ELLEN ALBERTINI DOW HADN’T sung in public since the Truman Administration, so she understandably wondered if the weekly voice class she had been taking for three years would lead to work. “I said to my teacher, ‘When will an old woman ever get to sing?’ Now he’s laughing.”
So are movie audiences. Dow’s frisky cover of Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” is a wacky party favor from the movie The Wedding Singer and a boon for the 79-year-old actress, who spent 32 years teaching dance and mime at Los Angeles area colleges. “She [can have] a career with us anytime,” says Sugarhill member Joey Robinson, who adds that a video with Dow is possible. “God bless her.”
Dow’s long detour to her snappy cameo began in Mount Carmel, Pa., where—the youngest of seven children—she took dance and piano lessons. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cornell, Dow spent a decade in New York City studying and performing everywhere from art galleries to Yiddish theaters. During a 1949 play rehearsal she met Eugene Dow, a World War II veteran and musician. “I loved the way he played piano,” she remembers. “I knew right away he was the one.” They married in 1951 and headed to L.A. for teaching jobs.
Since leaving the classroom in 1985, Dow has smoked pot on ER and killed a sibling on Murder One. This summer she’ll appear as a coke-snorting disco diva in 54. But her favorite role is real-life wife. “[Eugene’s] cried more about The Wedding Singer because he’s so happy for me,” she says. “How can you not love somebody like that?”