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Ruth Page No. 06 [March 18, 1985]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0548
Run Time
0h 14m 7s
Date Produced
March 18 1985
Q: So you and Tom were married, and you went off on your honeymoon. Where'd you go?
A: We went to Monte Carlo.
Q: Yes. And while you were in Monte Carlo . . . .
A: Oh, yes, That's right. While I was in Monte Carlo, I had a wire from Buenos Aires, from the Colon Opera, inviting me to come there to do Coq d'Or . . . . And Coq d'Or is the only ballet that I ever wanted to do that I didn't choreograph. I was dying to do it. And I always said I'd go to the ends of the world to do it. So, I told Tom. I said, "I'm going to Buenos Aires." He said, "All right." So he went home alone from his honeymoon. And he sent Mother over. He thought I was too young to be going around alone, so Mother came over. And I went to Buenos Aires and I did the Coq d'Or. I came back to Chicago for one day, and then I went to Buenos Aires and did Coq d'Or, and then I came home. That was my honeymoon.
Q: And when you came home, Tom wasn't angry or upset?
A: No. He was thrilled to see me!
Q: You said everybody was saying . . . .
A: Oh, I know everybody said, "That marriage will never work -- she left him on his honeymoon." And it lasted until he died, of course.
Q: Until 1969.
A: Yes.
Q: It's a long time.
A: Yes, it is. It was a long marriage.
Q: So, what made it work?
A: Well, he was so marvelous. That's what made it work. And, I guess, he loved me, I think, very much. So it just went fine.
Q: He liked you, too.
A: Yes. That's important . . . . You have to like somebody as well as love them. I think liking is more important than loving, don't you?
Q: Yes, I do.
A: You have to like somebody, and we always liked each other and loved each other, too. I have all my letters to him and all his letters to me. They're very "lovey-dovey."
Q: You wrote often when you were separated?
A: Well, yes, of course. People don't write letters anymore. It's a dead art.
Q: Well, that's right. It certainly is.
A: Nobody writes letters anymore. You telephone.
Q: It's a shame, I think.
A: Yes.
Q: Because a letter forces you to think about what it is you really have to say.
A: Andy Wentink is trying to get together a book of all my letters, the letters that I've received, and I must say, they're fascinating. I read some and they're terribly, terribly interesting.
Q: When did you find the time, Ruth, to write so many letters and to write in your diaries and to write reminiscences?
A: I didn't write diaries then, at all. I just wrote letters. I don't write anything in my diaries. It takes ten seconds a day. Just that. I don't write anything except factual things.
Q: Well, then, there are other things that you've written -- reminiscences, other things.
A: Oh, yes. I always write. I found something the other day. There's a stack this big. It would make a wonderful book. I read them. They sounded awfully interesting. I just wrote them when I felt like it, you know. And Sheila [Malkind] handed them to me the other day. I said, "What is that, Sheila?" She said, "Those are all the things that you've written in the last two years." So, I said, "Can I read them?" And she said, "Yes. Take them." So I did. They'd make a marvelous book, a sequel to Page by Page. They're awfully interesting, if I do say so myself.
Q: What were they about, the things you said?
A: Anything. Everything. Different things. They don't follow any [pattern]. I never did write an autobiography. Never. These are just the things that happened to me, that interested me.
Q: Your writing is almost like a stream of consciousness flow, sometimes. It's subjects that you think, it's reminiscences, and then when you think about them, things sort of flow.
A: Yes.
Q: It's a very good, natural kind of writing.
A: It's very natural. Yes.
Q: You never wanted to be a writer?
A: No. I'm not a writer at all. They're kind of interesting because the subject matter is interesting. But I'm not a writer, a professional writer, at all. I never learned to write. Well, as you know, I never went to school, so I never learned to write.
Q: It doesn't seem to me, though, despite the lack of a great deal of formal schooling, university education . . . that you've ever missed it very much. It seems as though you've educated yourself.
A: Well, I do miss it, because I don't know anything about history. When I talk to my husband, who's really educated, he knows everything, and I have to ask him when I want to know what Napoleon did at such and such a time, where he did battles and so on. And André can always tell me.
Q: But other than that, you haven't really missed it much. I mean, I don't think you've ever felt at a disadvantage in the world.
A: Oh, maybe not. I don't know. I think I'd have done better if I had been educated.
Q: How? What would you have done better?
A: Well, lots of things. I don't know. I'd do the slide lectures better, probably.
Q: I don't know. It's always easy to say. It strikes me that you're a woman of few regrets. Am I right?
A: Oh, I don't know. I regret not doing a lot of things. Yes . . . Hassard Short said if I would come and live in New York, I could do all his shows. And I should have gone. But I didn't. Then Tom would have had to come.
Q: Tell me about that, now. About Tom. You always kept thinking that Tom was going to be willing to move to New York . . . .
A: He wasn't. I knew he didn't want to move to New York. And while I'd have liked to have done all of Hassard Short's shows -- he was a marvelous person; he believed in me, thought I was good -- but he died soon after [sic]. So, maybe it's just as well I didn't go. It worked out. It was my fate.
