Sunday, June 21, 2009 | 10:18 p.m.
Broadway star Patti LuPone hadn't even finished lowering her arms in the iconic introduction to the song "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," when she waved to her 10-man orchestra to stop the music. LuPone was already at the lip of the stage, chewing out some doofus in the third row, who was brave and foolish enough to be caught using an electronic gizmo during her show at the Orleans showroom.
"What were you doing?" LuPone demanded of her captive. "I promise not to be mad at you. Just tell me, what were you doing -- videoing? Taking photos? Texting? I really want to know."
No answer -- who would be brave/fool enough to then sass back at the woman who so ferociously played such maneaters as Eva Peron, Norma Desmond, Mama Rose and Mrs. Lovett?
Eyes blazing, LuPone stalked the stage and went on a bit further about the rudeness to herself and to the rest of the audience, threatening the offender that she'd have him or her tossed out if it happened again. The crowd applauded with loud approval, and the bond between performer and audience seemed even stronger as LuPone picked up the "Evita" number again from the beginning, working through a bravura suite of songs from "Anything Goes," "Oliver!" and her recent revival of "Gypsy."
LuPone, who has starred in movies and TV as well as the stage, became an Internet sensation earlier this year when she stopped the show during her penultimate performance as Mama Rose in the Broadway revival of “Gypsy” and freaked out at some jerk who was taking flash photos during her big song. LuPone’s tirade was seen by hundreds of thousands on YouTube, and was applauded by many of her fellow performers, who suffer such indignities daily, but may not have LuPone's, um, guts.
Sitting near me in the capacity crowd was freelance journalist and blogger Steve Friess, who was itching to post about the eruption to his Twitter feed. "I want to text right now so bad it's killing me!" he whispered, laughing. Friess quickly jammed out a blog post and a tweet, apparently while waiting for the valet to retrieve his car.
When she returned for her encore, LuPone winked at the event and her reputation as the Terminator of poorly-behaved audience members. While she sang "The Way You Look Tonight," she was snapping photos -- with a flash! -- using a disposable camera. The crowd waved and cheered and posed.
It's beyond cliche to close with "My Way" in Vegas, but LuPone dared it, and walked away triumphant. But then, she does every song her way.