SO IS SYLVIA MILES A PARTY
GIRL OR WHAT?
Whether playing the "Midnight Cowboy's"
urban cowgirl or the off-screen role of a trashed diva who ceremoniously
dumps a plate of food on a critic's head, Sylvia Miles has always
brought a lot to the party. And I had a ball doing this 1977 interview
with her for The New York Times. --Guy Flatley
"I play a mad-crazed-dead-German-lesbian-ballet dancer,"
confided Sylvia Miles with semi-breathless enthusiasm. The voluptuous,
seldom-silent actress was bubbling about Michael Winners "The
Sentinel," due to open Feb. 11 at the Baronet. It is a slice-of-death
film focusing on a house-full of infuriatingly fleshy ghosts, a
film in which Miss Miles has obviously been cast against type. "I
hope this doesnt start a rash of lesbian roles for me. It
could ruin my reputation as a nymphomaniac.
"I speak with a heavy German accent in the movie," said
Miss Miles, "and one of my most challenging lines is, Its
wather wude to eat and wun. "
Miss Miles does not strenuously object to the label of sex symbol,
nor does she throw a tantrum when flash bulbs pop off in her immediate
vicinity. "Why should I mind? I think its pretty damned
good for someone whos been around for as long as I have, dont
you? I mean, it cant hurt."
Just now, Miss Miles is enjoying a success in the Circle-in-the-Squares
revival of Tennessee Williamss "Night of the Iguana,"
playing Maxine, the lusty proprietress of a rundown resort hotel,
a character whom she describes as "a kind of healthy vulgarian,
a female Stanley Kowalski."
Although the role is more substantial than most of those she has
delineated on screen including the brassy hooker in "Midnight
Cowboy" and the broken-down alcoholic in "Farewell, My
Lovely," each of which won an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting
Actress it still falls under the heading of tarnished woman.
Miss Miles has yet to play a nun or a nurse or a librarian or a
"Its true that my roles are usually brief and that I
have suffered from typecasting because producers are not as imaginative
as they should be. However, I did play a mother in Andy Warhols
Heat (pictured above, at a
pajamaless party with Warhol superstud Joe Dallesandro).
My daughter was a lesbian in that one. There really isnt any
reason why I couldnt play a loving wife; as a matter of fact,
I think Id make a terrific Lady Macbeth. But, lets face
it, we all have a certain kind of physicality. If a producer wants
a size 10, hes not going to hire Orson Welles, and if he wants
someone whos flat-chested, hes not going to hire me."
One roadblock on the highway to superstardom is the penchant of
the press to portray Miss Miles as a perpetual party girl. "The
publicity has grown like a monster, lurking around every corner,
so that Im afraid to go to the grocery store because I know
the man behind the counter is going to say, Sylvia, youre
everywhere! But Ive got to buy groceries, just like
everyone else. Theyre driving me crazy with this party girl
stuff. Look at Tammy Grimes she goes to parties all the time,
yet nobody says a word about that. It hurts to be called a party
girl by some journalist who never heard of Alfred Lunt and Lynn
"I ask you, how could I have survived all these years if I
werent a hardworking girl trying to make a buck at my art?
Ive been working in the theater for 22 years, killing myself.
I did 26 Off Broadway plays before I got that role in Midnight
Cowboy. And Im the one actress who wont give up
New York for the big money of Hollywood.
"On the other hand," Miss Miles concedes, "it has
been said that I make it out to the airport to greet everyone who