Performing Arts

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire spun Iris Acker into a lifetime in the theater

Iris Acker, standing outside ArtServe for a Carbonell Awards reception, received the Howard Kleinberg Award for her contributions to the South Florida Arts scene.
Iris Acker, standing outside ArtServe for a Carbonell Awards reception, received the Howard Kleinberg Award for her contributions to the South Florida Arts scene. Facebook/Iris Acker

South Florida Golden Girl Iris Acker combines the best qualities of TV’s famed Golden Girls in one package: She’s got the charm, not to mention hair color, of sweet Rose (Betty White); the brains of Dorothy (Bea Arthur), and the showbiz flair of Blanche (Rue McClanahan).

Acker is host of BECON-TV’s Spotlight on the Arts, a talk show that promotes the South Florida arts scene. And she would also give the Golden Girls a run for their money when comparing résumés.

The Bronx-born actress has movie credits — “I can tell by the residuals,” she jokes — including Cocoon 2, Flight of the Navigator, Whoops Apocalypse, Bachelor Party and others.

She’s done more than 250 commercials, including a vacuum cleaner spot with Tony Randall and a Mr. Coffee gig with Joe DiMaggio. She wrote a book with tips for aspiring commercial actors, The Secrets to Auditioning for Commercials (Distinctive Pub Corp.)

In the early ’90s while hosting On Stage With Iris Acker, her former arts program for WLRN-TV, she was the artistic director for the Shores Performing Arts Theatre (now the Miami Theater Center). While there, she hosted one of the Golden Girls, Estelle Getty (Sophia), for a fundraiser set to the music of Jerome Kern.

For her efforts, Acker’s recent arts honors include the 2015 Howard Kleinberg Award from the Carbonell Awards committee for her work in promoting and developing the arts in South Florida, the Breaking the Glass Ceiling award from the Jewish Museum, and the Women Who Make a Difference honor from the YWCA.

“As a young child I spent every Saturday at the movies. It was the Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell films that convinced me that I wanted to be a dancer,” Acker says of her arts awakening.

“I talked my mother into letting me take dance classes, and I quickly excelled. I was performing professionally in my teens. I always got the lead in my school plays, but I thought it was because I had the loudest voice. As a chorus girl, I always got the lines to say. It was the directors who told me I was a good actress and should pursue it. That was the beginning of my wonderful life in the theater.”

When Iris Acker says she’s going to make you a star, she makes you a star!

Iris Acker, when she ran the Shores Performing Arts Theatre.

At the time, living in New York helped.

“I was always available to audition and work,” she says. “Mostly, I supported the stars in tours and regional theaters, which is how I got to Florida. I co-starred with Julie Newmar in The Marriage-Go-Round in Fort Lauderdale. I was hooked on working here. Pursued it, and here I am, 35 years later.”

Acker, the first woman president of the South Florida Chapter of the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists, sounds like a firecracker — and she is.

In 1992, while interviewing Too Short to Be a Rockette! star Pia Zadora for On Stage before Zadora’s Coconut Grove Playhouse run, Acker let fly another revelation: She actually was a Rockette.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

Iris Acker’s Spotlight On The Arts airs weekly at 7 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday on Comcast Ch. 19; Dish, Direct and AT&T Ch. 63; Atlantic Broadband Ch. 83; and, without cable, Ch. 63.

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