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Barbara Minkus on Her '18 Minutes of Fame'

02 Nov, 2018    added by : Paul Hansen








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Screenpicks recently posed some questions to Barbara Minkus, who will be appearing next week in New York in a one woman musical entitled 18 Minutes ofFame. Although never achieving widespread name recognition (the previous title of the show was I’m Not Famous), Minkus has had a significant career in the entertainment business, appearing in 27 episodes of Love, American Style, 25 times on The Merv Griffin Show, and recording the role of Lucy in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. More recent credits include performing in the HBO series Getting On.

18 Minutes of Fame: A Musical Journey with Barbara Minkus performs November 10-12 at The Triad located at 158 West 72nd St. in Manhattan.

What was the impetus behind the creation of 18 Minutes of Fame?

Minkus: About four years ago the producer of Love American Style, Arnold Margolin, came with my friend, Susan Morgenstern, to see a show I did in Glendale.  We met about a week later and he said that even though he enjoyed my singing, it was my stories that really interested him. He also said that some of the stories from my life were poignant and some were funny, and they would touch peoples’ hearts.  He suggested I work with Susan to put together a show based on the songs from my life and the stories about them. Susan and I met many times, recording my stories, and later the show evolved from those meetings. Susan had directed me in Saturday Night at Grossinger’s. She is currently a director at The Jewish Women’s Theatre, as well as a director at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.  We went on this journey together, and the results are still evolving…

What was is it like to perform with Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis?  Were there other actors that you performed with that were particularly memorable to work with?

Minkus: Growing up, I idolized Danny Kaye and Judy Garland and Jerry Lewis, so years later, when I was hired to sing on The Danny Kaye Show and do comedy sketches with him, it felt like my dreams had come true.  I’ve never heard anyone introduce me with such magic as when I heard Danny Kaye say my name. That memory will be with me forever. He was a brilliant actor, and I feel lucky to have worked with him. 

When I was hired by the producer of the Jerry Lewis Telethon to sing on the show, the idea was that it would be funny if no one told Jerry.  So when Jerry went on a break to rest, Ed McMahon asked if anyone wanted to sing — which was, of course, the cue for me to run down to the set all excited to sing.  Unfortunately, the joke backfired. Because Jerry didn’t know about this, he came back on the set very upset, and I started ad-libbing, and went ahead and sang my song.  When Jerry later realized that I was part of the show, he felt awful and sent me roses with a lovely note of apology…which I thought was very sweet.

I get excited when I work with other actors, because they bring their own energies into whatever they are doing, and it makes it fun to play a role with them.  I especially liked working with Niecy Nash in an episode of Getting On on HBO. She had so much compassion in her role as a caring nurse. My role wasn’t very big, but she made me feel very important.

Was it challenging to play Fanny Brice in a tour of Funny Girl as Barbra Streisand was so identified with the role?  I understand that you were also an understudy for the role in the Broadway production.  What was that experience like?

Minkus: When I was little and sang for my relatives they would always say, “She’s a regular Fanny Brice!”  When I got a little older, I started to watch old Fanny Brice films and was intrigued by how beautifully she sang and yet she had such a funny expressive face… and I related to that.  So years later, when I was asked to do Funny Girl, I only thought about capturing the essence of Fanny Brice that I admired so much and I wasn’t concerned about who else had played the role.  I loved doing Funny Girl every night I did the show. I understudied Mimi Hines for a week on Broadway (Mimi replaced Barbra Streisand when she left the show), but I never went on.

You appeared numerous times on the Merv Griffin Show and also appeared on the Tonight Show.  How do you remember those experiences? 

Minkus: Being on the Merv Griffin show is a wonderful memory because Merv was such a kind, giving person who brought out the best in the people who appeared on the show.  I remember how he always wanted me to sit on the sofa next to him and tell a story about my life and then gently ask me to sing a song. I’ll never forget how interested he was in getting to know me.  The Tonight Show was a different experience for me because I was just asked to sing, and I never got to talk with Johnny Carson other than being introduced to him before the show.

Is it possible to have a satisfying career in show business without achieving “stardom” or household name recognition? 

Minkus: You know, I have always felt that being able to sing or act in a show or film is such an honor, that I never really thought about the results leading to stardom. Instead, I always thought about the journey. It’s such a thrill to perform and to bring “myself” to a role.

What advice would you have to give to those considering entering show business?

Minkus: The same advice I give myself.  Enjoy show business, but also have another type of job to rely on.  It’s very important to be balanced and not be needy trying to get a part. Having another job helps so that you can enjoy auditioning and have it be fun.

Is there anything in general that you would like to tell audiences about 18 Minutes of Fame?

Minkus: I would tell them to come and share with me on my journey.  I get a lot from the audience. I love feeling them, understanding them, laughing with them or crying with them as I bring to them the stories of my life.  My show is about the struggles we all face in life. It is a mirror of what we all go through… the good and not so good… finding love with others and with ourselves and being authentic.

Would you like to share with us what your future projects are? 

Minkus: My future projects are to enjoy my family:  my husband, my children and especially my newest role as a grandmother, while balancing my love for performing. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know I really like to stay in the “now.” and for now, I’d love to continue doing 18 Minutes of Fame. I love how audiences are responding, which brings me so much joy.

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