‘An evening with Judy Ivey’ in OctoberPublished 8:30am Friday, April 23, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
Former Dowagiac resident Judith Ivey will be coming “home” in late October to bolster the burgeoning arts scene.
Dogwood Fine Arts Festival Publicity Chair Max Sala made the announcement to Rotary Club Thursday noon at Elks Lodge 889, where Ivey was featured in the early ’90s at a Chamber of Commerce Progress Dinner.
Ivey lived on Orchard Street from 1965-’68 when her father, Dr. Nathan Ivey, was Southwestern Michigan College’s first president.
Her mother, Dorothy, taught English at Central, where artwork Judy did for Margaret Hunter was still displayed in the hall years later.
Ivey, who would have graduated with the Class of 1970 had she not moved to Illinois and gotten into acting, learned to drive in Dowagiac, where the only place to cruise to was the town’s original drive-through, Wahoo.
No McDonald’s yet, let alone Burger King. Pizza Hut would be the first chain to arrive, in 1975.
“While the rest of us went on to do normal things with our lives,” said Sala, who attended Ball State University at the same time as David Letterman, “Judy became an actress in theater, television and motion pictures.”
“We’ve been able to connect with her – currently she’s back on stage in New York appearing in a revival of ‘The Glass Menagerie,’ ” he said, “and this fall, the last week of October, through a partnership between the Dogwood Festival, (SMC), Dowagiac schools and Beckwith Theatre, she’ll be here for a whole week, helping with classes out at the college, working with students at the high school and doing a special evening for the Beckwith Theatre on Friday, ‘An Evening with Judy Ivey.’ It’s nice to be able to draw someone like that back.”
Ivey, born in El Paso, appeared the last two seasons on “Designing Women” about the Sugarbaker sisters and their interior decorating business in Atlanta. Lead Dixie Carter, wife of Hal Holbrook, recently passed away.
In June 2008, Dowagiac drove to Skokie, Ill., for Ivey’s amazing one-woman show as Ann Landers in “The Lady with all the Answers.”
The advice columnist’s daughter, Margo, 68, came to Ivey’s opening May 21 and praised her acting as “channeling” Eppie Lederer.
Rotarian Soni Smith, one of 14 classmates, friends and fans who filled two vans for a trek to be part of a packed Wednesday afternoon matinee at Northlight Theatre, wholeheartedly agreed. “It was absolutely fabulous,” Smith said at the time.
Also attending were 1970 classmates Carol Springsteen, Vicary Blackmond and Gary Weaver, Nancy Pallas, Natalie Springsteen, Herb and Eve Phillipson, Linda Lorenz, Franklin and Gail Ward, Polly Judd and the late Marion Weaver, who organized the outing.
When their faithful friend died at 89 on Feb. 23, 2009, Judy and Dorothy came to her funeral at Yazel-Clark Chapel and a luncheon that followed at Silver Creek United Methodist Church.
In Skokie, the actress joined the group for a late lunch between shows.
The Chicago Tribune gave Ivey’s one-woman show about the Chicago icon a good review (“This highly entertaining, frequently moving play (is) destined for Chicago and beyond!” wrote Chris Jones; “No question about it – this ‘Lady’ is marvelous,” agreed the Sun-Times.)
She might never have left art for acting, which she did in Illinois as a way to fit in at her new high school.
She ended up attending Illinois State University on an acting scholarship, but Ivey did watercolors to pass time between shows.
Carol took a June 1, 1967, clipping from the Daily News to show Judy.
The picture showed Michigan Week art winners at Central Junior High, including David Scott, Denise Hunt, Kathy Kneller, Mary Biek, Phil Valdes, Rosemary Clark, Springsteen’s brother, Ed Klapchuk, and Chuck Sarabyn, whom Ivey dated.
Ivey, nibbling at a steak salad with the Dowagiac delegation before her second show at 7:30, said David Rambo’s play is “easy to do because it’s so well-written.”
Landers, of course, was a Chicago icon who knew everybody, from “Kup” to Hugh Hefner. With millions of loyal readers, her life seemed an open book, but “The Lady with all the Answers” deftly tugs the audience into uncharted waters, like visiting the troops in Vietnam, that she left out of her column.
In fact, the whole play is built around the writing of her most heartbreaking column, published with Margo’s approval on July 1, 1975, about the disintegration of her own 3 1/2-decade marriage, which could be career death to a newpaper columnist dispensing wit and wisdom to confused couples.
Ivey, her mane of curly blonde hair concealed beneath that “helmet” of a dark ‘do, became Landers as she sorted papers in a replica of her Lake Shore Drive apartment, putting on and taking off pair after pair of glasses while rationalizing sneaking chocolates.