ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The late Ruth Gordon gave Kaye Ballard the best stage advice she ever received.
“She said, ‘Kaye, you’re in a bomb, and there’s nothing you can do about it,’ ” Ballard said in a telephone interview from Rancho Mirage, Calif. ” ‘Just go to opening night and have fun.’ It took the pressure off.”
The Broadway and TV star is coming to the Albuquerque Little Theatre on Sunday, July 29, to screen her biopic “Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On …” The actress will take post-film questions for a benefit to renovate the theater’s bathrooms.
The star of “Carnival,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Gypsy,” “Funny Girl,” “Nunsense” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” mused about her 70-plus years in show business.
Although Ballard can’t remember the name of the play Gordon was warning her about, she does remember the costume designer.
“It was Andy Warhol,” she said. “He had us all in Dr. Dentons.”
Later she visited the pop artist at home.
“I went to his apartment, and it was all Reynolds Wrap,” she said. “I said, ‘What is this?’ and he said, ‘It’s a happening.’
“I find eccentric people very interesting.”
Now 93 and retired, Ballard says she worked with everyone she ever admired, from Marlon Brando to Bette Davis.
“I got to know Bette Davis very well,” she said. “She was cantankerous and positive and wonderful. If you said, ‘We’ll go out at 4,’ she’d say ‘5.’
She also worked with Bert Lahr and Ray Bolger, Imogene Coca and Jerry Lewis.
From 1967 to 1969 Ballard starred in “The Mothers-in-Law” with Eve Arden. She was a guest star on “The Patty Duke Show,” “The Match Game,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Muppet Show,” “The Tonight Show” and a regular on “The Doris Day Show.”
“I did TV when TV was brand-new,” she said.
The film also touches on the hard times.
The great theater impresario Hal Prince virtually banned Ballard from Broadway.
“One person can make a remark that can change your whole life,” she said. “Hal Prince, who is the most powerful man in New York, accused me of something I would never, ever do. He accused me of having him fired. He apologized later.
“I was so insecure about everything. I introduced him to Kander and Ebb (the songwriting team of ‘Cabaret’ and ‘Chicago,’ among others).”
Ballard coped by flying to London, where she acted in two command performances for then-Princess Elizabeth.
“The next year, she became queen,” she said. “I was so young and stupid, I just went on with my life.
“I didn’t win awards, but I’ve had a wonderful life.”
The Albuquerque date marks Ballard’s third stop at the theater.
“Kim Stanley worked there, and my darling Vivian Vance, and that’s such a cute theater,” she said. “It deserves to live on and on.
“I love Albuquerque. The people are very hip there compared to the people in Santa Fe.”