Q: So, there you were, after you and Tom were married, once you came back from Buenos Aires, and you were back in Chicago, living with Tom's father in his house. Tom was developing his law practice. I mean, what was . . . .
A: He was always practicing law. He left this firm -- he was with his father's firm -- and started on his own. So, of course, he had to get clients, and he had to work up a business, which he did.
Q: Sounds as though Tom was a rather independent person, too.
A: Very. Yes. Oh, very.
Q: Do you think that was the main thing that drew you to each other?
A: No. He didn't want to work in his father's firm because the other partner had his two sons in the firm and they were always favoring them, and he didn't want to be favored. So, he got out of the firm. He didn't want to be favored at all. He wanted to do it all himself.
Q: Like you.
A: Yes. I guess so.
Q: So during the period when you were here and dancing here, did you feel frustrated because you weren't in New York?
A: Well, I always wanted to be in New York. I still do! I've gotten used to Chicago now, but I think New York is a much better place to live for a dancer.
Q: I think that's true.
A: Oh, there's no comparison.
Q: What is it about New York that you like so much?
A: Well, all the action's there. And here, you're hometown talent.
Q: Isn't that the truth. Don't you think that hometown talent is just, you know, it's one of those things: that a prophet in his own country just never really is fully appreciated?
A: Absolutely . . . , I always tell everybody they'd better go to New York if they want to have a career.
Q: Yet you managed to.
A: Well, sort of. But I'd have had a ten times better career if I'd lived in New York.
Q: You think so?
A: Yes, I know.
Q: How would it have been different, Ruth?
A: Oh, well, I would have done a lot more.
Q: Seems like you crammed an awful lot into what you've done.
A: See, I never really could get a company, have a company here. I think I could have in New York.
Q: Yes. And there is more action there . . . . It's just, that's a big part of the action that's very exciting.
A: Yes. You're appreciated more there for what you do.
Q: Do you think it's true that in New York they take dance more seriously than they do any place else in the country?
A: Well, I think they know more about it. There's more competition there and they know more about it.
Q: And there's a more discerning audience; there's a more discerning press; there's a larger audience.
A: Yes. Well, I was with the Lyric Opera 18 years here, but they wouldn't let me do ballets. I just did all the opera ballets, which I enjoyed doing, but it would have been better if I could have done [ballets]. I did The Merry Widow for the first year with them. And that was such a big success. And I don't think they liked that it was a big success. I think they were jealous that a ballet could be so successful. So, I never was allowed to do another. And that ballet is going strongly. They do it every place now.
Q: I know.
A: It got a Peabody Award.
Q: Yes. And it deserved it. It was a beautiful, beautiful show. It's a beautiful ballet. It's true most of the years while you were here -- the next time we'll talk about that -- choreographing ballets for the Opera -- those were all the years I was going to the Lyric, and so I saw almost everything, well, I saw everything. I was a subscriber, so I saw everything that you did. And some of the ballet was marvelous, but there was never a whole [ballet]. I suppose Carmina Burana is the closest thing.
A: Yes. Carmina Burana has a lot of dancing in it. And then I did it later just as a ballet. I have it now just as a ballet. But that was good. I enjoyed doing that with them just as an opera because there was so much dancing in it.
Q: But it was the only thing that I think that gave you a real opportunity to do that kind of [thing].
A: That's right.
Q: There wasn't much in opera. Sort of the standard ballet that they write in, and it's difficult to do very much with it. But I know . . . . And next time I want you to talk about how much you and I are fellow opera lovers. I never realized you were an opera fan.
A: Oh, I love opera. I always go to all of them.
Q: That's another thing they have more of in New York -- more opera.
A: Oh, yes. They have it all the year round there. Here we just have a very short season. We usually do six operas a year. Or eight.
Q: Right. Eight sometimes. I think we don't do any beyond that. And you were in at the very beginning of that, when they started the Lyric. Carol Fox and . . . .
A: Yes. I was in it for 18 [sic] years.
Q: And it was really quite a good base for you, Ruth. Was it or wasn't it?
A: Well, yes. It paid my dancers. See, we had the Opera, then we had The Nutcracker, and then after The Nutcracker -- The Nutcracker gave us a lot of money; so did the Opera. And then after that, we had Kurt Weinhold in New York, who took us on tour. So, I didn't need any money at all, because I got paid for everything. Got paid by the Opera, got paid by The Nutcracker, and got paid by the tours from New York, from Kurt Weinhold . . . . [He] was the main one who took us on tour. In the summer we didn't do anything. One summer we were taken to Kansas City to do something or other, which was kind of fun, but we didn't work in the summer.
Q: No. So it was good. It was a good thing.
A: It was enough work to keep the company together for almost the whole year without asking for any money. I never asked anybody for a penny.
Q: And in Chicago, that is no mean feat. I mean it is something to have done it.
A: Yes, it was.
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)