Advice for the lovelorn

Advice columnist Ann Landers once described herself as a porcupine. However, actress Gretchen Rumbaugh, glows with wit, warmth, and compassion as she shares America's saucy secrets in "The Lady with All the Answers", a one-woman comedy by David Rambo, now playing at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.

"With fires of creativity blazing," Ann is up all night, "like an old streetwalker." It is 1975, and Ann is writing the most difficult column of her career, an announcement of her own personal failing, "A date that will live in intimacy."

As she jazzercises, gorges on chocolate, and struggles with the newspaper's deadline, Ann invites opinions from "her readers" &

the audience.

The opening night audience was delighted to weigh-in on such burning issues as the appropriate way to hang a roll of toilet paper. The men were even more eager to vote on whether the toilet seat should be left up or down. Thankfully, according to Ann, "that's non-negotiable."

"My mailman has a hernia," she quips; as she surveys stacks of mail surrounding her elegant Chicago penthouse, she lets us in on her life and career. "I'm Eppie Lederer; the column is Ann Landers."

In the 1950s Eppie Lederer popped off to Washington D.C., fired up by the injustice dealt by the House Un-American Activities Committee "destroying good peoples' lives" and a Senator from her state, Joe McCarthy, who was "off the deep end" and who had "got to be stopped."

Open, friendly, and uninhibited, Eppie made influential friends; and she kept in touch. Then, armed with chutzpa and her Rolodex, she landed the coveted nationally syndicated Ann Landers newspaper column, advice to the lovelorn. When she didn't know answers to important questions, she consulted her friends, the experts.

"I used to think every bride should be a virgin, but since the advent of the pill, that battle's a loser," Ann Landers dictated moral decency in the midst of the 1960's sexual revolution, a time when morality was constantly reinventing itself. What resulted was a liberal column, with bizarre questions, answered with respect, crack-up humor, and decorum dispensed on a sliding scale.

Parading in pink silk pajamas and emboldened by chocolates, bubble bath, and Chanel

5, Ann explains how she demonstrated, on a TV talk show, the meaning of "Deep Throat," the title of the Linda Lovelace movie.

She gives a wink and a nod to "kinky" sex, "between two adults, as long as there's mutual consent and no inflicting of severe pain. the way, that's two adult humans."

Ann swears that, if anyone had told her when she began that she would give advice on sexual bondage, incest, abortion, etc., she'd have said they were, "two pickles shy of a turkey sandwich." Ann's commentaries are hilarious as the tale wends its way to a sentimental but resolute end.

During the Vietnam War, troubled by the loss of 55,000 young American soldiers, Eppie Lederer told President Lyndon Johnson, "You've got to get us out of this war." He replied, "I know, Eppie, I know. But how do I do it?" She answered, "How? Call it quits, get the hell out of there."

"A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself," Arthur Miller said. Ann Landers would echo that sentiment easily.

Deftly directed by Terri McMahon, with a luxurious set by Craig Hudson, and eclectic costumes created by Kerri Lea Robbins, "The Lady with All the Answers" plays through March 2. For tickets and information call the theater box office at 488-2902.

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