Emmy, Oscar, Tony, Grammy winner Rita Moreno has no regrets
At age 84, actress, singer and dancer Rita Moreno has pretty much done it all.
She has performed in eight Broadway productions and in “Sunset Boulevard” in London's West End and appeared in more than 40 movies including “West Side Story,” and “Singin' in the Rain.”
People now in their 40s grew up watching her on television shows such as “The Electric Company” and “The Muppets.”
“I seem to have been born to it,” says Moreno, who was 5 when she moved from Puerto Rico to New York with her mother.
A friend of her mother thought Rosita had some talent and suggested she take dance lessons. She made her Broadway debut at 13. Soon after, a talent scout spotted her and introduced her to MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, who signed her to a film contract and described her as a “Spanish Elizabeth Taylor.”
Early on, she was often typecast as a Mexican spitfire or Indian maiden. But she also broke out of the Latina mold to play an Irish teacher, an Italian widow, a female evangelist, a proper Englishwoman and a Southern belle.
After six decades in show business, she has stories to tell.
That's exactly what she plans to do when she appears Oct. 5 as the first guest of the 2016-17 Robert Morris University Pittsburgh Speakers Series at Heinz Hall, Downtown.
She'll share experiences, anecdotes and encounters with some of show businesses' biggest names.
“My lecture is the story of my life,” she says. “It's a couple of a capella songs and filled with anecdotes, some are very funny and some are very sad.”
The Pittsburgh stop is part of a three-month tour that finds her alternating between concerts and lectures.
“I like doing this kind of tour because it keeps me alert,” she says. “I love the attention. ... I really genuinely love to share with an audience.”
If Moreno wanted to rest on her accomplishments, she would have an abundance to choose from.
Her living room is filled with medallions, trophies and statuettes.
“It started with one shelf, then two. Now it's up to three shelves,” Moreno says.
She is one of only 12 living performers — and the first Latina — to have the distinct honor of winning all of the entertainment industry's most prestigious awards: an Oscar, an Emmy (actually two Emmys), a Tony and a Grammy.
Last fall, the Kennedy Center honored Moreno with its lifetime of artistic achievement honor. She is also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the American National Medal of the Arts for a lifetime of service and contributions to the arts.
Other honors include the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award and the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
When she's not doing live appearances, Moreno has lots of projects to fill her time.
Her book, “Rita Moreno: A Memoir,” made the New York Times best-seller list when it debuted three years ago, and last September, she released her first ever all-Spanish language album, “Una Vez Más” (“One More Time”), produced by her friend Emilio Estefan.
Over the past year, she has worked on two television series. She is the voice of Abuelita in “Nina's World,” a new NBC-TV Sprout network animated TV series.
She also has been working on a new 13-episode series that will premiere on Netflix in January. It's a remake of producer Norman Lear's classic TV sitcom, “One Day at a Time” that starred Bonny Franklin as a divorced mom. Scheduled to premiere in January on Netflix, the new series stars Moreno as the grandmother of a Cuban family.
“For four months, I had to memorize a half-hour show each week. It made a real difference in my memory,” she says.
She encourages other seniors who want to keep their brains flexible to memorize favorite poems or passages from books.
One thing Moreno doesn't have time for is regrets.
“Regrets? What a waste of time,” she says. “It's done. Get up, dust yourself off.”
Alice Carter is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.