Arts » Other Arts

Living life, one Paige at a time

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Can you remember what you were doing at age three? Janis Paige can.

“We had an old wind-up Victrola and I knew how to work it. I remember singing ‘My Blue Heaven’ over and over to no one in particular. I can still sing it today,” she says.

Today is 85 years later and Paige is sharing reminiscences of her long career in story and song for two appearances at the Rrazz Room on Sunday and Monday.

It won’t spoil any surprises to tell that after high school, Donna Mae Tjaden made the trek down the coast from Tacoma to Los Angeles and sang at the Hollywood Canteen where she was discovered by Warner Bros. and christened Janis Paige.

The actress is best known for portraying sassy, brassy dames, most notably originating the role of Babe in the Tony-winning musical “Damn Yankees” on Broadway.

She’s also scored success on television and in a range of musicals and comedies including the musical “Silk Stockings” opposite Fred Astaire, and a long stretch of summer stock.

“Thank God for stock,” she says. “Much as you might like to, no one can get every new part that comes along. So summer stock gave you a chance to try out lots of different kinds of roles.”

While the thought of doing intimate cabaret is new to her, playing the cocktail circuit is not. “I started working in nightclubs in 1950. We had big places like The Latin Quarter and major hotel chains. You’d start working your way across one side of the country and back the other. It was a lot of travel, but it was a career.”

Part of the travel brought her to San Francisco, where she met and married nightclub owner Frank Martinelli, who ran the Bal Tabarin at the location that is now Bimbo’s 365.

“It was one of the top nightclubs in the world, on a par with the Lido in Paris,” says Paige. “Tony Martin was discovered there and I got to know Sophie Tucker from seeing her there.”

Paige feels blessed by the diversity of her career and even the hard knocks like being let go from her long-term film contract.

“I’m still here and I’m enjoying it more. I’ve been through a lot of therapy and I’ve made the inner journey to know myself really well,” she says.

“Today when I tell my story I do it so that my experiences and what I’ve learned go out to new people. So that when I’m not here any more,” she says with a laugh, “I’ll have left something more than just a few movies on Turner Classics!”


IF YOU GO

Janis Paige

Where: Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Monday 

Tickets: $35 to $45

Contact: (866) 468-3399, www.therrazzroom.com