Annie Gaybis [Interview]
Today we have some amazing words from an absolutely legendary actress. It's Annie Gaybis, Everyone! She is a renowned performer of stage and screen, as well as an accomplished dancer for close to 50 years. She has was so kind to tell us a bit about her career leading up to today's time, and we are so excited to share what she has to say.
So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the great Annie Gaybis!
What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something you aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?
I was inspired by a woman who was as close to being "Auntie Mane" as one could get. Her name was Debbie London who immediately sensed something in me and brought me into her world of show business. She ran a dance studio that morphed into a Creative Arts Workshop where many went onto professional careers on Broadway and as Dancers/Choreographers themselves. My Aunt brought me there after my mother passed. I was very young not more than seven.
I was (so I've been told) shy and a bit withdrawn from the bewildering experience of losing my mother. My Aunt brought me there to watch her daughter dance in an in-house recital.. Well, when I saw my very own cousin make magic with her dancing...and besotted by Miss Debbie with her flaming red hair and artsy ways...who had a talented daughter exactly my age who became one of my best friends. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the whole wide world and I wanted to part of all of it. All of it. She introduced me to many things outside the studio. Art festivals, concerts...She brought in movies like The Red Shoes where we sat on the dance floor in one of the studios and watched in awe. Guest teachers like the renowned dance artistes Dave Harris and Jack Pottigher who luckily noticed how much trouble I was having at pointe work . He had me take off my shoes one day and saw my feet were not meant for pointe work and immediately after that when the ballet class went to put their toes shoes on I went off to a private tap class and probably that was the greatest thing for me for tap has provided me with many opts.
She had such a great staff including a theater director Ed Golden who said I had the worst regional accent.... he was from Boston and he was going to save me from proceeding with it as I continued in life and I am so grateful for that. So it started from there and morphed into getting my AEA (Actors Equity) card as a child performing in children's roles or small ingénue roles in a Union Rep Company...Center Stage....and being the youngest in a semi-professional dance company The Wally Saunders Dancers. Wally Saunders was another of those dynamic personalities who had trained many including his most famous dancer Goldie Hawn who performed with his company for years. When I entered his studio and saw photos of Goldie and saw the caliber of dance I entered and having Wally Saunders encourage and mold me I went into a whirlwind of performances from half-time games to local television, operettas to full-scale productions. And I was so young I was often driven home by both he and his mother Irene who was the perennial receptionist and looked out for me. It was amazing I had time to do my homework. It was always the dynamics of the individuals that I met that cultivated my interest because they were so interesting to me...and I felts lucky that they wanted me included into their exciting whirl. I was thrilled.
What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from it that still affect your work to date?
Really cannot remember.
You appeared in one of my favorite films of all time, the Dolly Parton-fronted film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. I am curious to know how your experience was working on this now cult-classic of a film? Was it as entertaining to work on as it has been for me to go back and watch every now and again?
Well, Whorehouse was already filming in Texas. I happened by a casting agent whose name escapes me on Hollywood Blvd for an appt. I found myself sitting with two other dancers. All three of us being interviewed at the same time. We hadn't been sitting there that long when his phone rang, [and he] forget about us. Maybe this was a "work" call for someone. Well talk about being in the right place at the right time. He took the call, put his hand over the mouthpiece and said, "You all three dance, right?" We nodded. He said, "They need three dancers on the set of Whorehouse. Three walked out when they found out that they had to do nudity. I can get you double scale and then some. What'd you say?" Well, two days later there we were. The agent had never even seen us dance. We landed in Austin and went right into rehearsals with the wonderful Tony Stephens. Now some of the other female dancers didn't take kindly to us because we replaced their pals. But Colin Higins the director came over to where we were frantically rehearsing to catch up that first couple of days and was so kind to us and when we were on the set and doing the small very small amount of nudity he made us all feel very relaxed and eventually the other "femme" dancers got to ease up on us when they saw the director going out of his way so by the time we got to the backlot of Universal everything was better.
I do remember the first day I saw Dolly Parton. We had not filmed anything with her as yet. She was on the set early one morning and it was exciting to see her. There were several of us on set but ...she walked directly over "to me" and said just as sweet as can be "I saw the dallies last night. You're the girl with the pretty titties."
That was my introduction to Dolly Parton.
You have done some incredible work in what is one of our favorite genres of film, which would be the world of horror. I am curious to know how you enjoy working in the world of horror? What do you believe sets it apart from the other genres you have worked in?
Let me tell you a little story about one of the films I did. There was a film released in the 70's with “‘the Orson Welles"" in the lead. It was called Necromacy." It didn't do too well from what I understand. So in the early 80's they were going to cut it up add scenes add characters in other words re-edit the whole thing and re-release it as The Witching.
