By Angela Lansbury
Veteran actor and beloved American icon Angela Lansbury, star of such projects as “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” “The Manchurian Candidate” and the long-running television show “Murder, She Wrote,” will periodically share her reflections on a lifetime spent in the Hollywood spotlight.
William Shakespeare once said, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” Shakespeare might have been a balding fop, but I must hand it to the old bard on this one: he couldn’t have been more right with regard to legacies.
You see I’ve been working in the picture business since 1944, or 70 years for all you mathniks out there. And every Tom, Dick and Harriet knows ol’ Angie has created quite a legacy over the last seven decades. What will you remember me for? “The Red Danube”? My turn as “Mabel Claremont” in “The Reluctant Debutante”? Or my chilling performance as Duvall family matriarch “Eleanor Duvall” on a crossover episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law and Order: Trial By Jury”? If you answered “all of the above and then some,” pour yourself another Gin Rickey!
But as vast a legacy as I’ve crafted, I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been completely forthcoming. So if honesty is indeed the richest of legacies, I must come clean now while I still have the chance. You see, while many of my fans might remember me for my role as “Gloria” in “Mr. Buddwing” or as “Minnie Littlejohn” in “The Long Hot Summer” or as “Tally Dickenson” in “A Lawless Street,” what those fans likely don’t know is that I crafted quite a legacy offscreen as well. For I, Angela Lansbury, veteran of film, television and theater, invented upper decking.
Of course, upper decking has become de rigueur now. Who among us hasn’t defecated in the holding tank of a friend or foe’s loo? Can you speak up? Because all I hear is crickets.
I know, I know. You’re probably in shock, sitting there in disbelief and saying to yourself, “It can’t be! Angela Lansbury, the same Angela Lansbury who played ‘Doris Hillman’ in ‘A Life At Stake,’ also invented the tainted tank maneuver, in which one pranks a friend or revenges a wrong by depositing some bun fudge into the Top Shelf Savings and Loan?”
But it’s true. I remember what spawned it, too. It was my old friend Dan O’Herlihy, who I worked with on “The Purple Mask” in 1955. You see, Dan was a saint amongst sinners, but he liked to get “into his cups” as the Irish like to say. And it was during one such instance when Dan simply couldn’t resist taking a jab at ol’ Angie when I excused myself during a rather spirited round of backgammon at Michael Caine’s summer home. Before I knew it, Dan had proclaimed, “Make way, everyone! Angie has to hit the poop deck!” To this day I’ve never seen Michael chortle so heartily, nor have I ever felt so overwhelmed with bloodlust. But being a lady, bloodlust was out of the question. Then it came to me just before I evacuated my bowels in Michael’s W.C.: why I’ll show that Michael Caine by relieving myself in the toilet’s holding tank!
And there it was. The birth of a prank.
I like to think this business of the talkies has taught me a lot over the years. But one of the more enduring lessons I’ve learned happened far away from the hills of Hollywood or any movie set. And that lesson is sometimes the deck deals you a good hand, and sometimes you deal the upper deck a dingleberry. C’est la vie!