Groucho Marx Hosts the Obies 1972!

Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives. May 11, 1972, Vol. XVII, No. 19

17th Annual 'Obies' By Audrey Berman

It was "An Evening at the 'Obies'" Monday night, when The Village Voice held its 17th annual "Obie" awards at the Village Gate with Groucho Marx as host. The awards, made by The Voice in recognition of achievement in Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway theatre, attracted a record-breaking crowd which jammed the Gate in anticipation of seeing Groucho in person.

"You remember 'A Night at the Opera' and 'A Day at the Races,'" Ross Wetzsteon, associate editor of The Voice, said in his introduction. "We hope that 'An Evening at the "Obies" will be just as memorable...with Groucho Marx!" The audience rose and gave a long standing ovation as Groucho, on the arm of his secretary, walked slowly to the microphone, perched on a stool, and smiled back. On introduction to Madeleine Le Roux, who assisted in presenting the awards, Groucho asked if she was a virgin, and set the sexual tone for the evening.

Although his 81 years have turned his mustache gray and he no longer smokes cigars, his eyebrows were still in the act, and they raised in salute as he leered at each actress who came up to the stage. Not all the recipients were amused at the rampant male chauvinism that's part of Groucho's schtick. Some actresses noticeably stiffened at his remarks while others good-naturedly gave him a kiss and a leer back.

Groucho ribbed Off-Broadway as being a place for out-of-work actors, and said he got his start in show business walking the greyhound which belonged to the star of an out-of-town show. It turned out the star was in love with the greyhound, and when the producer found out, Groucho was fired. He was about to tell how his mother sent him 12 bananas and money to come home, but a nudge from his secretary (who sat protectively behind him) cut the joke short. We never found out about the bananas, but they were mentioned again when an award was presented to Kathleen Widdoes for her performance in "The Beggar's Opera." As she took the "Obie," she asked Groucho if he had any bananas left. "I still have one," he said, "but you couldn't use all 12 of them anyway."

The ceremony closed with Groucho's parting line -- "I hope to see you all next year in 'Oh! Calcutta!'"

VILLAGE VOICE OFF-BROADWAY AWARDS

Season 1971-72

Best Theatre Piece: The Open Theatre ("The Mutation Show")

Distinguished Performances: Salome Bey ("Love Me, Love My Children") Maurice Blanc ("The Celebration: Jooz/Guns/Movies/The Abyss") Alex Bradford ("Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope") Marilyn Chris ("Kaddish") Ron Faber ("And They Put Handcuffs on Flowers") Jeanne Hepple ("The Reliquary of Mr. and Mrs. Potterfield") Danny Sewell ("The Homecoming") Marilyn Sokol ("The Beggar's Opera") Kathleen Widdoes ("The Beggar's Opera") Elizabeth Wilson ("Sticks and Bones") Ed Zang ("The Reliquary of Mr. and Mrs. Potterfield")

Distinguished Direction: Wilford Leach & John Braswell ("The Only Jealousy of Emer") Mel Shapiro ("Two Gentlemen of Verona") Michael Smith ("Country Music") Tom Sydorick ("20th Century Tar")

Music and Lyrics: Micki Grant ("Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope") Composer: Liz Swados ("Medea") Visual Effects: Video Free America ("Kaddish")

Special Citations: Charles Stanley (Actor, Dancer, Choreographer, Costume Designer) Meredith Monk" ("Vessel") Theatre of Latin America ("Latin America Fair of Opinion") Free the Army

Judges: Dick Brukenfeld, Michael Feingold, John Lahr, Julius Novick, Arthur Sainer, Michael Smith, and Martin Washburn

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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