Portia Nelson, AMC's Mrs. Gurney, dead at 80
Posted Sunday, March 11, 2001 8:51:26 PM
Portia Nelson, a cabaret singer, songwriter, actress and author who was one of the most beloved New York nightclub performers of the 1950's, died on Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 80.
Born in Brigham City, Utah, her name was originally Betty Mae Nelson. She was called Portia by friends in grade school, who took the name from the radio soap opera Portia Faces Life.
At the age of 23, she was discovered singing in a Sherman Oaks, California nightclub by CBS Records. A year later she made her cabaret debut at the Blue Angel.
Ms. Nelson became a cabaret legend in the 1950s with appearances at The Blue Angel and Bon Soir. Ms. Nelson also recorded three albums during that time, Let Me Love You, Portia Nelson Sings Bart Howard, and Love Songs for a Late Evening. Her style combined Broadway and cabaret. In 1996, Ms. Nelson released This Life.
Ms. Nelson's film career included five feature films, her most well known role being The Sound of Music's Sister Berthe.
On tTelevision, Ms. Nelson appeared from 1980 to 1990, as Mrs. Gurney, a nanny on the ABC soap opera, All My Children.