Drum Corps International
Bigger than life: Rita Moreno receives SAG Life Achievement Award

Bigger than life: Rita Moreno receives SAG Life Achievement Award

by Chris Weber


Rita Moreno with Steve Rondinaro during the 1980 DCI World Championships in Birmingham, Ala.
As actor Rita Moreno took the stage this past weekend as the 50th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, one of her more underrated roles as a co-host and color commentator on Drum Corps International's 1980 World Championship telecast may have been overlooked. Moreno is famous for being one of a very small group of actors to win an Oscar, a Grammy, a Golden Globe and a Tony Award, which she did on a range of projects from "West Side Story" to the children's television program "The Electric Company." It was in August of 1980 that she joined the broadcast crew covering the DCI World Championships in Birmingham, Ala., and in the process won over the hearts of drum corps fans and colleagues. "Rita was a total delight," fellow 1980 broadcaster and DCI Hall of Fame member Steve Rondinaro remembers. "Very unassuming with no idea what she was in for. Five hours live under the lights in the stands of Legion Field in Birmingham, in the heat and humidity of August, and she handled it like the trouper she is. My mustache wilted and she never broke a sweat." According to Rondinaro, Moreno had an eye for the drum corps ensembles' choreography and liked the variety of musical styles that they showcased on the football field. She was impressed by the performers' dedication and was quoted in the press before the broadcast aired on PBS stations across the country: "[The drum corps] have enormous pride and precision. I was astonished by their spirit and the amount of hours it takes to get it right."
Rondinaro further reminisced: "We shared a downstairs locker room at the stadium with the judges before the show as a green room. You can imagine some of those guys trying to sneak a discrete peek at Rita. Legendary judge and character Mo Kazazian kept bugging me to introduce him. I quietly asked Rita to play along. I brought Mo over and gave this flowery introduction ending with, '… and he's the oldest man in all of DCI.' Rita took it from there and Mo was speechless!" 82 years young and still active on the stage and screen, perhaps a return trip to the broadcast booth at the DCI World Championships could one day be in the picture for Moreno. "Can you imagine Rita's reaction to what our corps do now contrasted with what she saw 34 years ago?" Rondinaro said. "How cool would it be having her on movie screens with us for the 'Big, Loud and Live' broadcast of the World Championships? I would love to have her back!"

Watch Moreno's acceptance speech from the 20th Annual SAG Awards Jan. 18, 2014

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