Minority Opinions?



Texan Betty Buckley on ranches, cats, conservatives & Obama

Call them the New Secessionists of 2010 — the people who, mainly in Texas, hate Barack Obama and all his works so much that they want to secede from the Union. For real.

Betty Lynn Buckley, a Texan through and through, is not one of those Secessionist persons. Most emphatically the opposite. It might even be said that she prefers animals to such persons. And she always has a lot of animals, back there on her BLB Ranch, a bit west of Fort Worth.

“It’s just a little ranch,” she says. “Thirty-five acres. In Texas, if it’s not a thousand acres, it’s considered a ranchette.” Large or small, the BLB has been home these past 10 years to singer/actress Betty Buckley and her assistant Cathy Brighensi.

The animals, as of this moment:

One baby horse, 10 months old, called Honey Bear.

Two other horses.

Four dogs — “two of whom came with us to New York.”

Four barn cats.

Three house cats — “one of whom came with us to New York.”

One African gray parrot who can both talk and sing, but not like Betty Buckley can sing because no one, and no parrot, has quite exactly the crystalline vocal power of Betty Buckley — the power that can, as they say, break glass.

At the moment it is actress Buckley, not singer Buckley, who is here in New York co-starring in “White’s Lies.”

It revolves around Joe White (actor Tuc Warkins), a lawyer who is too busy womanizing — and lying — to actually practice any law. He shoves all that onto his associates and lesser unthanked employees. This Joe has a caustic long-ago girlfriend named Barbara (Andrea Grano) who in turn has a luscious grown daughter named Michelle (Christy Carlson Romano) — who catches Joe’s eye in more ways than one. The question is, who was Michelle’s father?

Joe the congenital liar and womanizer also has a mother — played by you know who — and that’s the rub. Mama’s dearest wish, before she passes from this earth, is for son Joe to settle down and make her a grandmother. “She’s flummoxed by the way Joe has turned out,” says the non-grandma who plays her, “and will engage in many a machination and manipulation of her own to get what she wants.”

Have you, Ms. Buckley, known any Joe Whites in real life?

“I’ve met a few,” she answers dryly.

Met any machinating Mrs. Whites?

“I don’t think I have, but I’ve known some meddling mothers.”

Her own mother, singer Betty Bob Diltz, “is still alive, thank God,” down there in Fort Worth.

It was while daughter Betty Buckley was doing her autobiographical “Broadway by Demand” engagement at Feinstein’s last February that her New York agent sent her a copy of “White’s Lies,” which had a reading with Elaine Stritch as Mrs. White but was now sans Stritch.

“I read it and thought it was really cute and funny, so I said yes, I’ll do it.”

Mrs. White is never given a first name; she’s just Mrs. White.

“That’s right. Maybe I’ll name her Elaine.”

At the end of a hard day’s rehearsal at New Stages, she confesses: “I guess I’m in stress. We only have three weeks for rehearsals, which isn’t much. I want to toe up, like an athlete. They’ve set the bar really high,” she says of her fellow actors and director Bob Cline. “I want to be in their league.”

Betty Buckley’s range, not just of voice but of genres, is extraordinary; from the Grizelda of “Cats” that won her a 1983 Tony Award to the “Sunset Boulevard” which this theatergoer caught in London — far better than the subsequent Broadway over-staging — to concerts east and west, to an upcoming Feinstein’s run of “men’s songs” (by the woman who was a male impersonator in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”), to a Hartford Stage production of Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Real” — yes! — about ten years ago.

“Last summer in Provincetown there was a Tennessee Williams festival. Such a blast! Geraldine Page did it on Broadway in 1980.”

Betty Buckley, whose father was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, doesn’t make a display of her political convictions, but she has them.

“I love Obama,” she says, in the same way she’d just said she loved Tennessee Williams. “In fact all this craziness, this meanness and hatefulness from the right, is so upsetting. Really upsetting. All that good-old-boy ignorance — profound ignorance. And Sarah Palin! That stupid, really stupid, self-serving, dangerous, scary creature who doesn’t know her ass from her elbow. Though she does have nice hair.

“You know, there’s all this talk about change. Well, this country has changed, is changing, and thank God it has changed. Pretty soon the minority will be…” — she struggled for the word — “will be white,” said beautiful, white-haired Mrs. White. Also known as Betty Buckley.