Sic transit gloria mundi –”Thus passes the glory of the world”
Famous people fade into oblivion. Who, these days, remembers Arthur Godfrey? Who, you say? How about George Gobel? Huh? Jeff Chandler? Only an aging population remembers, and before long, pfft! Gone into the dustbin of history. Bess Myerson had a really fine, long run in the public eye, beginning with her triumph as the first (and, to this date, only) Jewish Miss America. Truly gorgeous, she deserved this dubious honor, bestowed as World War II was grinding to a halt and the horror of the Holocaust emerged in all of its awfulness. Her fame grew as she became a television personality, and later became prominent in public service and politics. She was seen with famous people like Jacqueline Kennedy, and others. She married and divorced a few times, got into some trouble later in life when she took up with a Mafioso. Eventually she died at the age of ninety in Santa Monica. Oh…and she had a child, who now goes by the name of Barra Grant. She is an actress, writer, director and producer. She has a lot to get off her chest and she does so by performing her almost one-woman show, Miss America’s Ugly Daughter: Bess Myerson & Me, with the invaluable offstage voice of Monica Piper as Bess.
People of meager means may not be able to have sympathy for the plights of the rich and the famous, but their emotional struggles are real, often painful, and a child is a child, and what happens to a child molds its future. Ms. Grant reveals the struggles of a child growing up with a self-absorbed mother with seemingly little regard for how her actions affect a vulnerable little girl. The trajectory of her life is unfolded in vignettes, punctuated by late night telephone calls from her now fragile insecure mom (brilliantly performed by Ms. Piper). Ms. Grant is a sympathetic figure on stage, and opens up with touching honesty as she tells the tales of her life, peppering the stories with self-effacing humor. Her performance, however, is low-key and could use more moments of spontaneous energy that draw in the audience.
There is no questioning the sincerity of the show, however, and there is little doubt that it will find its audience.
Produced by Suzi Dietz and directed by Eve Brandstein with original music composed by Mark Adler, Miss America’s Ugly Daughter: Bess Myerson & Me runs through March 24 at the Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles.