was born on January 23, 1933, in Washington, D.C.

2. In 1951, she accompanied a friend to an audition for the touring company of Call Me Madam (starring Elaine Stritch) and ended up winning the chorus role herself.

3. In 1951, "Conchita del Rivero" made her Broadway debut as a dancer in Guys and Dolls.

4. In 1953, she joined the Broadway cast of Can-Can as a dancer.

5. She became "Chita Rivera" while appearing in the 1955 Off-Broadway production of Ben Bagley's Shoestring Revue with Bea Arthur and Dody Goodman (for three days she was billed as Chita O'Hara - after actress Maureen O'Hara, whom she loved - before adopting her current stage name).

6. She played her first featured role as Fifi in the 1955 Broadway musical, Seventh Heaven.

7. She played Rita Romano in the 1956 Broadway musical, Mr. Wonderful, starring Sammy Davis, Jr.

8. She was a guest on Max Liebman Presents: The Maurice Chevalier Show on May 20, 1956.

9. She was Eartha Kitt's standby for the 1957 Broadway musical, Shinbone Alley.

10. She became a Broadway star when she originated the role of Anita in the 1957 musical, West Side Story, and on December 1, 1957, she married dancer Tony Mordente, who played A-Rab, one of the Jet gang members.

11. On January 12, 1958, she and Julie Andrews were guests on NBC's The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.

12. The 1958 London premiere of West Side Story was postponed until she gave birth to her daughter Lisa (on July 30, 1958) and could reprise her Broadway role as Anita.

13. On May 5, 1960, she appeared on CBS's The Revlon Revue: Tip Toe Thru TV with Sid Caesar and Jack Cole.

14. She received her first Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Rose Grant in the 1960 Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie (she reprised the role in the 1961 London production).

15. In 1962, she released her first solo album, Chita!, which was recorded in London in October 1961 when she was starring in the West End production of Bye Bye Birdie (her second album, And Now I Sing!, was released in 1963, and her third album, And Now I Swing, was released in 2009).

16. She and Alfred Drake starred in the 1963 pre-Broadway tryout of the musical, Zenda, which closed on the road.

17. She was a guest on CBS's The Judy Garland Show on January 9, 1964.

18. She played Sally Kellerman's maid, Mrs. Dame, in an episode of ABC's The Outer Limits on February 10, 1964.

19. While starring in the 1964-65 Broadway musical, Bajour, she performed the title number as a guest on the CBS variety show, The Entertainers, on January 16, 1965.

20. On November 13, 1965, she performed "Blue is the Color" on ABC's The Hollywood Palace (with host Judy Garland).

21. On March 19, 1966, she performed "My Home Is In My Shoes" on ABC's The Hollywood Palace (her performance begins at 5:10).

22. In 1966, she played Jenny in The Threepenny Opera at the Mineola Theatre in Mineola, New York, and she made her first appearance at Milwaukee's Melody Top Theatre as Linda Low, a Chinese-American showgirl, in Flower Drum Song.

23. In 1966, she and Larry Kert performed together at the NYC nightclub, El Morocco.

24. On November 23, 1968, she performed "Pretty for Me" on ABC's The Hollywood Palace.

25. She played the title role in Irma La Douce at Milwaukee's Melody Top Theatre in 1968 and in a Dallas Summer Musicals' production in 1969.

26. She was a guest on The Carol Burnett Show on February 3, 1969, and February 22, 1971.

27. She played Shirley MacLaine's friend Nickie in the 1969 feature film, Sweet Charity (she played the title role in a 1967-68 tour of U.S. and Canadian cities).

28. In September 1969, she played the love interest of John Cullum's Christopher Columbus in the pre-Broadway tryout of the Meredith Willson musical, 1491, which opened and closed in Los Angeles.

29. She and Carol Burnett appeared on the final episode of Hugh Hefner's syndicated series, Playboy After Dark, on May 15, 1970.

30. She played Billie Dawn in a 1972 Philadelphia Drama Guild production of Born Yesterday at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre.

31. On March 8, 1973, she appeared in the CBS movie, The Marcus-Nelson Murders, which served as the pilot for the Telly Savalas series, Kojak.

32. On March 11, 1973, she and Pamela Myers performed "America" from West Side Story during the benefit concert, Sondheim: A Musical Tribute, at NYC's Shubert Theatre.

33. In 1973-74, she played Richard Dawson's wife on the third and final season of the CBS sitcom, The New Dick Van Dyke Show.

34. In October 1973, she and Julie Adams starred in the play, Father's Day, at Chicago's Ivanhoe Theatre.

35. In July 1974, she starred opposite Hal Linden (and Bonnie Franklin) in a North Shore Music Theatre Production of Kiss Me, Kate in Beverly, Massachusetts.

36. She received her second Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Velma Kelly in Chicago, which opened on June 3, 1975.

37. On November 7, 1975, she and Liza Minnelli were guests on Dinah Shore's salute to composers John Kander and Fred Ebb on her talk show, Dinah! (Liza replaced Gwen Verdon in Chicago in August-September 1975)

38. On November 8, 1975, she and Gwen Verdon performed "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag" from Chicago on ABC's Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.

39. She and Liza Minnelli were guests on Sammy Davis, Jr.'s syndicated variety series, Sammy & Company, on November 22, 1975.

