“Brooke Shields has had the most extraordinary life, but this candid, intimate, and often strikingly hilarious evening of stories and music unites us all.” This is how the well-known jazz restaurant Café Carlyle, which opened in 1955 in New York, introduces the kick-off performance of its fall season: the debut on its stage of actress and model Brooke Shields, 58. “For the first time ever, she’s telling her story in her own way,” says the iconic venue on its website to announce Previously Owned by Brooke Shields, a monologue co-written by the performer and Broadway musical director Nate Patten. The show opened on September 12 and runs until the 23rd.
On premiere night, the former Calvin Klein model who achieved world fame as a teenager told some wild stories about the world of entertainment that she experienced in the first person, with stars such as Michael Jackson, who was a close friend until the singer’s death in 2009, or Elizabeth Taylor, whose wedding she attended. She also sang songs by Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and George Michael, among others, and broke down in tears when talking about her mother, Teri, who died in 2012 at the age of 79. “She’s been talked about in the press almost more than I have, and you all probably have your opinions about her,” Shields launched. “But those of us who really knew her... we called her Teri Terrific!” she told an audience who paid between $95 and $205 to see her.
Teri, who was her daughter’s manager for years, faced criticism for the way she shaped Shields’ early career, including allowing her to play provocative roles while she was still a child in the 1970s films Pretty Baby. (where at the age of 11 she played a prostitute girl) and The Blue Lagoon (with several nude scenes at the age of 14). In 2018, six years after Tori died following a long illness related to dementia, Shields acknowledged the physical insecurities her mother caused her. “She would get drunk and say to me: ‘Why don’t you move your fat ass?’ So I have always believed I had a fat ass,” the actress confessed to Porter magazine. In 2022, she acknowledged in an interview with EL PAÍS that “it was hard to take care of an alcoholic mother” because she felt responsible for her: “I couldn’t become totally independent of my mother until she died.”
During her performance, however, the author of a book that was on the list of The New York Times bestsellers chooses to reach out to Teri. “On the other hand, there was a lot of laughter and it was a lot of fun. God, my mom was very funny!” she recalled excitedly before launching into Bob Dylan’s Most of the Time.
Each of the show’s nine songs is carefully chosen. Dressed in an orange evening dress, she began the opening show in front of the piano with I Think We’re Alone Now, by Tiffany, to create the halo of intimacy with the public. And she continued with a song created for the occasion called Fame Is Weird, which let her introduce anecdotes about the eccentricities of famous people, such as the time when the iconic Elizabeth Taylor asked her to chew her gum. She also said that singer Wayne Newtown bought her a pony: “Interestingly, Peter Fonda did too,” she continued. And she revealed that comedian Dean Martin used to call her on the phone when she was still in high school, but insisted there was nothing shady behind it: “It was just to talk... It was sweet... [He’d say], ‘Hey girl, how was school? How were the exams?”
Regarding her friend Michael Jackson, she told the audience about his chimpanzee, Bubbles. The artist adopted the primate from a Texas research center in the 1980s and was his pet for years, until in adulthood it became an aggressive animal and was sent to an animal sanctuary in California. Shields also said that, despite having been one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, she has ended up being a “normal person.”
The star-studded crowd that didn’t want to miss Shields’ debut as a Café Carlyle stand-up comedian included actors Laura Dern, Mariska Hargitay and Alan Cumming, as well as newlyweds Billy Crudup and Naomi Watts.
Shields, who also reflects in the monologue on her role as a mother and wife, left the song Faith, by George Michael, for the final touch. But the audience asked for an encore, for which the actress had prepared the song 9 to 5, by Dolly Parton, a criticism of the monotony of work. That does not seem to be the case for Shields, who has shown that she can always reinvent herself.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition