Tribute to Ann Reinking
A tribute to Ann Reinking by Elissa Kaplan Senter. Memories of an icon!
I grew up in a showbiz family. My dad, Leo, was a lawyer in NYC. The thrust of his practice at the time was entertainment law along with many other types of law, but I will only speak to both his and my relationship with Ann Reinking, her showbiz and friends and her family. My recollection is as clear as day, as I mourn the loss of the first professional showbiz friend, dance colleague, mentor, and legal client of my dad’s for most of both their careers. In this article, I will speak to the impact she had on me as a young girl, teen, and adult, both personally and professionally.
In 1973, at age nine I begged my parents to audition for an industrial called the Milliken Breakfast Show that performed six weeks a year at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC. So my dad, mom and I went to the audition. I was cast in the show for four seasons during 1973,1974,1975,1976.
As memory serves me, I met Ann at the audition during one of those years. I am currently trying to find the program for the year we performed together so I can take a picture of her and our bios. She was stretching her long, magnificent legs as she was next to dance the routine the choreographer had just shown them. I was sitting on the sidelines trying to practice the dance routine for the kids, singing my audition-song in my head, and excitedly waiting for my turn to audition. All of us that were auditioning had to model, sing, dance and act. The audience for this show were buyers in the garment center. The visual impression she made on me specially after hearing her voice answer the choreographer’s request for her to dance next, still today resonates what showbiz did and had done for me and those of you who appreciate musical theater, film, dance and more. After all the auditions were over and they announced the adult women and men and Millikiddies that had been cast, all of us screamed, some, cried and the adults and kids ran around hugging each other. Yes, I hugged Ann Reinking on the first day I was cast in a show that began my amazing career… my professional showbiz career. In that moment, I was becoming a lifelong showbiz colleague and friend of hers. This included many of the people who she befriended, were married to, gave birth to, or performed with from that day forward until her recent death.
At the age of 14, I was accepted to the High School of Performing Arts “FAME” in NYC. My dad, Leopold Kaplan’s law office was on 6th Avenue and 44th Street just a few blocks away from my school and the Broadway Theater District. I loved to type, play the piano, compose, sing, dance, and act, skills I acquired through various classes over many years. The reason I am writing about this is because my dad hired me to type his legal documents whenever he needed me after high school, during summers from 14-30 years old. In 1977 I became a freshman, the same year Ann opened in Chicago as Roxy. After school I would frequently walk to my dad’s office to help in any way I could. One of my favorite jobs was when he would ask me to be a courier to deliver important documents to one of his very famous clients. They were mostly Broadway show and divorce contracts. I always wondered how they often went hand-in- hand. He was often not only a lawyer, but a therapist too. One time my dad came with me to see Ann. She asked us to take a walk in Central Park. She always greeted me with a hug and a smile, offered me a juice or tea, chatted with me for a while and sharing her wisdom about her experiences in showbiz and more. I remember telling her I got engaged and telling her he was also a musician like me.
She read the many different legal documents I brought to her, and either sign it or go to another room and call my dad to discuss any changes needed to be made. There were many times that I would deliver documents and stay for one, maybe two hours for her to sign and then I would bring it back to the law office. One time my dad, Ann and I met at Sardi’s. It was more of a social visit before or after a show. I remember the nights she gave us tickets to see her in Chicago. My friends and I used to go to see Broadway shows at least 2-3 times per week. I saw A Chorus Line fourteen times, and Chicago at least four times.
I decided to move to California this year and reconnected with one of my showbiz friends. We were reminiscing of our four years in HS where many of them started their professional career. Most kids at that age don’t talk about what their fathers did for a living, and I especially didn’t because I didn’t want them asking me to ask my fathers’ clients and my friends in the biz for tickets to their shows or premiers of movies. Ann always gave me great seats. Those were awesome times!! We were invited to many cast parties. It was incredible schmoozing with so many famous people as a teen. 1977 was an amazing time in my life.
My dad died in 2010, but if he were here and it was not for Covid, I would have imagined he would have been invited to her funeral. When a famous person dies, the security detail is stellar. Knowing my dad, he probably would have asked her family if he could bring his daughter. The three of us had a special relationship.
I am sharing these memories because Ann was one-of-a-kind. Those reading this know this, because the impact her thousands of performances on Broadway, Film, TV and more, probably gave you enjoyment to watch her perform. It has for me for almost 50 years. My condolences to her family, friends, show-biz colleagues and to all of us who loved her. Please give my dad Leo a hug and kiss in heaven. I am sure he will negotiate all your deals. Please continue your work up there. Rest in peace my friend.
Written by Elissa Kaplan Senter 12/18/20
Interfaith Wedding Officiant
Elissa Kaplan Senter (left) wife of the late Rabbi David Senter, and Yasmin Alani, wife of the imam of the Islamic Society in Dover, NH, bake bread and talk about peace and understanding in their Jewish and Islamic faiths.