A NUTTY NUT
NEWS NETWORK EXCLUSIVE
Costello Interview 1992
Text by Mike David
Diosa Costello, a Laurel and Hardy
co-star in 1945's "The Bullfighters", gives a lively and humorous audio
interview recorded in 1992 at the Sons 8th International Convention in Las
After talking about how she got her start in show business, Diosa
explains what she witnessed as the working and improvisational methods
used by Stan and Babe during the film's production.
She also discusses the story behind her exaggerated accent and how
she had to be careful with her fiery dance moves.
This is an interesting talk with a fascinating entertainer,
wonderfully conducted by L&H author and Boston Brats Grand Sheik Scott
Q and A With Diosa Costello:
The first Latina on Broadway dishes on her career and how she got her
breakout role in South Pacific
By Joseph Stromberg, Smithsonian magazine, November 2011
Diosa Costello was a pioneering performer of music, film and theater who,
in 1939, became the first Latina on Broadway. She recently donated 11
costumes from her personal wardrobe to the National Museum of American
History. She spoke with the magazine’s Joseph Stromberg.
What sparked your passion for performance from such an early age?
When I was 5 years old, my father had pneumonia. He owned a little box. I
remember that it was narrow, long and yellow. Painted on the box were
pictures of people dancing, holding hands and singing. I used to try to
imitate those pictures. That’s how I entertained my father when he was
sick. After he died I kept on singing and dancing and entertaining people
in the street. They used to give me pennies. But when I got back home, my
mother, she would punish me. In those days, if a young girl wanted to be
in show business, it meant that eventually she would be a bad woman.
But that was in Puerto Rico. Then they brought me to the United States. A
woman friend of my mother, she used to say: “Why don’t you take your
children to America? They go to school, they read, they learn.” And my
mother listened to her, and we came to this wonderful country. To me, they
call me New Yo-rican, because I was born in Puerto Rico, in a town called
How do you feel about your costumes being on display at the Smithsonian?
At first, I didn’t want to give them my clothes. Even though I’m not going
to perform anymore, those clothes are very special, and I love them. But,
after back-and-forth pleas and rejections, I finally said, “Yes, yes,
yes.” I’m still numb. I asked the curator Dwight Blocker Bowers, “I’m
going in a museum?” And he said, “It’s not just about your clothes, it’s
that you’re a legend.” I didn’t know that I was all those things. But
instead of an exhibit, what I really want is a special window, where I can
charge people to see my clothes!
In your nightclub act, you would dance and sway your back so that you
could shake your behind with a glass of water on top of it. At the time,
did people think your act was too edgy?
Yes, are you kidding? I could dance all over the place, without spilling
one drop. That got me a picture in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I’m very
uninhibited. If I think something, I do it, you know? And because I used
to sort of ad lib everything.
Who would you want to portray you in a movie?
I would want JLo to play me. She’s a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. I lived
in the Bronx for a long time (in a Jewish, not Latina neighborhood). She
married a skinny musician, I was married to Pupi Campo, who was a skinny
musician. She’s got the tuchis; I have the tuchis—although mine is the
original, the cutest. … When I did my show in the Catskills, believe it or
not, most of it was just talking for two hours, I’d be leaving and the
people would be yelling “more, more, more.”
You were cast in the role of the Polynesian Bloody Mary character in South
Pacific, replacing Juanita Hall, who originated the character on Broadway.
How did that happen?
I had a secretary and she was up on everything that happened on Broadway.
She had read James Michener’s story, and she said, “You know, you would be
very good for Bloody Mary.” And I said, “What’s that?” I thought it was a
drink, I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about.
So I went to George Abbott, who was my director in Too Many Girls (1939),
and we were great friends. George and I were dancing partners, and we used
to go out everywhere to dance nightly after I would finish my show at La
Conga. I used to call us “Abbot and Costello.” George said, “Well, let me
think about it, but I think she’s got something here.” He said, “Let me
discuss it with Josh Logan,” (who was the director) and let me see what he
thinks. So he discussed it with Josh, and Josh said, “Let’s go to James
Michener.” According to what I was told, James Michener said that when he
wrote the story, the original Bloody Mary was a wiry kind of woman who was
always trying to sell something and cheat the soldiers and all that kind
And Josh said to Michener, if you don’t hire Diosa for the part, then I’m
not interested in directing the show. And I said, “Oh wow, I’ve got it
made.” And I did get the part!
So what was it like?
I was so nervous. The orchestra leader was trying to train me and tell me
how to sing. I have never had any singing lessons in my life. And he would
say, “You’re not breathing right, that’s why you can’t get your notes,
because you’re not breathing right.” And I was trying to do what he told
Now, general rehearsal is just like if the show went on. No matter what
mistake you make, you go on. We were at some kind of theater in Cleveland,
because we were going to open there before we came to Broadway. Dick
Rodgers [of Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein] was a very quiet man, very
proper. But he knew his business. So at dress rehearsal one night while
I’m singing “Bali Ha’i,” which is a very difficult song, I hear “Stop!”
And I think, “Holy Toledo, what the hell did I do?” I thought it was
something I had done wrong. He says to me, “You’re not singing right.
You’re not singing like yourself.” So I told him that the musical
conductor had been coaching me. So he went over to the musical conductor
and said, “Stop coaching her, I don’t care if she can sing right. She
stops my show and that’s all that matters.”
What advice do you have for young performers?
You gotta be sure of what you’ve got. This is what the old performers had
that the new performers don’t. If you go on stage thinking, “I’m Diosa
Costello, you’re going to like me,” you’re going do it right. If you go
out there a little bit shaky and unsure of what you’re doing, it’s not
going to come out right.
To read an excellent biography of Diosa
Costello please visit
From Diosa Costello's own collection
From Diosa Costello's own collection
With Bob Hope
Smithsonian accepts costumes
from pioneering performer Diosa Costello
By Jacqueline Trescott 09/16/2011
In her heyday Diosa Costello was billed as the “Latin Bombshell” and
helped to break the barriers in Hollywood and on Broadway for Latino
In recognition of her groundbreaking career, the National Museum of
American History accepted 11 costumes from Costello for its entertainment
Costello, now 94, was born in Puerto Rico but got her start singing in New
York’s Spanish Harlem. In 1939 she appeared in George Abbot’s “Too Many
Girls,” a musical. Later she replaced Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary in the
landmark Rodgers and Hammerstein play “South Pacific.”
Her career included movies, starting with “They Met in Argentina” in 1941
and Laurel and Hardy’s “The Bullfighters” in 1945. In that film Costello
sang a song called “Bim, Bam, Bum.”
The gift was part of the museum’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Costello’s story is one that needs to be told, said curator Marvette
“Diosa Costello was more than a performer,” said Perez. “She was a
producer, a club owner and, most significantly, a pioneer. As the first
Latina on Broadway, she paved the way for other Latinos. One of the last
remaining members of her generation, her story and her costumes speak to
the Latino influence on American performing arts.”
Diosa Costello aged 94