By Christopher Pape
Broadway Baby, Bernadette Peters, has captivated generations of Americans with her thrilling voice, exquisite acting and stunning beauty. When I first heard that I had the opportunity to interview her, I was over-the-moon with joy and couldn’t wait to speak with her! I was so happy that I did. She was gracious, lovely and passionate about Broadway Barks, the organization in which she co-founded with Mary Tyler Moore and has just been honored with a special Tony for her hard work and dedication to giving back.
Take the journey with us, you’ll be so happy you did!
Resident (R): I just want to start by saying that I’m a huge fan. As an Italian-American it is nice to see one of our own make it. And my mother remembers your family’s bakery.
BP (Bernadette Peters): Thank you that means a lot. Yes, my father had a bakery, but it wasn’t the famous one. He did, however, have his own business delivering Italian bread.
R: Tell us about Broadway Barks, how did it come about? And what is your involvement with it?
BP: I was in Annie Get Your Gun. We had just finished raising a large amount of money for Gypsy of the Year for Broadway Cares. So we thought, what else could we do? I said how about animals? I had just finished visiting the city shelter, and thought that it would be great to help our four-legged friends. My assistant Patty Saccente, and our stage manager, Richard Hester agreed we could get everyone from all the Broadway shows and have an adoption event in Shubert Alley between shows. So that’s what we did and this year it will be our 14th year. I also knew I could get my friend, Mary Tyler Moore, involved because she loves animals, and there you have it.
R: Tell me, what exactly does it do, what is its mission?
BP: It was the first time all the rescue groups worked together. And now there is something called the Mayor’s Alliance, so now they work together all the time but that was the first time, but everybody was off on their own trying to make a difference, trying to help, trying to do something.
R: So when you say they worked together they raised funds?
BP: No, it is just to work together to raise awareness for these animals that are in the shelters and how great they are and how they are being euthanized and how these wonderful animals need our help. And now it’s a big, big adoption event and I run into people on the street and they say “Oh we got him or we got her at Broadway Barks”, so people know to come to Broadway Barks to get a dog.
R: So is it a once a year event?
BP: Yes, it’s usually every July and this year it’s on Saturday July 14th
R: And who is it? Like the Humane Society or ASPCA?
BP: Yes. They both come, the Humane Society comes, ASPCA is one of our big sponsors. We have Bidawee and all of the big ones.
R: Bidawee? We work with them, as well as ASPCA – that’s great!
BP: Yes! We also work with small rescue groups. We even have breed specific rescues; we have a Greyhound rescue, a Great Dane rescue. This year we are even having a Cocker Spaniel rescue; we can’t believe the amount of Cocker Spaniels that come through the system.
R: And you got your dog, Stella (the dog featured on the cover), from a rescue?
BP: Oh yes, she actually came from the city shelter.
R: What breed is Stella?
BP: She’s a Pit Bull. The American Pit Bull Terrier used to be the family dog that the children at the turn of the century played with. Now people just associate them as these terrible dogs, but they’ve really been victimized because they’re so amenable and they’ll do anything for you. Because these bad guys took this great dog, said fight for me and I’ll love you and because they’re very physical animals, they were very good at it.
R: How many dogs and cats were adopted at the event last yeat?
BP: We did very well, each shelter brings at least four dogs and I’d say three out of four get adopted.
R: Is the event open to the general public?
BP: Everybody is welcome to come on Saturday, July 14. We are at Shubert Alley.
R: On another note, you grew up in Ozone Park?
BP: I did, where did you grow up?
R: Manhattan and New Jersey, but my mother is from Borough Park and my Dad is from the Bronx, I’m really a Jersey boy. Tell me about what it means to be a New Yorker?
BP: There are so many different areas in the city that could change your mood. I used to go down to the gym in Soho, when Soho was really coming up and it was like I’ve changed the atmosphere around me, I’ve changed the molecules and when I came back, I was refreshed. There are so many great parts of the city, even Williamsburg is so cool.
But Manhattan itself, I grew up in Queens but I couldn’t wait to cross the bridge and come into Manhattan because it was just so wonderful and so interesting and the theater is incredible. This season there is so much to see, so many great performances; I saw Death of a Salesman twice.
R: So continuing this theme of New York, what is it like to be a New Yorker and own a pet?
BP: Very easy. I live in an apartment. When the dogs have to go outside, you take them out to enjoy the walk, the weather, the park. It becomes a pleasure, you know you have to go home and feed them; I guess it is like taking care of children. There is somebody to be responsible for and to care for; they’re so important in so many ways.
R: And what section of the city do you live in?
BP: I live on the Upper West Side.
R: What do you like about it?
BP: I live near Riverside Park and I like how it is family orientated up here; people have families and dogs and it is easier to get to the theater from up here, lots of lovely restaurants and Central Park.
R: Was there a role that really defined you? Is there one particular role that you loved the most?
BP: I’ve been so lucky that I’ve been able to explore, really wonderful roles, interesting experiences that the characters go through, I find that the most engaging for me and my favorite was Mama Rose.