Dr. Ruth gets real during Pittsfield visit

Saturday June 30, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Dr. Ruth West heimer doesn't like to talk politics.

But she sure likes to talk about sex.

In fact, she barely ever stops.

During a visit to the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Pittsfield on Friday, Westheimer talked sex to the 50 or so gathered there. Then, she answered questions from the gathering about sex and signed copies of several books she's written about sex.

She's in town to see the one-woman show "Dr. Ruth, All The Way," written by Mark St. Germain, produced by the Barrington Stage Company and starring Debra Jo Rupp, who plays Westheimer talking about sex.

It's all great fun for 84-year-old Dr. Ruth, as she's come to be known from her syndicated radio show and many guest appearances on television talk shows and sitcoms.

Westheimer is a smallish woman who has to look up at nearly everyone she talks to. And she never seems to talk down to anyone.

As she has through her entire broadcast career, Westheimer insists that openly talking about sex should not only be socially acceptable, but a part of every day life, "if you do it without making fun of anybody."

Regarding teaching abstinence, she is fine with that, but said sex education should be part of it.

"If abstinence is your morality, that's fine," Westheimer said. "Stick to it. But still learn everything you can about sex so, when you need it, you can use it."

After the book signing, she told The Eagle that she saw Rupp's portrayal during a show preview Thursday.

"[Rupp] is so terrific, at several points I thought I was on stage," Westheimer said.

She said that Rupp spent some time with her in New York to get to know her, and had to work with a diction coach to perfect Dr. Ruth's unique German/Israeli/French accent.

"She is superb," Westheimer said of Rupp's performance. "I can see she really does it with enthusiasm."

Surprisingly, when West heim er first heard the title of the play, she said she "blushed a little. But then I said that's what I want people to do, talk about it. So it's fine."

Westheimer's life has been filled with blessings and tragedy. She lost her parents, German Orthodox Jews, during the Holocaust. Raised in a Swiss orphanage, she was later trained as an Israeli scout and sniper. She was wounded by an exploding shell during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.

She became a psychologist while living in France, and a U.S. radio and television icon during the 1980s. She has written several volumes about sex, including "Dr. Ruth's Encyc lopedia of Sex," the full text of which is available online.

Westheimer is no stranger to the Berkshires. This is her third or fourth visit. The first was a ski outing to Jiminy Peak about 20 years ago, when she was in her 60s.

Having already seen Edith Wharton's estate, The Mount, Westheimer said that during this visit she is planning a stop at Jacob's Pillow and the Norman Rockwell Museum. She'll be spending the Fourth of July at Tanglewood, with a fervent hope of meeting James Taylor.

But before all that, she'll be giving a talk at Barrington Stage on Monday evening, and she is going to see Barrington Stage Company's production of "Fiddler on the Roof."

"Dr. Ruth, All The Way" plays through July 21 at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center at 36 Linden St.


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