NEW YORK (PIX11)—Don't gaze too deeply into Terri White's bright dark eyes. Take it from me, I've looked, and I still can't turn away.
If the eyes are the windows of the soul, you know at first glance that Terri has been burnished deeply by outrageous fortune.
Currently, she's among the stars illuminating the Broadway hit revival of Stephen Sondheim's storied musical "Follies." But she knows better than most of her colleagues what it is to fall from the stellar firmament. And soar again.
White was born in Palo Alto about 60 years ago into a family of entertainers, so you might say, she was born to dance. She first electrified me in the musical "Barnum" along with Jim Dale and Glenn Close back in 1980. Later on, she purveyed her own brand of Blackglama in such hits as "Ain't Misbehvavin'" and "Bubbling Brown Sugar." Then I kind of lost track of her, though I caught her performing at some piano bars in the West Village without realizing that she was she.
Cut to mid-2011.
I'm checking out the has-beens hired to populate the Kennedy Center cast of "Follies" -- a show, to put it coldly, about a reunion of sho-biz has-beens. As I gag from reading Bernadette Peters on the list (did she ever go away?), Terri White's name catches my eye. Jeeesus, is she still alive?
Just a few years ago, in fact, Terri was all but dead. She couldn't find work, she was too proud/ashamed to ask for help, she lost her apartment, and she became homeless.
Her fateful meeting with an NYPD cop (Sgt. David Taylor), who doubled as good Samaritan, is not new news, but it is the stuff of legend. Newer news is how dramatically her life has turned around since then. In 2009, she returned to Broadway in the acclaimed revival of "Finian's Rainbow," and she also appeared in "Chicago." Earlier this year, she was cast in "Follies," which transferred from the Kennedy Center to Broadway this summer. The newest news on her personal front is marrying jewelry designer Donna Barnett in July on the stage of the St. James Theater after a three-year tryout. They were among the first same-sex couples to be wed legally in the State of New York.
Owing to time constraints, the segment I produced for PIX-11 Morning News features just brief excerpts from interviews with David Taylor, Terri and Donna. But thanks to the wonders of the Web, you can see extended portions of all the interviews with correspondent Kerry Drew that were shot in the West Village and at the Marquis Theater on Broadway. (The links are on this page.) If you don't like my choice of sound bites, pick your own. But please watch the segment as it aired first, and remember, I pushed my running-time limit to three minutes-plus, exceeding the iron-clad limit by more than 60 seconds.
Special thanks to Terri, Donna and David, as well as to Heath Schwartz and Michael Strassheim of Boneau/Bryant-Brown and PIX-11 editor Mark De Gennaro for working tirelessly in making this segment happen. Thanks also to Senior Producer Marcia Parris, Executive Producer Howard Dorsey and News Director Bill Carey for allowing it to happen.
One more thing: interviewing Donna and Terri together could have been a producer's worst nightmare: two articulate sorority girls on camera at the same time. But see all about it yourself: they're a Dream Team.