Carol sings during nightclub act. She pays for after-hours rehearsals of band and dancers when she senses flaws in her routine. By Normand Poirier Halfway through the hectic taping of an Ed Sullivan TV show, the director decided that several spotlights needed adjusting. "Everybody relax for a minute," he shouted, and the army of technicians did. But not the performer on stage—a slender, black-haired girl in a slinky red gown. She scurried into the orchestra to greet a bald-headed man seated in the third row, engaged him in a frantic whispered conversation, then rushed back before the cameras. "What a girl !" muttered the man, agent Harry Romm. "All this going on," he said, pointing to the bedlam on stage, "and she's worried about the orchestra where she'll do her club act next week. She says she knows that orchestra and that their timing may be off. Forty million people will see this TV show, but she's thinking about what's going to happen next Tuesday in another town." That, of course, is precisely Carol Lawrence. About her business, she is unrelaxed, utterly professional, coldly calculating. She leaves nothing to chance, nothing undone to assure success. She was that way at 15 when, hair piled high to affect a more sophisticated 17, she was hoofing part-time in Chicago clubs for $20 bills. She was that way at 25 when, her hair shoulder-length to affect a more innocent 17, she was singing, dancing and weeping buckets nightly in West Side Story for $350 a week. And she is that way today. At 31 she commands more than $300,000 a year for a versatility that has been displayed in Broadway's Subways Are for Sleeping and Night Life, in the film A View from the Bridge, and in some 40 TV roles ranging from the demon-possessed girl in The Dybbuk to appearances with Ed Sullivan, Garry Moore and Jack Paar. She has had to be a master at tactics, because Carol Lawrence is a classic example of the performer who is really less gifted than crafted. What she is, she has made herself—through relentless hard work, a Spartan self-discipline and implacable ambition. When she arrived on Broadway in 1951, she was just another dancer with a cute face. Producer Leonard Sillman, who gave her a start in his New Faces of 1952, remembers her. She was good at tap, but her voice was untrained, and she didn't know much about acting. In fact, John Murray Anderson, who staged the show, wanted to fire her. But she wept a lot and begged to stay on, so we kept her as an understudy. She did have a nice quality. But she's a manufactured rather than a creative talent." Carol admits it. "For Broadway," she says, "I rehearsed twenty-five hours a day. It's the person who bats his head against a stone wall who gets somewhere." Few have ever butted w'th more ferocity. For West Side Story she auditioned 13 times in 11 months. For one TV show she rehearsed 17 hours straight while ill with mononucleosis. To accustom her feet to toe shoes for a ballet— after a two-year layoff—she wore them around the house eight hours a day for weeks. She astonished Broadway veterans by auditioning for Sidney Kingsley's Night Life with a complete scene from the script, which her agent had acquired from the author; and she even brought along a wardrobe lady so that she could do several costume changes. She can't stop working If a TV special calls for two weeks of rehearsals, she'll often do four—on her own time. If she senses a flaw in her nightclub act, she'll hold over dancers and orchestra for a three A.M. rehearsal—at her own expense. And just to insure the act's perfection, she takes with her a musical director, a drummer, a guitar player, two dancers, a wardrobe mistress and a secretary at a weekly cost of $5,000. At her highly publicized marriage to singer Robert Goulet last August at New York's Plaza Hotel, she kept a hairdresser in-waiting throughout the festivities so that her coiffure would remain faultless. And except for a brief honeymoon in Toronto, she has been plying her trade in New York, Las Vegas and Miami, while her husband has been anchored in Hollywood making films. But all of these tactics are merely an extension of the girl she was back in her native Melrose Park, a suburb of Chicago. "I got all A's in my freshman year in high school," she says, "and I remember how proud my parents and relatives were. Well, then it became important to get all A's in my sophomore year, and imperative in my junior year, and an obsession in my senior year." She did. And because she was taking dancing lessons four days a week—a regimen started when she was seven—she had no time left for dances or parties or boyfriends. But at 17 she did graduate first in a class of 700 at her high school. She seems never to have stopped trying to score A's. "I can't live any other way," she says. "I throw myself into everything that I do, whether it's dancing or making a stew. If you want to criticize that as naked ambition, well, I guess that it is. I know no other way." She drives herself savagely. Near the end of a recent one-month stand at New York's Persian Room, where her act drew smash reviews, her normal weight of 105 pounds dipped into the 90's. Her dark brown eyes looked tired, and her cheeks were sunken. Yet she submitted to daily schedules like this: 9:30 A.m., clothes fitting for TV panel show; 10, taping of two panel shows; noon, Boy Scout luncheon in The Bronx; 1:30 P.M., two more panel-show tapings; 4, dance rehearsal for TV special; 6, dinner alone in hotel suite; 7, hair wash; 9, first Persian Room performance; midnight, second show; I A.M., after-show well-wishers in the suite; 3, good-night. She sustained herself on this sample day with a breakfast of cashew nuts and a banana, a sandwich for lunch, numerous cups of tea and caffeine lozenges through the afternoon, and about six forkfuls of creamed chicken for dinner. It was while she nibbled at the chicken, leaning her head against a fist, that she giggled nervously and said, "I get so exhausted that I can't eat. It won't go down." She gets so exhausted that she can't sleep either, without a pill. But she insists that this kind of pace is necessary. "They hammer you when you're hot. That's the nature of the business. Right now, because of my act, I'm considered hot. They want you for this Robert Goulet and Carol were wed last August. Lawrence of Illinois Carol Lawrence was just another face when she arrived on Broadway. But fierce drive, Spartan self-discipline and hard work have helped her butt her way to the top.
1964_03_21--072_SP [Lawrence of Illinois]
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