Around Town: Danny Glover, Nanette Lepore at 'Triangle: Remembering the Fire' Première


March 25 will mark 100 years since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which resulted in the death of 146 garment workers and led to workplace safety legislation reform and the growth of the labor union movement.

HBO has produced an unusual documentary, Triangle: Remembering the Fire, which features actual descendants of the workers and focuses on the personal stories of victims, survivors, employees and management.

The network held a fittingly unusual première on Wednesday at NYU’s Silver Center overlooking Washington Square Park—only yards from the actual site of the fire. An installation called “Remembering Their Prayers," which consisted of Edwardian shirtwaist fabrics knitted together and embroidered with each victim’s name, was created by Susan Harris, granddaughter of the Triangle factory’s owner.

Though HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins choked up a bit when talking about her great aunt Celia Gitlin, a Russian immigrant who perished in the fire at age 17, the mood at the première wasn’t so gloomy during the pre-screening cocktail party.

Actor Danny Glover, a longtime labor union supporter and activist, attended. You may recall the Lethal Weapon star encouraged actors to boycott Hugo Boss at last year’s Oscars to protest the company’s plan to close an Ohio factory. Glover noted that even now public workers are fighting to preserve their rights in Wisconsin and other states.

Tovah Feldshuh, who narrated the documentary, was really decked out for 5:30 in the afternoon. “I had taken my mother for high tea,” she explained. Feldshuh told us her mother, Lily, was born about three weeks after the fire, and will turn 100 on April 18. However, the actress didn’t don her ladylike Rena Lange suit just because it was a special occasion. “I dress. I’m born in the ’50s; I enjoy dressing, it makes me feel good,” she said.

Nanette Lepore, a staunch supporter of New York’s Garment District, talked about the advantages of working with local factories. “I have people in and out of factories two and three times a day, so we can see what’s happening,” she said. “So at least I’m not finding out that there are children sewing my clothing. I know that people go home at a certain time, you see them having breaks, you see what’s going on. I think knowing and seeing is better than the unknown.”

Lepore noted one benefit (of sorts) of working in the garment trade: “They are workers that have a skill they’re proud of. When you make things with your hands there’s a certain satisfaction to that,” she said. “It’s way more satisfying than sitting in front of a computer all day.” Ahem.

Triangle: Remembering the Fire airs March 21 and 25 on HBO.

Danny Glover and Tovah Feldshuh