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From JC to the big time: Phyllis Newman

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

My mom often talked of high school classmate Phyllis Newman, who will be receiving a special Tony award next month.

From the moment they met at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, Newman clearly had the song-and-dance gift — not to mention the motivation, Regina DeMarco often told me.

It was no accident that she was voted “Future Hollywood Star” at the same high school that produced Flip Wilson and several members of Kool and the Gang.

Phyllis Newman

Newman, 76, who was a couple of years older than my mom, will receive her latest Tony Award for her volunteer work as an advocate for women’s health.

Another Jersey City native, composer/lyricist Jerry Herman, will get a special lifetime achievement award. at the 63rd annual Tony Awards on June 7.

Newman made her Broadway debut in “Wish You Were Here” in 1952.

She won the Tony as Best Featured Actress in a Musical, beating out Barbra Streisand.

In June 1979, Newman and Arthur Laurents collaborated on a one-woman show, “The Madwoman of Central Park West,” which ran for 86 performances. It featured songs by Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Peter Allen, Barry Manilow, Carole Bayer Sager, and Stephen Sondheim, among others.

She also was a frequent panelist on the game shows “What’s My Line?”, “Match Game,” and “To Tell the Truth.” I know that because I watched the programs as a boy with my mom.

Her credits are massive. Take a look at her Wikipedia entry: Phyllis Newman.

In 1995, Newman founded The Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative of The Actors’ Fund of America. For the last 12 years she has hosted the annual Nothing Like a Dame galas, which have raised more than US$3.5 million that have served 2,500 women in the entertainment industry.

Newman will receive the first-ever Isabelle Stevenson Award, which recognizes a person from the theater community for their humanitarian work.


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