Today, five days shy of her 97th birthday, the great Angela Lansbury passed away. I had the honor of seeing her live twice — once on Broadway and another time in Washington, D.C. — and I met her backstage on March 28, 2015. Below are my thoughts on her tremendous talent, what it was like meeting her, and my connection to the world of Murder, She Wrote.
Angela Lansbury & Bea Arthur
Growing up in the 1990s, I watched Murder, She Wrote all the time, as well as The Golden Girls. Both shows brought me great comfort. For whatever reason, seeing these powerful, independent older women in starring roles made an indelible impression on me. Murder, She Wrote and The Golden Girls were ahead of their time. Bea Arthur was my favorite in The Golden Girls because I felt I could relate to her the most (i.e., tall, musical, likes to read). And Angela Lansbury was absolutely delightful in Murder, She Wrote. Later on, I learned that these two ladies were original cast members in Mame on Broadway and remained “Bosom Buddies” for years to come.
Murder, She Wrote
Murder, She Wrote ran for 12 seasons, from 1984 to 1996, followed by four TV movies, and a series of novels that continue to this day. Angela Lansbury was nominated for 12 Emmy awards for Murder, She Wrote. Unfortunately, she never won. Not only did Lansbury star in this wildly popular show, but she served as Executive Producer for 88 episodes. She was a woman in charge of her own destiny and an inspiration for millions worldwide.
Murder, She Wrote was charming because of its characters and the cozy town of Cabot Cove. Even the name of the town — Cabot Cove — is comforting. The show featured sensational guest stars, top-notch storytelling, and unpredictable endings. I own the entire show (and the TV movies) on DVD and continue to watch Murder, She Wrote regularly.
My Murder, She Wrote Connection
At ThrillerFest VIII in 2013, I met Thomas B. Sawyer and Donald Bain. Thomas B. Sawyer was the former head writer for Murder, She Wrote for many years, penning the incredible stories that I had come to know and love. And Donald Bain continued that legacy by writing the first 47 Murder, She Wrote novels. I interviewed Donald Bain in July 2013, and you can read our conversation here. And I interviewed Thomas B. Sawyer in August 2013, and you can read my interview with him here.
Donald Bain passed away in 2017, which hit me hard because he was such a kind, creative man whose Murder, She Wrote novels read like new episodes of a show I continue to love. I’m delighted that I had the opportunity to spend time with him, interview him, and call him a friend. I’m also happy that the Murder, She Wrote novels continue to be written and published, and I look forward to each new release.
Thomas B. Sawyer is still with us and continues to be a creative force, writing novels and spreading his infectious positivity amongst his friends in a way that only he can. During the several ThrillerFest conventions I’ve attended, I have always enjoyed spending time with Tom. Whether we were grabbing lunch, chatting in the hallway, or discussing writing, he is one of the most enjoyable people I have ever met. He also helped me meet Angela Lansbury in Washington, D.C. on my birthday.
Meeting Angela Lansbury
In 2012, I saw Angela Lansbury live on Broadway in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. She starred alongside James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, and Michael McKean, among other great actors. It was a phenomenal play with an unforgettable production.
On March 28, 2015, my birthday, my wife and I went to see Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit at The National Theatre in Washington, D.C. Seeing her in the show for which she won her most recent, and ultimately last, Tony Award, was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I reached out to someone at the theater, referenced that I was friend of Thomas B. Sawyer, and I said that, if possible, I would love to meet Angela Lansbury backstage after the show. To my surprise, it happened!
The show itself was excellent, and Angela Lansbury’s entrance and performance was met with thunderous applause. Afterward, my wife and I went backstage and waiting for Angela Lansbury to arrive. I started to get anxious because I was about to meet who I considered, at that time, to be the greatest living actress. She came through the curtain holding what appeared to be eyeglasses like the ones she wore on Murder, She Wrote and greeted us. I told her that I was a friend of Thomas B. Sawyer and that I had seen her on Broadway. She replied, “Oh, a lover of the theater!” She signed our Playbills and graciously took a photo with me. While her handler was an overbearing buffoon, Angela Lansbury was graceful and kind.
I’m so happy I got to see Angela Lansbury perform live twice, including on Broadway. The fact that I met her, got a photo with her, and left with an autographed Playbill — and on my birthday no less — is something I will never forget. She led a fruitful and inspiring life, and we should all aspire to do the same.
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