Gone from Nashville, Ronee Blakley Is Waiting Tables in Pump Boys and Dinettes

UPDATED 11/22/1982 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/22/1982 at 01:00 AM EST

I'm like a dog," says Ronee Blakley. "I need to paw the ground and scratch every now and then. I'm a country girl at heart. But I like limos and first-class travel, too. I go with the flow." Ronee's wave has now crested and carried her to an island somewhere between Hollywood (where she won an Academy Award nomination in 1975 for Nashville) and her native Caldwell, Idaho (pop. 14,000). Just call it Broadway.

The versatile Blakley, 37, has stepped into the hit musical Pump Boys and Dinettes, a fetching revue about four garage attendants and two waitresses pumping gas and slinging hash in a sleepy Southern town. As the coquettish Rhetta Cupp, Blakley drums on baking utensils with wooden spoons ("Percussion is great that way!") and croons lyrics like: "Our menu is a road map to your heart."

Offstage, Blakley is less adept in the kitchen ("Sure I can cook. Anything with Campbell's mushroom soup is good") and prefers guitar to her rhythmic spoons. Since wowing the critics as the neurotic, Loretta Lynn-like country singer in Nashville, Ronee, a Stanford-educated songwriter, has twanged her own music in countless club gigs. She's also revisited Hollywood, appearing in films like The Driver with Ryan O'Neal, Renaldo and Clara with Bob Dylan and Lightning Over Water, directed by German New Wave filmmaker Wim Wenders, to whom she was briefly married in 1979. Single again, Blakley is relishing her new stage career and says the role of good ole girl Rhetta suits her just fine. It even brings back the days when she helped pay her way through postgraduate work at Manhattan's Juilliard School by waiting tables. She got fired.

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