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Copyright: January 25, 2004
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By: Laura Deni
CONSULTANT: CONFUSING TITLE, POWERFUL POSITION
Don Tillman. Photo by; Laura Deni
The entertainment consultant. A job title so confusing it
can baffle one's mother. The job itself - powerful.
Don Tillman is an entertainment consultant. His opinions
have wide ranging effects - helping to determine whether Las Vegas will
welcome your television or film production to whether a
star on the road will give you an autograph. He sat down
with Broadway To Vegas to discuss the complicated world of an entertainment consultant.
"I got involved with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau when the powers that be
- the city - decided to make Las Vegas an all family destination. Towards that end they wanted to
Prior to that marketing change Circus Circus resort was the
only property that directly
encouraged the family to visit Sin City.
"Steve Wynn was the lead in this new concept," Tillman recalled. "He had the
tiger display at the Mirage. He had
Siegfried & Roy and the MGM was putting in a theme
Wynn is a powerful, persuasive presence. Many don't feel
comfortable in challenging his
opinion - even if it's misguided. Thus, the gang went along for the
"The idea was to have a destination where families
would come and ten years later the
kids would come back to gamble - thus we would be building
our audience," explained Tillman.
It was the comfort theory - which critics might allege was an
attempt to emotionally addict
children to gambling. If a child is comfortable with
gambling - remembered as a pleasant experience
with Mom and Dad gambling in that fun casino,
the offspring - who used a plastic slot machine
coin cup as a teething toy - will be anxious to get big enough to pull the handle.
"It was a pretty good theory," argued Tillman. "A lot of
effort was put out," he continued referring to a promotion
sent out across the country to sell the idea.
"Part of my job was to find every children's program that aired on local television. These were
children's programs where our pitch people could guest on - which they did. And, families did start
to come to Las Vegas."
"It didn't take long - only a couple of years - to realize
this was a mistake," he admitted. "The families came, but
they didn't have gambling money. After they paid for the hotel rooms, food, traveling expenses
and attractions, there was no money left for gambling.
More important, how do you gamble into
the middle of the night with your kids here?"
"At that point one of the delegates to the meeting so eloquently said: 'We've got to get back to
what Las Vegas was built on - wine, women, song and debauchery.'"
"That's when the turn was made to try to attract a young, adult audience," he related. "They changed
their ad thrust to Las Vegas being open all night and the most recent one, of course, is what
goes on in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas."
Tillman is a Wynn admirer.
"Every time I have ever met the man, which is only maybe five or six times, I find him to be an
absolute, unbelievably, charismatic individual. He has a presence about him when he walks
into a room. He commands attention when he speaks. He has built a reputation, certainly in Las
Vegas, and should have respect for all he has
contributed to this city."
"I've never met Donald Trump, but I think he is a terribly
classy and interesting individual. The new
reality television show he is doing - he's not doing
anything other than being Donald Trump," opined Tillman about The Apprentice, which is
now required viewing at the Wharton School of Business.
"Trump is one of these guys - again - it's that magic quality that
everyone would love to have -
when you walk into a room, everyone knows it. You
just know it is someone special.
It's their deportment, the way they dress, eye contact with
Las Vegas has long been a favorite location shoot for
television and movies. If the script treatment is really a
pitch idea for a
free vacation the producer needs to shelve the concept.
"There are a lot of people who want to use Las Vegas as
a backdrop. In some cases they are
legitimate people and it is
to Las Vegas' advantage to cooperate. It's to the hotels'
advantage to cooperate. But, there are
other cases - a lot of them - where people see this as an
opportunity to get some free rooms and
meals and two or three days in Las Vegas to have a good
time," complained Tillman. "Whatever it is they are
supposedly shooting or producing never sees the light of day.
More importantly, as far as Las Vegas
is concerned, the project would not
contribute anything to the bottom line."
"What we do is weed out some of these people," he elaborated.
"Or, say - 'Yes this
is a good project.' It's up to the
individual hotel or the Convention and Visitor's Bureau as
how deeply they cooperate and how
much to get involved. That's the way it should be. If
we, as a third party, can help them
make the decision more quickly and efficiently, that's to
Part of his consulting work is as an advance man for touring
artists, many of whom have had
lucrative careers on the important fair circuit.