I had gotten the role of "The Spirit." I was excited. An Orson Welles film. Soooooo, I remember I was at a home in the Valley which in LA talk means over Laurel or Coldwater Canyon....being wardrobed and made up and then doing some test shots with the cameraman who had worked with Orson many times....They had to clear all this with Orson...the reshooting...the re-editing...since it was in his contract I guess for any changes.... So, since this man...I am sorry, I do not remember his name, was going over the hill...if you lived in “the Valley” thats what you called going into Hollywood and beyond...he was going to meet him at Trader Vic's for dinner....I too lived “over the hill” in West Hollywood and he asked me “Would you like to come along and meet Orson Welles?" Would I? Plus having dinner with no strings attached at Trader Vic's, which was this restaurant that was in a very prestigious Bev Hills Hotel that was an in spot that looked well how do I describe it, like a luau had blown up and landed. Tacky chic. We both take our cars and give them to valet and walk into the entrance of Trader Vics. He tells them he is having dinner with Orson Welles. The maitre-d tells him "Mr. Welles is already seated."" And we join him at his table. Orson Welles was an immense figure with his own aura. After we sat, Orson said, "Lets order." This was like the first thing out of his mouth. So, fine with me, we ordered. They talked for a couple of hours. I ate and had an exotic drink or two, hoped we had their famous Poo-poo platter, smiled, spoke a bit about my role and myself.
I have to say he had very kind eyes and I wish I could say more. I held back my fascination at meeting him, at least I hoped I did. It was a business dinner about percentages and stuff I cannot even remember in regards to the film and then he took the papers to sign, bid us "A Good Evening". I remember him saying that he wished me luck with my role, and left. Soon after the film editor asked for the check. I was sitting across from him. I sort of noticed his eyes bulge out of his head. I thought, "Gawd how much were those Mai-Thais I had?" He said to me, "I think they brought me the wrong check." He called the waiter in his Tommy Bahamas wardrobe (before there was a Tommy Bahamas) and showed him the check.
The waiter calmly said "“"No Mr.-: this is the correct amount. Mr. Welles ordered a full dinner with a bottle of wine before you both came to join him." So Mr. Welles had eaten and drank a full meal before he ordered with us. And he ate and drank heartily with us, and consumed an entire second bottle of wine....I'm sure that bill was a horror to the production company that was operating on a limited budget.
I still am very impressed how Orson Welles managed to pull that off in one smooth maneuver.
Sing "Smooth Operator."
In your very impressive career, you have managed to do some great work both on the big screen as well as the silver, and on Broadway and stages across the country. With that, I am curious to know what your favorite way to perform? Between film, television, stage, etc., what is your favorite setting to be in as a performer?
I LOVE ALL OF IT!!! I guess what I as well as any actor/performer yearns for is an appreciative audience. A nod from them is so fulfilling. In a theater role, where you have to be new and fresh and discover you character and reaction nightly, no matter what has happened to you emotionally that day. Whether your fatigued or feel like you're fighting off getting something, you realize that there is an audience out there paying good money to see you perform and take them into another world away from their daily thoughts and jobs. A listening audience. Ahhhhhh!!!!!
Performing in Cabaret, corporate dates are wonderful because it's for one night, your far and away from the audience, and usually have a full back up. Now, more intimate cabaret work, sometimes, and just that odd sometimes, there is someone in the audience who has had too much of "whatever" trying to have a little of the spotlight on them by thinking they are being funny but "not". They can annoy you by putting their feet on the rim of the stage [which is] very uncomfortable for the audience and as a performer singing and dancing it messes up the rhythm and focus that you have tried to create with what you bring onstage.
On a movie set sometimes I have to say you almost feel like your self-directing your role and your character because the director just expects you to do your best but shooting a film out of sequence sometimes is hard to realize where your character is at because if the ending of your role happens to be on the location that they scored for that day you can start off shooting your ending before you even get to your beginning. It's the location that sets up the movie sequences not the script. When you're on location or on a studio lot since when you are shooting a film and your presence or a TV show you are required to be there for many consecutive days, weeks or months....so the crew and actors become one tight family and it's a wonderful feeling
Everything comes with a price but there is nothing that compares to doing something you love and manage to make it a career.
What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?
I am looking forward to the release of a movie I co-starred in called D.O.A.
If that sounds familiar to you because it's an adapted remake. An adapted complete remake of the original film that is a cult favorite that starred Edmond O'Brien.
It's a horror story if ever there was one. The lead played by the actor John Doe who was wonderful to work against. He is a private investigator and I play his client Mrs. Phillips kind of a Gena Rowlands type of character circa 1949. In the storyline our lead gets poisoned and has a week to live. He does not know why he is poisoned and tries in that week to find out the answers and gets himself into some heavy scenarios. I am as evil as they come. It was directed by Kurt St. Thomas. Shot in bxw, Film Noir style. The original location was San Francisco. They replicated it in St Augustine. From what I understand it is now being edited so I have no idea when and how it will be coming out. It was such a great role...and some fabulous location shooting and wardrobe with the period hats and gloves...and hey...no nudity.
On stage I will be doing later this year the role of Maxine in The Night of the Iguana for City Repertory Theatre. This is exciting for me because I was lucky enough to be mentored by the Academy Award Winning Actress Shelly Winters who originated the role on Broadway. And the original director ,Frank Cosaro, who for many years headed the legendary Actors Studio. I was lucky enough to be directed by him in Faust at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Big shoes to fill and looking forward to it.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
I just read the final draft of my husband's memoirs. Its called Five Minutes...Mr. Byner: A Lifetime of Laughter. My husband, John Byner is an American comedian/ actor/ impressionist and I, who love bios, laughed out loud at some of his many stories working the clubs, television and film with everyone from Henry Fonda to Barbara Streissand to Fred Astaire. Highly recomend. And not just because he's my husband.
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for updates and thanks for stopping by. Bye for now - Sending all good thoughts and wishes.........