By Robert Viagas
and Christopher Reichheld and Anne Bradley
20 Jan 2014
1926 Actress Patricia Neal is born today in Packard, Kentucky. Among other productions, she will appear in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest. For her performance in that show she will have the distinction of being the very first person to be handed a Tony Award at the inaugural ceremony.
1975 A gay bathhouse is the setting of Terrence McNally's high-energy farce, The Ritz, which stars Jack Weston as a bewildered straight man forced to hide out there, and Rita Moreno as spirited entertainer Googie Gomez. It runs 398 performances at the Longacre Theatre, and wins Moreno the Tony for Best Supporting Actress. She's the last person to win it, however: Her speech about supporting "nothing but my beads," leads the Tonys to change the name of the category to Best Featured Actress.
2003 Iconic Broadway caricaturist Al Hirschfeld dies at age 99. Having captured the spirit of New York life, particularly actors in performance, since the 1920s, he was known for hiding his daughter's name, "Nina," in his sketches. At least one Broadway show, My Fair Lady, used a Hirschfeld drawing as its logo. Within months of his death, the Martin Beck Theatre will be renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in his honor.
2004 Bernard Punsly, the last surviving member of the quintet of young Broadway and Hollywood actors known as "The Dead End Kids," for their first appearance in the Broadway drama Dead End, dies in Torrence, California, at age 80.
2005 Also today, Dick Gallagher, 49, a trusted accompanist, musical director and Off-Broadway composer (for What Not, Whoop-Dee-Doo! and — his greatest hit — When Pigs Fly), dies in Manhattan after a long illness.