"I'll tell you how much of a livelihood it was," he injected. "I was involved
with the Indians State Fair, because
I lived in Indiana at the time. I attended all of the meetings. I can remember the year that Kenny
Rogers came in. He did one performance in front of the grand stand for 18,000 people and
out of there with $90,000. That was in 1973 and that was
a lot of money."
Too many backstage
Prior to replacing Bernadette Peters on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun, actress/singer Reba McEntire
toured the fair circuit on a regular basis.
"I did advance work for Reba McEntire," continued Tillman. "She is a marvelous lady. The interesting thing about
Reba is what you see is what you get. There is not a
Reba and an
off stage Reba. There is only one Reba," stressed Tillman.
"We did some logistical planning, so that when she arrived
everything is planned. There are no big surprises. Such things as when she comes off stage and
all of a sudden there are 40 members of the a state fair board standing there, all wanting
autographs and pictures."
"That is not only time consuming, it is tiring," he stressed. "So, we tried
to arrange all that, so it was controlled. When she came off the stage there would be
only 6 or 10 people standing there to get pictures. It had to be done diplomatically, because she did
not want to offend anyone - particularly Reba. She would never offend anyone if she could help it."
Don Tillman wearing the watch Reba McEntire gave him.
Photo by Laura Deni
Watch was a gift from Reba. Photo by Laura Deni
"By virtue of the fact that it has been pre-arranged, she doesn't have offend anyone. She does what she is
suppose to do and everyone is happy. The time is better spent and they know what they are going
It was Don who didn't realize what he was going to get.
"Reba paid me very well. But, I was heading for the airport and all of a sudden she raced up and
shoved a box into my hand and said 'thanks for all you've done.' Inside was a gorgeous
Now about that title consultant - it can confuses people, including a mother.
"My mother was sure about my occupation when I worked in radio. I started my career in radio in
my hometown in Indiana. I was 17 years old and a DJ/announcer on WMRI."
"At that time there was no format in radio. If you were an on the air DJ/announcer you would go
into the record library and pull the things you wanted to play and for the next three hours you
played those records. There was no format, no play list, no timing. If you wanted to sit and talk
about ten minutes you could. If you wanted to play records back to back, you could," reminisced Tillman. "While I was
there my Mom knew exactly what I was doing. She could turn on the radio and there I
"Later, when I got into television and worked in front of the camera in Indianapolis,
she knew what I was doing because she could see it. Even when
I moved to Los Angeles and
went to work for Metromedia and later for Fox, my mother knew
that I was in the television
business. It was not until I started my own company in 1993
that my mother lost track of what I
did. I remember her saying - I know you're successful. I know
you're okay. But - what
exactly do you do?"
"It is difficult to explain what a consultant does," conceded Tillman who is California based.
"When I started my business I
had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I wanted to do
something on my own. I wanted to
control my own destiny. I set up a company called McCarty and Co., named after my
grandfather, Bernard J. McCarty, a furniture salesman. My Dad
never understood what it wasn't
called Tillman & Co. I had a good relationship with by Dad,
but when I started my own company I
wrote down Tillman & Associates or Tillman Productions and it all
looked so phony. It looked like a
guy who was out of work, which was true - I was."
"So, I started McCarty & Co., and my first client, as a
consultant, was Mark Goodson who was producing game shows. He was
getting ready to go into the lottery game show business. In doing so they had to call on individual
television stations and they'd never done that. Previously, Mark Goodson Productions had picked
up the phone and called CBS and all of a sudden had a
show on the air."
Mark Goodson and Bill Todman
"So, they hired me to be the guy who showed them how to call on individual stations - how to get
a program placed."
"That was my first consulting client and Mark Goodson Productions, now Jonathan Goodson
Productions, are still a client ten years later," Tillman added.