40. She danced with Dancing Bear on the CBS children's program, Captain Kangaroo, on January 27, 1976.

41. Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon were guests on The Mike Douglas Show (with co-host Hal Linden) on June 14, 1976.

42. She performed with Anita Bryant and Dionne Warwick on The Stars and Stripes Show, a musical variety salute to Independence Day that aired on June 30, 1976 (her performance begins at 55:35).

43. She was a guest on CBS's The George Burns Special on December 1, 1976.

44. In 1977, she toured with her nightclub act, Chita Rivera Plus 3, with three dancers - Leland Schwentes, Michael Serrecchia and Frank Mastrocola.

45. She played the Gingerbread Lady in the CBS movie, Once Upon a Brothers Grimm, on November 23, 1977.

46. She appeared in the 1978 film, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, as one of "Our Guests at Heartland" to sing a reprise of the title track in the last scene (which was filmed on December 16, 1977).

47. She was a guest - with Bobby Vinton and Happy Days' Anson Williams - on NBC's The Chuck Barris Rah-Rah Show on March 14, 1978.

48. She and her daughter Lisa Mordente performed on Hugh Downs' PBS talk show, Over Easy, on January 24, 1980.

49. Chita Rivera, John Kander and Fred Ebb were guests on The Merv Griffin Show on June 20, 1980.

50. On October 30, 1980, she was a guest - with Sandy Duncan and Ann Reinking - on The Merv Griffin Show's "Salute to the New York Dance Experience".

51. In 1981, she received her third Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for Bring Back Birdie.

52. She played Fastrada in a 1981 stage production of Pippin: His Life and Times, which was videotaped for Canadian television.

53. She performed on the 1982 special, Showstoppers: The Best of Broadway, which premiered on the pay cable network, The Entertainment Channel.

54. She performed "America" and "All That Jazz" on the 1982 PBS special, Broadway Plays Washington: Kennedy Center Tonight.

55. In 1983, she received her fourth Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for Merlin.

56. She and Liza Minnelli played mother and daughter in the Broadway musical, The Rink, and they performed "The Apple Doesn't Fall" from the show on PBS's Gala of Stars on March 18, 1984.

57. On June 3, 1984, at the 38th Annual Tony Awards, she won her first Tony for Best Actress in a Musical for The Rink and performed with Liza Minnelli and Gwen Verdon.

58. She performed "Buenos Aires" from Evita and a Sweet Charity medley (with Juliet Prowse) during the 39th Annual Tony Awards on June 2, 1985.

59. In 1986, she received her sixth Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for Jerry's Girls, and she performed at the 40th Annual Tony Awards eight weeks after breaking her leg in a car accident.

60. She performed on the PBS Great Performances special, Broadway Sings: The Music of Jule Styne, which was taped at NYC's St. James Theatre in January 1987 and aired in March 1987.

61. On November 15, 1987, she appeared in the CBS movie, Mayflower Madam, starring Candice Bergen.

62. On June 6, 1993, at the 47th Annual Tony Awards, she won her second Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Kiss of the Spider Woman and performed "Where You Are".

63. She made her first appearance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show on August 15, 1997.

64. In 1999, she played Roxie Hart (opposite Ben Vereen) in the musical, Chicago, in Toronto and Las Vegas.

65. She starred in a 2000 Papermill Playhouse production of Anything Goes and performed (with her co-stars Bruce Adler and George Dvorsky) on The Rosie O'Donnell Show on September 20, 2000.

66. She played villainess Magdalena Monteverde in a 2001 four-city summer tour of Casper the Musical.

67. On November 12, 2002, she performed "America" with Rita Moreno and Bette Midler during a New York fundraiser.

68. In 2002, she became the first ever Latin-American to receive the Kennedy Center Honor.

69. She made a cameo appearance as a prostitute, Nickie, in the 2002 film version of the musical, Chicago.

70. In 2003, she received her eighth Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for the Broadway revival of Nine.

71. She and Michele Lee played a lesbian couple on NBC's Will & Grace on February 10, 2005.

72. From February 22 to March 12, 2005, she appeared in And Now I Sing, her one-woman cabaret show at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City.

73. She appeared in the 2006 feature film, Kalamazoo?, with Mayim Bialik, Renée Taylor and Claire Bloom.

74. In 2006, she received her ninth Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for the musical revue, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life.

75. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009.

76. She appeared in the 2012 Broadway revival of the musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

77. On February 6, 2013, she and Marin Mazzie performed "Class" from Chicago during Ring Them Bells! A Kander and Ebb Celebration, which later aired on PBS's Live from Lincoln Center.

78. On September 26, 2013, she was a guest on the series, Show People With Paul Wontorek, to discuss Chita: A Legendary Celebration, a one-night-only celebration of her career on October 7.

79. She was a guest on CBS News Sunday Morning on December 15, 2013.

80. In 2015, she received her 10th Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for The Visit (she previously starred in the musical at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 2001, Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, in 2008, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2014).

81. She was a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on June 4, 2015.

82. On September 11, 2015, she was interviewed by Richard Ridge for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

83. On November 6, 2015, PBS aired a Great Performances special, Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin' to Do, which was a retrospective on her extraordinary life and career.

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