Joel Grey’s new passion really clicks 

From 1951’s "Borscht Capades" to the new millennium juggernaut of "Wicked," there has not been a decade that didn’t see Joel Grey on Broadway.

The same can be said of screens both large and small. On Thursday, Grey shares his experiences in conversation with Steven Winn at the Herbst Theatre, jointly presented by City Arts & Lectures and Bay Area Cabaret.

One of only eight performers to receive both a Tony and an Oscar for creating stage and film incarnations of the same role, Grey is most famously known as the harlequin-faced Emcee of "Cabaret." Son of vaudevillian Mickey Katz, Grey’s body of work also encompasses recordings and, in the past decade, photography.

"It’s overwhelming!" is how Grey describes his history with San Francisco. "I think I’ve played there more than any city other than New York — from the early ’60s at the Palace Hotel through tours of so many shows, a concert with Liza [Minnelli] at the Warfield, one with Beverly Sills at the Opera House and about a dozen or so dates at the Venetian Room. All of it fit for publication!" he adds, with a laugh.

Grey’s looking forward to the less-structured experience of an onstage interview.

"I like to make an intimate connection with an audience where they can ask questions," he says.

No doubt some of the questions will touch on the least-known, until recently, facet of his talents.

It was a casual encounter with Sam Shahid, the photographer behind the sexy campaigns for Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch, that set the wheels in motion for what would become "Pictures I Had to Take," the first collection of Grey’s photographs that was published in 2003.

"I’m having such a great time with it," he says. "It’s something that happened in a sort of accidental way — at least in terms of the recognition. I’ve been taking pictures all my life and I saved most of them. In the ’70s, I got a real camera, a Nikon Nikkormat, which was very heavy and I schlepped it all over the world."

Last year, Grey published "1.3: Images From My Phone," the initially accidental result of wanting to capture an image without a real camera in hand.

"I’d always had so much disdain for people who took photographs with their phones. Corny, right?" he says. "I found there was something very mysterious with what this humble, very basic device could do."

"It’s crazy," he says of this new role, "almost like I’m watching it happen to someone else. But it is such a joy!"


Joel Grey

Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $25 to $100

Contact: (415) 392-4400,

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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