Mark Goodson died of pancreatic cancer in 1992. Yale Law
Jonathan Goodson joined what was then Goodson-Todman
Productions in 1973 as Chief Counsel, but soon became - along
with his father Mark - the key creative figure behind all
Goodson-Todman, and Mark Goodson Productions' shows created
since that time. Jonathan became president and CEO of Mark
Goodson Productions in 1993.
The interest in the lottery game show business continues.
For instance, in April, 2000 the Kentucky Lottery Corporation (KLC) Board of Directors gave enthusiastic approval for the Kentucky Lottery to participate in a Powerball TV game show that offers a top prize of $1 million.
The Multi-State Lottery Association, the group that operates
Powerball, contracted with Jonathan Goodson Productions
of Beverly Hills, California, to produce a weekly half-hour
game show for member states.
Consultant Tillman was in Las Vegas last week for the National
Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE)
an organization he has been involved with for a decade.
He might be what it called a celebrity
"We make sure that the person coming into the convention is
given all courtesies and extended all
of the niceties that we can," he stated. "When they leave we want them to have a good taste in their mouth and
if NATPE calls them next year to do something, they'll say
Milton Berle, known
as "Mr. Television"
It was Tillman's ability to cope with the ego of celebrity
brough him to NATPE.
"I was in San Francisco in 1993 and I had become friends with
Milton Berle in my days of Fox
and Metromedia. For some reason Milton liked me. When he was
booked into the NATPE
convention they also had Steve Allen and Burt Reynolds. I got
a call from the president of the
NATPE board saying can you come and help us - Milton Berle is
an absolute pill to work with,
which he was. Milton was a very demanding individual. He knew
what was right and he wanted to
tell everyone how to do their jobs. He went into a place
where there were cameras and say that
camera is not in the right place. That light is not in the
right place. This microphone isn't right.
Well, the truth of the matter is, he had been doing it since
the beginning of television, so he
really did know. It was the way he did it. He was a bit
demanding and a little bossy and
"So, I came in and handled Milton Berle, Burt Reynolds,
Steve Allen and things went well. They
all left the convention saying how well they had been
treated. Shortly after that I was asked if I
would be willing to come into NATPE the following year. I've
been with NATPE ever
To keep his sanity in the world of celebrity Tillman plays with toy trains.
"I am a model train
nut. I collect them and I have layouts."
One of the drag queens getting ready to audition for
Cooking's A Drag. Photo By; Laura Deni
One of the most popular events at NATPE were auditions held
for a proposed new show called
Cooking's A Drag, distributed by Coyote TV, in which
the host/cook of the show would be a drag queen. Would-be
hosts - all dolled up in their high heeled finery - lined
the hallway waiting to audition for a program that may
"Who is to know if it is a good idea?" commented Tillman. "On the surface you're first impression
is - that's a nut idea. By the same token it may be very entertaining, and that's the business we're
in - entertaining people. If it is entertaining and carried off in the right style and level, it may work.
Who knows what the public will or won't like. The people who auditioned certainly went to great
lengths with the costumes. They have had literally hundreds of people
"One of my clients has been the Hooters Restaurant chain. A
couple of years ago at the NATPE convention one of the production companies approached
Hooters about doing a show called So
You Want To Date A Hooters Girl. It was going to be a
game show - not much of a game - but a
game show. The end result was that the winner got to date a
Hooters Girl. Well, it looked like a
great idea on the surface. At that time all of the dating shows were just becoming popular. But,
it wasn't executed well. The idea wasn't good. We took it to market place and market place
looked it and said - who cares? That was the end of it."
"The track record is about 82-83 percent failure for new shows. But, that means there is still
another 10-13 percent that works and becomes successful."
"It's a very tough business," he stressed. "Unfortunately, there are
no new ideas. The drag queen cooking
show is not a new idea. It may be that it is executed differently, but back in the past there have
probably been three or four people who have thought - why don't we have a drag queen do
something on television."
As to how entertainment is changing, Tillman sees the
merging of television and the
"Now on websites, the pictures are about an inch by an inch.
