Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Garr works to raise awareness about MS

Actress Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein, Tootsie) is on a mission: "We need to build awareness of multiple sclerosis. I'm coming to Cincinnati to start the process."

She speaks at 6 p.m. Thursdayat the Westin. It's free and open to anyone who wants to enjoy her, uh, odd sense of humor.

"I'm sorry, I hope you didn't hear me curse. I'm on my way to the library, trying to turn left and talking on the phone. I'm multitasking, but badly," she said.

Garr announced she had multiple sclerosis last year, and is now launching her national awareness tour. She kicks it off here because "Ohio is my home state."

Fine. But first let's corner her for a few questions now that she's managed that left turn.

One message I'd like to get across to people with MS:

Is that the diagnosis isn't the end of the world. It's hard to believe that because MS is such a slippery slope, but it's true.

One message I'd like to get across to everyone else:

That if you know anyone with MS, leave them alone. They don't need pity. Just treat us equally.

I didn't disclose my condition earlier because:

I didn't know I had it. I had so many different diagnosis. What I did hide was a growing weakness in my right side, and I did that so I could go on working.

For me, the best moment in "Young Frankenstein" is:

My paycheck. No, really, just finding out I had the job and would get to work with all those incredible people.

The question everyone asks:

My favorite movie. I always surprise them: It's Tootsie or Mr. Mom, because of their focus on roles men and women play.

The one I wish someone would ask:

What size mink coat can I buy you? If not that, I'd like them to ask if being an actress is really so glamorous. It's not. It's hard work and long hours, but also fun.

Jazzy party: It's exactly what Shirley Jester would want: A party, not a funeral. Jester, a pianist and major local music force since the '50s, died of cancer March 8.

So a party is what she gets. It's organized by drummer Norm Ridge, bass player Bob Poe, vocalist Ann Chamberlain and trombone player Eddie Morgan. Mark your calendar: It's a 2-6 p.m. freebie March 30 at Covington's Mike Fink. Cash bar, but the restaurant is donating its space and food.

And don't doubt for a minute that this is a party. They're calling it A Celebration of Shirley's Spirit, and you can be sure of two things:

Music: Bunches of her friends already have committed to play, including Ridge, Poe, Chamberlain and Morgan, plus vocalists Mary Ellen Tanner and Judy James; pianists Wayne Yeager, Lee Stolar and Ed Moss; bassists Lou Lausche and Gene Wilson, horn guys Gordon Brisker and Jim Sherrick, drummers John Von Ohlen and Mike Meloy.

And also look for Shirley stories, like this one: Several years ago, she played at the wedding of Stan Chesley's daughter Lauren. As she was exiting the stage, Count Basie was entering. "Isn't this nice?" she said, "They got Count Basie to play my breaks."

And this one: A few years ago, she and her pal Mary Armor met for happy hour and Armor admired her blouse. A few days later, it arrived at Armor's house.

Armor will wear it March 30.

E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com

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