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‘West Side Story’ actress Rita Moreno, 91, deals with loneliness by asking strangers to lunch


Academy Award-winning actress Rita Moreno may have a list of stunning credits to her name that include 1961’s “West Side Story” — for which she became the first Latina to earn the coveted gold statue – but her resume doesn’t make her immune to loneliness. 

The 91-year-old recently told People magazine that after she moved from her home in Berkeley Hills, California, and into a condominium that she loves, she began to feel that something was off. 

“My daughter noticed, and she said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said I didn’t know. I didn’t know what was wrong. I really didn’t understand what was happening.” 

She added, “I took all my experience in therapy, psychotherapy, and just kind of punched it together and said, ‘What’s wrong? Something’s wrong, and it has to do with you since you moved.” 

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Rita Moreno said she’s started making new friends since struggling with loneliness after a move.  (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images  for 20th Century Studios)

Moreno realized that her move took her away from most of her family and friends. 

“So when we make plans to see each other, we have to make plans, they can’t just kind of drop by,” she said. “I was really lonely.” 

While it struck her that she needed to make some friends nearby, she said it also hit her that she wasn’t quite sure how to do it because “people have always come to me.”

She continued, “One day I thought, ‘This is ridiculous. I have to meet some people. That particular day when I made that decision, I went to the supermarket to do some shopping, and I ran into a lady who I kept running into, who’s lovely.”

They began to talk and Moreno invited her to lunch. 

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Rita Moreno with her Oscar

Rita Moreno holding her Oscar after she won for best supporting actress in “West Side Story” in 1962.  (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

“She said, ‘Lunch with you? Really?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ We went and had lunch. She sat down and she said, ‘Do you always pick people up like this in the market?’” 

Moreno, who stars in the new Netflix comedy “Family Switch” with Jennifer Garner, said she explained she’s normally not so forward but realized she had to take it upon herself to rebuild her social network. 

Along with her supermarket pal, “I also met people from the apartment, the building, who are marvelous. I’m so lucky.”

Rita Moreno with her daughter

Rita Morena with her daughter Fernanda Luisa Gordon.  (Denise Truscello/WireImage)

Two years ago, Moreno reminisced about being approached by Elvis Presley’s manager to set her up on a date with the “Jailhouse Rock” crooner.

“The phone rings, and I hear ‘Miss Marina?’ I said, ‘Uh, yeah?’ ‘This is Colonel Parker, my client is Elvis Presley, and Elvis spotted you at the 20th Century Fox commissary, and he liked what he saw,” the “80 for Brady” actress told the co-hosts on “The View” in 2021. 

She said while she was in a relationship with Marlon Brando at the time, she decided to go on a date with Elvis because she’d just found out he’d cheated on her. 

While her relationship with the “sweet but boring” “Don’t be Cruel” singer didn’t last long, she said it made Brando extremely jealous. 

RIta Moreno with Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando and Rita Moreno met on the set of the film ‘Desiree’ in 1954.  (20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

“He was sweet, but he was a country boy,” she said of Elvis. “So anyway, when [Brando] found out, it didn’t take long. He started to throw chairs. He was so angry. It was wonderful. And I just sat there as he threw chairs and carried on.”

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Moreno eventually married cardiologist Lenny Gordon in 1965 and stayed with him until his death in 2010. They also share daughter Fernanda Luisa Gordon, 57, who is a jewelry designer. 



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