Two Friends, Still in Step, Get a Kick Out of the Rockettes

Sheila Sullivan turned 86 this summer, and she had aging on her mind, because she was genuinely curious. What do all those old people you hear about, those poor souls, do with themselves all day? She had no idea.

“I’m much too. …” and there was a pause, like in the theater, “whatever-it-is, to be old,” she once told me.

Sullivan is an actress whose résumé begins in the Atomic Age and traces the history of late-20th century Hollywood and all its ups and downs like a line on a healthy EKG scan. A couple of Tuesdays ago, she stepped out in style with Tina Dupuy, a writer and her former neighbor who has been a close friend for 10 years. They arrived at Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. It was, remarkably for Sullivan, who has seen everything, her first time.

“I wanted to be one!” she recalled recently. She showed up one day in the 1960s for Rockette auditions. “I’m about this much too short,” she said, her hands stacked as if describing a tall sandwich. “When I wasn’t in the show, I didn’t see a reason to see it.”

For whatever reason, West 50th Street was closed to traffic, so the two friends did a little dance in middle of the street, Sullivan clad head to toe in a leopard-print hat and coat.

“It caused a riot inside,” Dupuy said. “Women just stopping her to tell her she’s gorgeous.”

Sullivan thought the show was wonderful. “I’m not upset that I’m not the star of something,” she said. “Much.”

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