I am not bold, lewd or crude,” huffs Anita Morris, whose bawdy A Call From the Vatican number is the eye-popping show-stopper in Tommy Tune’s smash musical “Nine.” “I am not sultry. I don’t know what I am.”
What she is not, at least according to CBS censors, is ready for prime time. The network pulled Anita’s saucy spot—performed in a see-through lace costume—from last June’s Tony Awards broadcast. After catching her act on Broadway, network execs had issued a list of required changes to keep it on the air: a different costume (“I guess it’s that I wear no bra”), no touching of her own body (Morris squeezes her breasts during the number), and no clawing the floor (“That’s when I sing ‘You’re gonna steam and scream’ “). In brief, no Anita Morris.
Doing her thing before a TV audience of an estimated 23 million for the Tony Awards would have been the “thrill of a lifetime” for Morris, who stopped giving out her age at 25. “At least I would have been interesting. The numbers they did were the most boring I’ve seen.”
Still, life for “Nine” ‘s perfect 10 is hotting up. She’s mulling numerous film and stage offers, but one spin-off’s a turnoff: Morris has been approached by Playboy to do a picture spread. “I see no reason whatsoevvuh,” drawls the Durham, N.C. native, “to do nude layouts.” Meanwhile she has signed up for “Nine”through the year and amuses herself with fan mail ranging from lustful admiration to hellfire chastisement.
The gymnastics-trained daughter of a chiropractor, she recalls sporting a bust and whistle-winning wiggle by sixth grade, and an A average by high school. Having sung, danced and acted through all local productions by graduation time, she recalls being a “very naive” 17-year-old trying to cut it in New York as a rock singer: “I just couldn’t handle people coming on to me with motives other than music.”
Once Morris turned to legitimate theater, she moved through hits like Jesus Christ Superstar and Sugar Babies. Prestidigitator Doug Henning used her limber contortions to saw her in half in The Magic Show, and her come-hither good looks won her the Miss Mona part in Best Little Whorehouse on Broadway. That led to her role as the mistress in “Nine.”
Anita, her husband of nine years, Broadway director-choreographer Grover Dale, and their son, Badge, 4, share a duplex garden apartment in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. Morris watches what she eats, but does little extra to keep her spectacular shape. “I just let my motor run inside me,” she says, “and what comes out, comes out.”