Rita Moreno still has a lot of show biz in her


By the time she was 5 years old, Rita Moreno was already show­ing the sort of the­at­ric­al flair that would res­ult in a su­per suc­cess­ful ca­reer.

Her tal­ents have been re­war­ded over and over again. In fact, Moreno is the only per­former to have won all four of the most pres­ti­gi­ous show busi­ness awards: An Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony.

“I guess the only thing left for me now is the No­bel Peace Prize,” laughs the star, who will be at the Kim­mel Cen­ter April 11 to help launch Voz! Con­gresso, a three-year ini­ti­at­ive that provides in­tim­ate con­ver­sa­tions with ac­claimed Latino celebrit­ies and in­tel­lec­tu­als.

An in­dustry icon with more than 70 years of act­ing, theat­er and artist­ic ex­per­i­ence, Moreno will share some of her life’s ex­per­i­ences in a show aptly titled My Life from Zero to Sixty Plus Twenty, a 60-minute jour­ney of her tri­umphant and chal­len­ging roles in film, TV and on stage. A Q&A op­por­tun­ity will fol­low im­me­di­ately for audi­ence mem­bers.

Born Rosa De­lores Al­ver­ia in Hu­ma­cao, a small town near the fam­ous Rain Forest in Pu­erto Rico, Moreno said she nev­er doubted her abil­it­ies for a mo­ment, al­though she worked hard at prov­ing them to oth­ers. And al­ways, she clung to her dreams of star­dom.

“My de­sire to be in show busi­ness, my ori­gin­al am­bi­tion, has nev­er changed,” she said. “I am what I al­ways wanted to be. I am my own dream come true.”

And, she ad­ded, she did it all on her own.

“Grow­ing up, there were very few Latino role mod­els in show busi­ness for me to fol­low. But I was my own self-mo­tiv­at­ing ma­chine,” she said. “Oh, I used to love watch­ing movie stars like Rita Hay­worth and Lana Turn­er. But I was too young to know people like De­lores Del Rio or Lupe Valez, so I didn’t have them as role mod­els. For me, a little girl from Pu­erto Rico, there simply wer­en’t any.”

Moreno moved to the U.S. at the age of 5 and star­ted tak­ing dance les­sons. At the age of 13 she made her Broad­way de­but in Sky­drift star­ring Eli Wal­lach. Then, in true Hol­ly­wood tra­di­tion, she was spot­ted by a tal­ent scout who ar­ranged a meet­ing for her with Louis B. May­er, who al­most im­me­di­ately signed her to a con­tact.

“I was dropped by the stu­dio after just two years. Little did I know that a His­pan­ic kid didn’t have much of a chance,” Moreno poin­ted out.

But she con­tin­ued to push for­ward, do­ing a lot of sum­mer stock, “B” movies and West­erns along with minor roles in tele­vi­sion series, of­ten cast as a Mex­ic­an spit­fire or an In­di­an maid­en. It was only after win­ning an Oscar for her per­form­ance as An­ita in West Side Story, which brought her in­ter­na­tion­al ac­claim, that she was fi­nally re­cog­nized as a ma­jor tal­ent.

And today, at the age of 80, she con­tin­ues to per­form in her chosen field. The trail­blaz­ing star is cur­rently jug­gling per­form­ances for her own one-wo­man stage show, Life Without Makeup, with tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances as Fran Dres­cher’s moth­er in TV Land’s Hap­pily Di­vorced. In ad­di­tion, Moreno is pre­par­ing to re­cord a new al­bum and she’s at work pen­ning her auto­bi­o­graphy.

With few His­pan­ics mak­ing it big today, Moreno has be­come a wel­come im­age to fol­low for stars like Jen­nifer Lopez, who ac­know­ledges Moreno as a role mod­el.

“I’m grate­ful to Jen­nifer for say­ing that, but per­formers should know that the doors to the king­dom are only now slightly ajar,” she said. “It can be done, you can make it. You just have to push really, really hard be­cause it’s a very heavy door.”

For­tu­nately, Moreno not only opened that heavy door, but con­tin­ues to go through it, per­form­ing of­ten des­pite her age.

“And I’ll keep do­ing it just as long as I can,” she said. “And I’ll keep on dan­cing just as long as I can too, al­though now I don’t call it dan­cing any­more. I call it SKD — which stands for Sorta Kinda Dan­cing.” ••

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