Flashing an infectious grin and displaying a gracious humility, 25-year-old actress Drew Barrymore charmed her Harvard hosts on Thursday, Feb. 8, during festivities honoring her as Hasty Pudding’s 51st Woman of the Year.
The charismatic performer, who first rose to stardom as a young girl in Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” and later appeared in a string of box office hits, including the recently released “Charlie’s Angels,” accepted the troupe’s traditional pudding pot during a lively afternoon roast at the Pudding Theatre.
“When I was 13 and dropping out of school and really at a very scary place in my life, I never thought that Harvard would call and say ‘Come on down. We want to celebrate your life,'” she told the overflow audience. “It’s pretty crazy. I can’t believe I’m here. It’s really wild and I’m really honored that it’s me.”
The roast capped off a busy day for Barrymore, beginning with a guided tour of the Yard led by student actors Stefan Atkinson ’03 and Clay Petre ’01, and culminating with a raucous parade down Massachusetts Avenue. Hundreds of people – students, staff members, and local residents – lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the celebrity, who rode aboard a silver BMW convertible surrounded by mock security guards in dark glasses and a dozen flamboyant Pudding members dressed in colorful drag outfits.
“I’d never been to a parade before, let alone been in a parade,” she told reporters later. “I would really like to do it all over again, and I think I would be better the second time. I felt so shy and excited that I was a little more introverted than I usually am – just in awe of the whole thing. The next time I think I’d like to just dance on top of the car the entire time!”
As it was, Barrymore seemed to revel in the attention, laughing and waving at the crowds, and even signing autographs for several excited fans. At one point, the playful actress grabbed a placard of herself off the walls outside the Yard for a souvenir before ducking inside a limousine for the ride to lunch.
“Is this what college is like?” she asked facetiously following an impressive song-and-dance routine performed in front of University Hall by the Harvard Krokodiloes a cappella group. “This is so cool!” she exclaimed.
Barrymore’s enthusiasm never seemed to wane even when she was called to the Pudding Theatre stage for the traditional Woman of the Year roast co-hosted by the company’s President Christopher Hans ’01 and Vice President Michael Roiff ’01.
“We’ve actually had a crush on you for quite some time,” Hans told the actress. “Yes, it’s true – it started when you were seven and we were four,” Roiff added.
Playing off the “Charlie’s Angels” theme, Hans and Roiff led Barrymore on a fictitious search for the missing pudding pot. At one point, the former child star was coaxed into singing “Happy Birthday” to herself and goaded into reading a list of rather embarrassing one-liners. (“This is much harder than taking off my top,” she joked, making reference to her controversial desk-top birthday dance on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”)
“I feel so comfortable here because my whole life has been sort of out there, so there wasn’t anything they could do that was going to really embarrass me, so I actually felt totally liberated coming here,” she said later during a news conference. “I was just excited to see what the people find funny. They told me at lunch that it was a celebration of me, and I said ‘I think it’s also a good excuse for you guys to celebrate.'”
When the pudding pot finally appeared, Barrymore held it high and proud, posing for photographers at both ends of the Pudding Theatre stage.
“This [award] is just a really important thing to let me know that I’m heading in the right direction,” she told reporters. “I think we can all doubt ourselves and question what it’s all about … so this beautiful little thing will always be very important for me.”
Barrymore, who succeeds Jamie Lee Curtis, Goldie Hawn, and Sigourney Weaver as previous Hasty Pudding Women of the Year, promised to display the pudding pot on a prominent shelf at the California home she shares with her fiancé, comedian Tom Greene. “I wish he was here to see this,” she explained, “but he’s at home working on a new film that’s coming out soon.”
Barrymore is also working on several new films, including “Riding in Cars with Boys,” with director Penny Marshall and producer James Brooks, and “Donnie Darko,” which her production company Flower Films plans to release later this year. “After that I’d like to take a break and take a vacation,” she said.
Contact Doug Gavel at firstname.lastname@example.org