Why the West Side (Pandemic Edition): Brenda Vacarro

West Side Rag’s longtime interview series “Why the West Side” is back for a special pandemic edition. This week we talked to Broadway and film star Brenda Vacarro.

By Eileen Katz

Born in Brooklyn but bound for Broadway, Brenda Vacarro made her mark with her signature husky voice and electric energy. Brenda quickly became a familiar face on TV and in feature films too. Her performances in “Midnight Cowboy”, “The Odd Couple” and “Once Is Not Enough” have made her a fan favorite and an Upper West Sider we are happy to call our own!

West Side Rag: How have you been holding up Brenda?

Brenda Vacarro: “I’m very lucky that I’m feeling good and just thinking of and sending my best to everyone out there through this awfulness. I am so very glad to be here in New York though and I love, love, love living here on the Upper West Side. Did you know that I found out I got one of my biggest Broadway roles in the elevator of the apartment building I lived in on West 72nd Street?”

WSR: No! I didn’t know that!

BV: “Absolutely! It was for “Cactus Flower” and it was such a wonderful experience…the first of many for me here in New York. I had been living in LA but can’t stand the place and am just so thrilled every day to be back living here.”

WSR: Have you been cooking a lot or ordering in from the neighborhood?

BV: “Well, let’s say I’ve been really trying to do my part to support the neighborhood restaurants because I love them all so much. Why, even on St. Patricks Day we ordered from The Emerald Inn to try for an authentic Irish experience. And I adore Porterhouse and Fiorello and we just discovered Zuckers delivers – incredible bagels! I do miss being able to go out to them, and so many have had to close, hopefully temporarily like Café Luxembourg, which I also adore…promise we can have lunch there when this is all over?”

WSR: I’m in!

BV: “And of course Tom Valenti’s place, Oxbow Tavern…so many great places…and then there are the shops which I miss too. Charlie is my guy at Harry’s Shoes….that man knows my feet like no one else. And The Town Shoppe…”

WSR: Have you heard they are available for “Bra Emergencies?”

BV: “I hadn’t but that’s really good to know cause I usually need at least 3 girls in the fitting room with me to get the job done, if you know what I mean. I’ll leave them to their quarantining, but that is peace of mind! I miss being able to take my pets to City Vet and then for a treat at the Pet Market a few doors down on 72nd Street and the Windsor Pharmacy is great too.”

WSR: What has helped lift your spirits through this?

BV: “I’m so lucky to live close to Central Park which is just such a gift and amazing to be able to just have a walk around. There’s also my English tea for breakfast and my Sleepy Time tea before bed. And of course, my friends, family…connecting as you can.”

WSR: Have you discovered anything in your apartment you didn’t realize was there before?

BV: “Oh my goodness Yes!!! MOTHS!!! I don’t know where they came from, how they got here but we’re battling to get rid of them, the nasty things.”

WSR: It seems most folks are spending their days in sweatpants and t-shirts…what’s the fanciest thing you’ve put on recently, if anything?

BV: “I will say, one of the only good things from my time in LA was finding this place where I got the MOST incredible mumu’s. They’re flowing and pretty but outrageously comfortable. One of those and a pair of long earrings! And bare feet, thank you.”

WSR: Have you been watching anything good with this extra time?

BV: “For sure! We just watched Steve McQueen’s “Sand Pebbles” which never disappoints, “Midnight Express”, “Marcella” (love!) on Netflix, “Mississippi Burning” oh and “French Connection” also!”

WSR: Great choices! Ok now here’s the big question: who’s your celeb crush that you most want to be quarantined with?

BV: “Oh, well…. I’d have to say Colin Farrell for sure….Can I get two? Because I want Ralph Fiennes too!!! What is it with those accents?”

WSR: I don’t know but they’re pretty great!

BV: “Right?? I can’t help myself!!!! So those two and I won’t ask for a third…yet.”

WSR: Excellent choices Brenda! Many thanks for your time…

BV: “Please let everyone know to be safe and my wishes for all the best.”

Read other columns in this series here.

NEWS | 11 comments | permalink
    1. Always love Brenda Vacarro in her many roles.

      Agree. Miss Oxbow Tavern the most!!

    2. Ellie says:

      Thank you for sharing your interview with Brenda.
      It put a smile on my face and ,we certainly can all use one now.

    3. Sandy says:

      Last year shopping at Zara’s in Broadway n 67th Street. Was like at some tops n bell bottoms. Starting to talk to this nice lady also in the area. Finally, realized the voice n said, I know who you are. She replied Brenda Vaccaro. I asked where you be? I am in Netflick. Had a nice chat with such a great person.

    4. Janet says:

      I have always loved Brenda Vacarro…just a wonderful actress! Maybe one day I will have the honor of running into her on the Upper West Side.

    5. Susan says:

      Lovely interview. Helps us feel connected to an actual human being out there and, in particular, To a delightful upper westsider – an actress whose work I’ve always enjoyed.

    6. Joyce says:

      Love Brenda! Thanks for the interview. Love that mumu and earring idea. Thanks for making me smile.

    7. Kate McAleer says:

      A former New Yorker turned me on to this paper through an article in NY Magazine. Now I’m here and happy. This talk with Brenda Vaccaro was a delight!! PS: the friend who turned me on to this paper, ironically worked with VC on a Neil Simon show ( I guess it was “Jake’s Women”!! ) Great interview!!

    8. Julie Tynion says:

      LOVE HER!!! So glad she lives in our neighborhood. 🙂 I wish we’d seen more of her as Joey’s mom on “Friends”!

    9. I love Brenda Vaccaro always did. She is a real person..I never cared for Michael Douglas, I was so happy she dumped him…Stay healthy Brenda!!!

    10. DR. LOIS LAZARUS says:

      hope great apparently she lives in the dakota…

      i often wondered where this terrific actress was … and thank u for this terrific interview – although missing: married … widowed/ gay/ pets . gained weight…wigs /children…

      stay well neighbor….

    11. Brenda…if the moths are the large variety,
      you should be able to deal with it.
      If they are the little brown ones – impossible
      without professional help.
      I had these critters a few years ago and, on my ! A nightmare…!!!
      My email is below. Happy to share what I know if you need it. (am a writer – not an exterminator!!! LOL)