Actress/singer/comedienne Kaye Ballard remains one of the great living legends of stage, screen and television. She did comedy and sang with bandleader Spike Jones. She was the costar of TV's The Mothers-In-Law and The Doris Day Show, and the very funny film The Ritz among many others and too many Broadway musicals and road shows to mention. This lady brings mirth and goodwill wherever she appears. Animals are close to her heart, so it is no wonder that she, Lee Roy Reams and Liliane Montevecchi are mounting Doin' It For Love, for two nights only at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre March 9 and 10 to benefit PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). In our chat she talks about PETA, her love of animals and offers choice bits about her accomplishments and costars.
Tell me about PETA.
First of all I love animals as much as I love people, and maybe even a smidgen more. I have four dogs and two rescue dogs, and I agree with what they're doing. They've got to change the laws. People don't understand that. I fight for abused animals. I would be the one to pull the lever on somebody.
Whenever I see infomercials on animal abuse, I tear up.
I can't take it either. Animals are little souls. Just like we have souls, if we do...I feel animals have them. When I look in their eyes, I can see it. I've got to spend the rest of my life trying to make money to keep animals.
Bless you! You are equally comfortable in a book musical and on the cabaret stage. Would you rather do your act or a show?
I'd rather do a show. I did a show five years ago with Sean Phillips, a Ronald Harwood play called Quartet. That was the most exciting thing I've ever done. I'd rather do a play or a musical...really a musical, than anything. If you are not on television, they think you are dead. I've never stopped working and I'm 86.
You don't look it. I've seen you twice in the Palm Springs Follies and you look sensational.
Thank you, Don. I use my Henny Youngman there (he was famous for one-liners, short jokes delivered rapid-fire), because that is so commercial. Every single word I've ever done on stage, though, is true. My two favorite comics in the world are Kristen Wiig from SNL (Saturday Night Live) and Bridesmaids, I love her. There are actually three. Catharine O'Hara and...I'm thinking as I'm talking... Melissa McCarthy. She's adorable, but the only thing is I wish I could say, "Don't go that far!"
How do you feel if you have a young audience and you're performing standard material. How do you grab them?
This is what we're going to find out, Donald. Like the Henny Youngman thing, if it's funny, it's funny, no matter how old it is, it's funny. I do a takeoff on Sophie Tucker that is funny, because she was the old sage. I'm going to find out because there are a lot of young people in PETA. I love them.
They don't understand the old stuff.
And they've got to be taught.
What's your favorite role on stage?
Without question, it's Quartet or Gypsy. I did that in Dallas in 1961-62 with the original company and got an award for it. Mama Rose...I guess I was 40 then. I also did it in San Diego for three months.
Do you have an icon, a favorite performer?
I've got a couple. Judy Garland, Martha Raye...and Bea Lillie. When I was at the Macambo, Judy Garland sat in the front row and she came in with Ethel Merman...how about that? She'd say, "Do me! Do me!" When I started out in show business, I did an impression of Judy Garland. I've been very fortunate. I've had wonderful contacts in my life.