In another few years the pictures
will be full screen. And, with the convergence of television
and the computer that full screen will be
the same. Now, in most homes, the computer is in one room and
the TV set in
another. But, all of a sudden, there will just be one
unit - that is your computer and television
set," he predicted. "There will be programs geared for content, available all
over the world. So, the traditional
distribution methods, that we have had all these years, become
"I've thought on profanity in general," he continued. "I really feel that worldwide we have lost out way when it
comes to being able to communicate without using profanity."
"I can't set myself up as a saint, because I'm the least of
that. I find sometimes profanity is
needed and accurate. But, by the same token, I am not sure
that in broadcast television, it has a
"In cable television, where you are paying for this service
and you have control over which
channels you get and watch, then I think it is a little
"On broadcast, which is accessible to everyone over the
air, I think we still have a responsibility that we have always had, that is, there is a
level of morality and decorum that must be maintained."
"What brings that down is the almighty dollar - the bottom
line. As a broadcaster, which I
was for the better part of 25-years, I feel some responsibility to hold the high
moral ground and not let things go on my air that are
some day have to wake up and look at the rating book and look at the dollars and say to myself
my competition is beating the hell out of me - pardon the expression - and in order for me to
maintain some kind of competitive edge, I'm going to have to
let my morality issues sink a little
bit," he admitted. "It's a terrible thing to say, but that is the reality
of life. The bottom line - the almighty dollar,
"It comes down to - Do I want to keep my job?
I have to
constantly evaluate that."
"If the public is accepting - the guy said f... it, or
whatever the word is - and the public doesn't care. If the
public's reaction is acceptance, then probably I'm going to
live with the public's acceptance of it,
because I'm not going to be able to drag them up.
The public sets the level of what they accept
and we've got to deal with that, because we play to the
"I may personally disagree with it. I may personally have a different standard, or maybe I don't,
but it is a reality I have to deal with."
"I think it is more difficult now for broadcasters
who are in many cases right on the edge, at the very
edge. In all honesty, we wouldn't be
at the very edge if the public hadn't accepted it. If the
public hadn't said - fine - we like that."
FROM A PRESIDENT TO A KING
Larry King and
Bridget Leninger. Photo by Laura Deni
Bridget Leninger has had an interesting life - working in
the White House under the Clinton administration and - as of
a week ago - working at CNN for popular talk show host
Virginia educated with a degree in political science, Bridget
is the former spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party.
In 2002 she was listed as a press contact by the
Democratic National Committee when they - on Equality
Tennessee stationery - sent out press releases
stating "The Democratic National Committee (DNC) today
approved a resolution urging the protection and
strengthening of the Social Security system - and making
history by urging that Social Security protections be
equally available to same-sex couples and their
Savvy in the press political arena, Bridget spent over a
decade hop-scotching across the country in her duties of
handling numerous political candidates. Along the way she
acquired a solid reputation and a large contact list.
Broadway To Vegas spoke with Bridget when she, as press intermediary,
King to Las Vegas where the television personality
moderated a panel for NATPE.
Brainy, blonde and beautiful, Bridget's career had demanded
travel and her job
security was dependant upon somebody else being
decided it was time for a lifestyle change.
Since she had previously done some work
for CNN with political candidates, the cable network knew
"When an opening with Larry King came up, they called me," she said.
For the woman who wanted to stay put she discovered her
first assignment was to pack a bag and head to Vegas
with King. There she kept his overbooked schedule
running smoothly, from making sure the flight plan hadn't
changed to keeping track of the luggage.
"He didn't drop anything to come here. He added to his
schedule," she explained. "He's amazing."
Yes, he is.
Held at the Venetian Hotel, King moderated a panel composed of Governor Jesse Ventura, Jerry
Springer, Mark Cuban and Roger King. The applause and
laughter could be heard
down a block long hallway.
With a limo waiting to speed off the minute King left the
stage, they flew back to Los Angeles where King
did not one
but two live broadcasts covering the Iowa caucus. For a woman who
thought she was leaving the road and politics it must have
seemed like deja vu.
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Thank you for your interest.
