It seems like Beaches, that "wind beneath my wings" tearjerker from 1988 starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, is always on some TV channel at some point every week. Which means you can catch Lainie Kazan in one of the many spikes on her career graph.
This is probably the one where I first noticed her. But no, she was in 1983's My Favorite Year, in a role she reprised on Broadway more than a decade later, garnering a Tony Award nomination.
And it turns out, this was more akin to her roots, which included being a classmate of Francis Ford Coppola's according to an article in the New York Times, and playing in musicals written and directed by him in 1960. The same article cites "what Ms. Kazan calls a zigzagging career" noting that " [h]er celebrity has been more sporadic and diffuse than stratospheric."
But who among us hasn't done a little zigging here and zagging there during the course of our lives and careers?
Kazan, who has played a plethora of aunts (The Nanny, Will & Grace) and mothers (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Ugly Betty), evinces a warm, rich, voluptuousness to her personality that is funneled directly into her talent – even when she's being overbearing and domineering.
That richness was recognized when she went on for Barbra Streisand on Broadway in Funny Girl and what sustains her through a continued singing career, lots of charity work, and even a recent stint on Desperate Housewives.
Now the long arc of her career is being honored at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey – she stars in their opening night film, Expecting Mary, alongside other luminaries you may recognize: Cloris Leachman, Della Reese, Elliot Gould and Cybill Shepherd.
Diane Raver, the founder and executive director of the film festival, says they landed on Lainie as the honoree this year because, "She embodies the total package," referring to her stage, film, TV and variety show credits, but also because " she's a hot stuff woman!"
Receiving her award on the Jersey shore where the film festival is held, is perhaps more fitting than Raver may realize. In a spot where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean attract champion surfers, Lainie Kazan who's been a champion career surfer for more than 50 years, is right at home.