Alice Hirson was born on March 10, 1929 in New York City as Alice C. Thorsell. She is an actress, known for "The Glass House", "Being There" and "Revenge of the Nerds". She is the widow of actor Stephen Elliott see August 2001 whom she met while both were appearing on Broadway in "Traveller Without Luggage" in 1964. She has two sons from her first marriage to writer Roger O. Hirson; David Hirson a playwrite, and Christopher Hirson.
Alice is a character actress best known for playing Ellen DeGeneres' mom on the comedienne's sitcom, "Ellen" from 1994-1998, and was a guest star on Full House (1987) as Danny Tanner's mother. She was the very first character to appear on screen in the first episode of that series see videos below.
Alice has had a long and sustaining career as a Working Actor. She has performed in all mediums from stage, to large and small screen. Her range spans the full gamut from comedy to serious drama.
Her roots are rather auspicious as her launch into the craft was rather immediate but then the realities of sustaining a career suddenly became all to real.
Rather than continue with our traditional bio presentation, we felt it appropriate to present the transcript of her closing remarks before the 1997 graduating class of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts/West held at the Academy Plaza Theater. Ms. Hirson is an alumni of that institution.
Alice's comments were preceded by the principle address given by Tom Poston. Here is the transcript of her June 14, 1997 speech........
quote-leftThank you, I'm a little intimidated by some of the things Tom [Poston] said before. but I'm going to barrel in there anyway. I just want to share with you, really, a story about what happened to me almost directly after my graduation from the Academy a hundred years ago. [Laughter] Mike Thoma (I hope I don't get to sloppy and sentimental here), who was one of my dearest friends and classmates, had already gotten a job at the New Angora Playhouse in Pennsylvania, and it was an Equity theatre. He called me up, all excited, and he said, "Go borrow some money, get the bus and come on up here, because there's an opening for an apprentice here, and you'll get your Equity card by the end of summer". And so I did that. I borrowed some money from my mother and dad again, took the bus to New Angola, arrived there one evening, and the next morning I was put to work right away painting scenery and watching the rehearsals for the opening show, which was to be "For Love Or Money", and it was with real, professional New York actors -- I mean, it was thrilling.
And so, as luck would have it (and I know you're not going to believe this -- you're really not going to believe this), one morning, three days before they were to open, the leading lady did not appear for rehearsals, and there was a note in her dressing room that just said, "i've gone back to New York." [Laughter] And I've always thought that perhaps Mike put something in her tea. [Laughter] But my hero, Mike, my beautiful Mike, went to the producers and the director, and he said, "Now, look, I know she hasn't got experience and I know she's a tad young for the part, but believe me, she can play that part." Well they, I guess, had no choice, and Mike was very persuasive, and also they only had three days. So Mike sat up with me for three days and nights working on those lines, rehearsing with me, and then came the opening night. And I kid you not, I thanked Mr. Jehlinger, Miss Strauss, Mr. Richards, every one of those wonderful people that I've worked with at the Academy, for preparing me for this momentous thing that was happening to me. And I opened, and it was, believe me, magical. I mean, it was everything you ever think it's going to be. It was magical. A star was born -- truly! [Laughter]
And in the audience, unbeknownst to me, was a very big New York agent -- and I know you're not going to believe this either -- Stephen Draper and Olga Lee, who were really big New York agents. And they came backstage and they signed me that night. I finished the season in New Angora, and with my Equity card in my hand I went back to take Broadway by storm. I mean, what was all this talk at the Academy graduation about how hard it was going to be? [Laughter] I mean, it was a cinch. It just, whoosh Just like that! Overnight! Well, I guess that Broadway hadn't really heard about me in New Angola, Pennsylvania. Because I think my next appearance was at F.A.O. Schwartz selling toys, so I could pay the rent. And everything they sent me on I was rejected for. But thank God I had the courage to stick with it. I know that some of you out here will probably, maybe, become stars overnight; it does happen. But for most of us, it's a thing of going through getting jobs, not getting jobs, being rejected. Just please, please -- always -- just please remember: every gift you've been given here at the Academy, keep nurturing it. Like a dancer has to work everyday, you have to work every day. Just keep remembering, working, watching people. Keep reading, doing., Don't sit home feeling sorry for yourself, and don't wait for the phone to ring. Take extra jobs, do what you can. I was lucky enough to get a soap opera which afforded me not only to be able to do theatre as well, but also to raise a family, to be a person, to keep in touch with all of my wonderful friends -- and they are still my friends -- from the Academy. And except for the pride I feel in my sons, I am proudest to be standing here today in front of all of you -- I hope I don't get too sentimental -- but to stand here in front of you and say, "Here I am," today, this old lady who's still working and still intends to work, and doing something that I've always loved doing most. And I wish for you the very same. I wish that you will have all of the good luck that I had, and that you will find the joy that I have had in this very, very tough but very, very wonderful life that we've chosen. God bless you. [Applause and cheers]
please remember: every gift you've been given, keep nurturing it. Like a dancer has to work everyday, you have to work every day. Just keep remembering, working, watching people. Keep reading, doing, Don't sit home feeling sorry for yourself, and don't wait for the phone to ring. Take extra jobs, do what you can.
Additional Voices (voice)
Addict / Agnis / Alexia Vici / ... (voice)
Eileen Riley Siegel
Jenny Jackson / Deceased Jenny Jackson
Old Lady Veinous (voice)
Mrs. Hooter / Judge Rosenstiel
Lisa Helman (1993)
Professor Emerson / Mrs. Foyt / Jane Davis
Mrs. Van Gelder
The Mayor's Wife
Marsha Davis (1970-1972) (original cast)
Stephanie Martin (1969-1970)
Lucy (as Alice Thorsell)
Transcript provided by A. Hirson
* © 2010 - American Broadcasting Co.
** © Photos by Judee Gustafson - Matrix Theater Company