COMEDY CARES a special one night fundraising evening Feb. 2 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Hosted by Jim David at Carolines On Broadway, the evening will feature the comedic talents of Joy Behar, Mario Cantone, Julie Halston, Darrell Hammond, Judy Gold and Cori Kahaney.
WOMEN WHO STEAL
by Carter W. Lewis.
Directed by Sam Woodhouse.
A 21st century comedy loaded with wit and wisdom; and also
features three San Diego Rep favorites ~ Shana Wride, Linda Libby
and Bernard Baldan. Peggy’s husband has an affair with Karen,
a young acquaintance. So the question for Peggy is,
which one of them do you shoot?
Both achingly familiar
and wonderfully “out of the box,” Women Who Steal is the
story of two very contemporary women on an all night road
trip to discover the truth about love and marriage.
This new comedy comes complete with a hijacked
Mercedes, a mink coat, lots of tequila, and a toy BB gun
that forever changes the rules of marital engagement.
Friday, January 30 running through February
22 in the Lyceum Space at San Diego Rep.
FIDDLER ON THE
ROOF the eagerly anticipated
revival of the 1964 Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick hit,
began previews Friday at the Minskoff Theatre in NYC. The
production stars Alfred Molina as Tevye and features a
new song "Topsy-Turvy" written for this production.
Bock and Harnick had not collaborated in more than
30 years but reunited after David Levaux, who is directing this production, suggested the new number, which is sung by Yente the Matchmaker, played by Barbara Barrie.
BOSTON MARRIAGE by David Mamet. Directed by Doug Mercer
January 31 - February 22 at the Guthrie Lab, Minneapolis, Minn.
TOP DOG /UNDERDOG Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize-winning play directed by George C. Wolfe. Feb. 1-March 28 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.
MRS. ROBINSON starring
Jan. 27-Feb 8 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston.
MY FAIR LADY
Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.
Music by Frederick Loewe.
Susan V. Booth directs a cast of 10 which uses composer Frederick Loewe's rarely-heard original two-piano musical arrangements in an intimate, illuminating new production of the 1956 musical which returns the story to its dramatic roots.
However, the show retains all of the songs that have made it a favorite among generations of musical theatre fans - blooming with standards such as Wouldn't It Be Loverly?, I Could Have Danced All Night, The Rain in Spain, On the Street Where You Live and Get Me to the Church on Time - while it brings a heightened focus to Shaw's charming story of a halting, hesitant love that grows between the teacher and his student. The result of this boldly reimagined production is at once brand new and yet wonderfully familiar.
The cast features two-time Tony Award-nominated
actress Crista Moore as Eliza Doolittle, and Broadway
veteran Neal Benari as Higgins, and includes Keith Howard,
Howard Kaye, Jeffrey Kuhn, Russell Leib, Alan Souza,
Rebecca Spencer, Linda Stephens and Peter Van Wagner.
On Tues, Jan. 27 at Noon on the Alliance Stage Artistic Director Susan Booth, the cast and design team of
My Fair Lady will provide a behind the scenes look
at the show. The production runs January 28 - February 29 on the Alliance Stage in Atlanta, GA.
ROULETTE by Paul Weitz will star
Anna Paquin, Larry Bryggman and Ana Gasteyer. Joaquin Perez Campbell and Leslie Lyles also appear in the show in which a suburban father of two decides to spice up his life by playing Russian roulette and loosens his family's handle on reality in the process. Ensemble Studio Theatre production begins performances at the John Houseman Theatre on January 30.
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE opens January 27 closing February 1 at the Naples Philharmonic Hall in Naples, Florida.
FLAMENCO VIVO CARLOTA SANTANA in their
NYC Premiere. Led by Carlota Santana, hailed "the keeper of Flamenco" by Dance Magazine, this acclaimed company of dancers and musicians captures the spirit of flamenco with powerful music, exuberant dancing and unbridled rhythmic movement. Brooklyn Center's World of Dance Series on
Sunday, February 7, in the Whitman Theatre.
