How Playbill Inspired Broadway Legend Tommy Tune's Trademark Autograph | Playbill

Film & TV News How Playbill Inspired Broadway Legend Tommy Tune's Trademark Autograph

The 10-time Tony Award honoree took Playbill cruise audiences behind the scenes of his incredible life in the theatre.

Tommy Tune Heather Gershonowitz

The start of living Broadway legend Tommy Tune’s career was, appropriately, straight out of classic musical theatre, with Tune starring in his own life as a plucky young hoofer who arrives in New York City with almost nothing but dreams of starring on Broadway.

“They threw me in the back of this Ford Fairlane and we drove to New York. When I arrived, my friends said, ‘Go buy a copy of Show Business and Variety and Backstage. One of them said there was an audition. I went, and I got the show. First day in New York.”

Maybe that auspicious start—which seems magical compared to the far more common stories one hears of actors struggling for years to catch a break—hinted at the brilliance to come in Tune’s illustrious career. Among Tune's accolades are two Tony Awards as an actor and seven as a director-choreographer, culminating in a 10th Tony for Lifetime Achievement. His long resume includes such seminal Broadway favorites as Seesaw, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Nine, My One and Only, Grand Hotel, and The Will Rogers Follies to name but a few, as well as the screen versions of Hello, Dolly! and The Boy Friend.

Tune shared his showbiz story aboard Playbill Travel’s Broadway on the Mediterranean cruise in September. Guests enjoyed the ultimate in luxury accommodations aboard the Silver Dawn—a personal butler assigned to each room!—traveling to Italy, Malta, and Spain along with a host of Broadway’s best, including Audra McDonald, Liz Callaway, Bryan Batt, Gavin Creel, Santino Fontana, Christopher Fitzgerald, Lindsay Mendez, Will Swenson, and, of course, Tune. The ship docked during the day and travelers disembarked to once-in-a-lifetime excursions, often with a Broadway star in tow, and then returned to the ship for an evening of world-class concerts starring those Broadway names as the ship sailed to its next destination.

Tune’s interview with theatre historian Ted Chapin was a particular highlight, giving cruise guests a rare chance to hear anecdotes and behind-the-scenes tidbits from Tune's entire career, including the surprising story behind his unique autograph. When Tune first started being approached at the stage door to sign audience members’ Playbills, they’d often give him ball point pens that wouldn’t work on the shiny paper unless he turned it over and scratched to get the ink flowing. To save time, Tune got creative.

“I started scratching on the front of the Playbill. Now the ball point’s working, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. It looks like a music staff!’”

For more about Playbill Travel cruises, including an upcoming cruise to Alaska with Rob McClure, Kate Baldwin, Stephanie J. Block, and Ramin Karimloo, visit

Celebrating the Career of Tony Lifetime Achievement Honoree Tommy Tune

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