A person has "made it" when they're known by their first name alone: Oprah, Ella, Angelina, Barack.
Once upon a time in America, the names Tallulah and Rhoda were one-name legends. Tallulah was the real-life stage, screen and radio actress Tallulah Bankhead. Rhoda was the spunky TV character Valerie Harper played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff, Rhoda.
Now, Tallulah and Rhoda have become one — in a way. Harper plays Bankhead in the comedy Looped, set in a Hollywood studio where the actress spends a long, drunken afternoon trying to rerecord one really awful line of dialogue from her final film. The play has been staged in California and in Washington, D.C., and there's talk it may go to Broadway as early as fall 2009.
Harper tells NPR that she's a Bankhead fan — as much for her wit as for her grit. She always had a pocket full of punch lines to go with her addictions to alcohol and drugs.
"She fought with her demons all her life," Harper says, "but came out victorious."
Harper talks to NPR about being Rhoda, becoming Tallulah and using her own obsessions to understand her character's. You can listen to the complete broadcast story — where you'll hear some of those classic Tallulah one-liners — by clicking the big red Listen button above.