Sculpted bodies twist into mind-bending shapes; a fluid
dance begins to emerge. Always thought-provoking,
frequently astonishing, Pilobolus reinvents the
vocabulary of dance with engaging, often erotic
results. January 30 Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater,
THE BOY FROM OZ
in which Hugh Jackman received rave reviews, virtually saying the success of the show is because of Jackman, will cancel performances
during Jackman's vacation periods. No shows from February 1 through February 6 and March 28 through April 2.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF BROADWAY will be presented by
Goodspeed Musicals during its 2004 musical season at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn. The amusing Call Me Madam, April 16 – July 3, the hysterical Where’s Charley?, July 9 – September 25, and the glamorous Mack & Mabel, October 1 – December 12 will frolic on the Goodspeed Opera House stage.
by Lanford Wilson.
Directed by Andrew Traister, starring
Angela Reed and Michael Santo, continue at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California through February 15.
JOSH GROBAN on stage tonight, Jan. 25 at Arlene Schnitzer Hall in Portland, Oregon. On Tuesday he'll be performing at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento CA. On Wednesday he's in the spotlight at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, CA and on Friday the show is at the Shine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
DAVID BOWIE AND MACY GRAY entertain this evening at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington. On Tuesday they star at the HP Pavilion at San Jose in San Jose, CA. Friday finds the duo in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel. They open a two nighter Saturday at the Shine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
CHRIS ROCK getting laughs tonight at the Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On Wednesday he begins a five night gig in Madison Square Garden in NYC.
JOHNNY MATHIS singing his hits Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Orange Country Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, CA.
LARRY GATLIN AND THE GATLIN BROTHERS entertain Thursday at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburgh, PA. On Friday they are in the spotlight at the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover, DE. On Saturday the show is at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, MD.
MICHAEL FEINSTEIN January 29 at the Vilar Center for the Arts in Beaver Creek, Colorado. On Jan. 30 he's on stage at the McCallum Theatre for the Performing Arts in Palm Springs, CA and on Jan. 31 he's in the spotlight at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo, CA.
SUSAN EGAN the legendary original Belle in Disney’s stage version of Beauty and the Beast will reign supreme on the stage of the Annenberg Theater for an evening of Broadway classics.
Palm Springs Desert Museum January 31.
DARYL HALL is best known for his partnership with John Oates. Hall & Oates joined forces in 1972 in Philadelphia. By 1984, they were the most chart-topping duo in history. The duo is currently on a US concert tour and enjoying a revival of interest among their millions of fans.
Both Hall and Oates are actively pursuing their distinct artistic visions. The King of blue-eyed soul, as he is most often labeled, Daryl Hall has just released a new solo CD, Can’t Stop Dreaming. Performs Jan. 21 at B.B. King Blues Club, NYC.
DIANNE REEVES in a two nighter Tuesday-Wednesday at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan, Utah. On Friday she performs at the Columbia Theatre in Longview, Washington and on Saturday, January 31, it's center stage at the Washington Center in Olympia, Washington.
STEVE TYRELL opens Tuesday, Jan. 27 at Feinstein's At The Regency in New York City He's be performing through Valentine's Day.
MINDI ABAIR at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA on Saturday, Jan. 31.
STING takes his tour to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center on Monday, Jan. 26 in Tampa, Florida. On Wednesday the show is at the Saener Theatre in New Orleans. Friday finds him at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas. On Saturday the show is at Next Stages at Grand Prairie in Grand Prairie, Texas.
GEORGE WINSTON performs at the West Acres Baptist Church in Evans, GA or Thursday, Jan. 29.
ANN MILLER 80s,
who could lay down 500 taps a minute, died of lung cancer
last Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
In 1969 the energetic, leggy dancer replaced Angela
Broadway in Mame. The movie star went on
the road with touring companies of Can-Can, Panama Hattie,
Hello, Dolly! and Blithe Spirit.
In 1979, when she was in her 60's, she returned to Broadway co-starring with Mickey Rooney in Sugar Babies. The Broadway production ran for 1,208 performances. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance. Later Miller headed a touring company.
Miller was married three times and had no children. She wrote
two books, the memoir Miller's High Life (1972) and Tapping Into the Force (1990), a book about psychic phenomena.
Next Column: February 1, 2004
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