Aug. 01--Rita Moreno has won a few awards in her life -- the National Medal of Arts, Presidential Medal of Freedom, two Emmy Awards, a Grammy, a Tony and an Academy Award, or "the little gold man," as she calls her Oscar.
Moreno recently found out she'll get the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award on Jan 18. "That's a huge, huge accolade," the 81-year-old entertainer said
She will receive another Lifetime Achievement Award at the El Paso Community Foundation's sixth annual Plaza Classic Film Festival, which runs today through Aug. 11.
The singer, dancer and actor will kick off the festival with an appearance for "West Side Story," for which she won that little gold man, at 7 tonight in the Plaza Theatre. Tickets are $20.
Moreno also will sign and read excerpts, in English and Spanish, from her recently published "Rita Moreno: A Memoir," at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Community Foundation, 333 N. Oregon, She'll do another book signing there at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Both events are free.
Moreno will complete her visit with an appearance at a 3:30 p.m. Saturday showing of "The Four Seasons," in which she starred with Alan Alda and Carol Burnett. Tickets are $6.
It's something of a homecoming for Moreno, who performed at a key fundraiser for the Community
Foundation's acquisition of Plaza Theatre in 1987, and again in 2007, the year after the 1930 movie palace's $40-million restoration was completed.
"I was really touched. They were trying to do something wonderful to keep the theater functioning and open," Moreno said from her home in Berkeley, Calif.
Community Foundation President Eric Pearson said Moreno's return is important to the theater and the festival.
festival is about a rebirth to me," Pearson said in a live chat Wednesday on elpasotimes.com. "Rita Moreno's visit is symbolic of a theater that was reborn with community support more than 20 years ago. Her return to a successful Plaza Theatre is wonderful," he said.
Moreno is the lone Hispanic and one of only 11 people to win an Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Emmy. The former Rosa Dolores Alverio was five when she moved from Puerto Rico to New York with her mother.
She took dance lessons as a child, landing her first Broadway role at age 13. Small movie roles followed as did a seductive Life magazine cover in 1954 and a part in "The King and I."
Her breakout role was Anita, the fiery Puerto Rican girlfriend of Bernardo, whose gang, the Sharks, battles the Jets in the New York-set musical.
"'West Side Story' deserves to be a called a classic," Moreno said.
"It has an aura. It's unforgettable," she added. "What movie in the world would ever take on the subject of gangs and gang wars? ... It was truly unique."
So was Anita, a strong Hispanic woman at a time when that was rare in the American mainstream -- and Hollywood. The career-changing performance made her a star, but didn't kick open doors the way the former Civil Rights activist hoped.
"She became a role model for me in a way because I was finally playing a strong Hispanic woman with principles and opinions and that was just astonishing and unheard of," Moreno said. "Unhappily, so far there still aren't too many of those in films."
Moreno expanded into television and theater, winning a Tony for Broadway's "The Ritz" in 1975 and Emmys in 1977 for an appearance on "The Muppet Show" and 1978 for a guest shot on "The Rockford Files." Her Grammy came in 1972 for the soundtrack from the children's TV show "The Electric Company."
Moreno spent more than a year writing her memoir, which grew out of a one-woman show she performed in 2011. It chronicles her highs and lows, including a romance with Marlon Brando, an abortion, a suicide attempt and her 45-year marriage to Leonard Gordon, who died in 2010.
Moreno felt compelled to be honest and calls the memoir "an American story" that she hopes will inspire readers, especially Hispanics. A Spanish-language edition comes out Tuesday.
"I wanted people to understand that it is not easy for a person from another country and it takes a kind of strength of character to get through your life and evolve into very different circumstances," she said. "It's very important, too, that I demonstrate that to my Latino community."
Doug Pullen may be reached at 546-6397.
-- Who: Rita Moreno appearing with "West Side Story."
-- When; 7 p.m. today.
-- Where: Plaza Theatre.
-- How much: $20 at the box office.
-- Information: 533-4020, plazaclassic.com.
-- Also: Moreno will sign and read from her book, "Rita Moreno: A Memoir," at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the El Paso Community Foundation, 333 N. Oregon. Moreno will do another book signing there at 1 p.m. Saturday. Both are free.
-- She will appear with the romantic comedy "The Four Seasons" at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Plaza Theatre. Tickets are $6 at the box office.
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