“WE THINK you’re a little drunk, ma’am.”
“So, what are you – the sobriety police?”
That’s how it went between Chris Meloni and Ann-Margret in the opening scene of the “Law & Order: SVU” episode that has garnered an Emmy nomination for the famous flame-haired actress/singer/dancer.
This is not A-M’s first Emmy nomination of course. She has been up for the award six times – for her striking performances in TV films such as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles,” “Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story” and “Who Will Love My Children?” Ann-Margret admits winning an Emmy would be “lovely.” (She has also twice been Oscar-nominated for “Carnal Knowledge” and for “Tommy.”)
But she would be the first to tell you that much, much better than winning an Emmy, was the tribute paid to her from the podium by Barbara Stanwyck back in 1983. Stanwyck took the Emmy for “The Thorn Birds.” She made a short gracious speech and then remarked on A-M’s performance in “Who Will Love My Children” – “Ann-Margret, you were superb!” In the audience, A-M dissolved into tears. And she still becomes moist-eyed at the memory.
I SAT with Ann-Margret for about 15 minutes in the green room backstage at ABC’s “Regis and Kelly.” She had only a brief amount of time because within hours she was to set sail on the QE2 for a cruise to England, with her hubby of 43 years, Roger Smith. “We got tired of skiing,” she said. “This seemed fun but a little less strenuous.”
First of all – because I know you want to know – she looks amazing. Still a beauty and still unmistakably recognizable as Ann-Margret. If she has ever had “work” (aside from her face being reconstructed after that horrific fall in Las Vegas many years ago), it has been deliciously discreet. She is voluptuously encased in a purple pants outfit. But no cleavage. The private Ann-Margret doesn’t feel the need to expose the public image.
As always, she is remarkably affectionate, considerate and so soft-spoken, that even sitting next to her on a small couch one must lean in close. So close, I get a whiff of a delicious fragrance and compliment her. “Oh,” says wistfully, “it was my mother’s favorite perfume. It’s called …” but she speaks so quietly, all I get is an indistinct sound – it sounds like “Adjdere.” (Perhaps it is Eau Du Sud by Annick Goutal?) Her mother’s death several years ago still upsets her.
SO WHAT was it like working with Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay? “They were so sensitive, the both of them. So considerate. They were ‘right there’ for me. Honestly, they are two of the most generous actors I have ever worked with.” (I can’t imagine anybody not being generous to Ann-Margret, but in Hollywood, remembering her sometimes painful experiences as a young star, I suppose anything is possible.)
She also says, “When the producers approached me about doing the show, they said, ‘We read this, and we knew it was for you!’ So I took it and read it, and I loved it, but then I thought, ‘Hey wait a minute, they knew it was for me? A blousy, beat-up, drug-addict, alcoholic? Hmm!’”
I ASK her how it is that so little is known about her. She smiles slyly. “Because that’s the way I want it. That’s the way I’ve always been. Maybe I’m a little bit of a loner, but it is my work that has been important to me, not” – and she waves her hand above her head – “all that. And I’m not putting down anybody who derives some pleasure and satisfaction from it, it’s just never been for me.”