Tony-winner and women's health advocate Phyllis Newman dies

NEW YORK (AP) — Phyllis Newman, a Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran who became the first woman to host "The Tonight Show" before turning her attention to fight for women's health, has died. She was 86.

Newman's son, Adam, said his mother died Sunday of complications in New York from a longtime lung disorder.

Newman won the 1962 Tony for best supporting actress in the musical "Subways Are for Sleeping," where her costume consisted of a bath towel and which had lyrics co-written by her late husband, Adolph Green. She earned a second Tony Award nomination in 1987 for her performance in the Neil Simon play "Broadway Bound."

She played Aunt Blanche in the Neil Simon play, then began a brief role in the ABC soap opera "One Life to Live."

18 PHOTOS
Phyllis Newman in recent years
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Phyllis Newman in recent years
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Phyllis Newman during the William Ivey Long Sardi's portrait unveiling and 70th Birthday Party at Sardi's Restaurant on August 30, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: Phyllis Newman attends the "Once Upon A Mattress" opening night at the Abrons Arts Center on December 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steven A Henry/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 25: Phyllis Newman (L) and Misty Copeland attend Gotham Magazine Celebrates Misty Copeland's Broadway Debut In On The Town on August 25, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Gotham Magazine)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06: Phyllis Newman during the Curtain Call for the One Night Only 10th Anniversary Concert of 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' at Town Hall on July 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 12: Phyllis Newman attends the Broadway Opening Night Performance of 'On the 20th Century' at The American Airlines Theatre on March 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03: Phyllis Newman attends 'On The Town' Broadway Cast Photocall at the Lyric Theatre on September 3, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Actress Phyllis Newman attends the "Merrily We Roll Along" New York Premiere at Regal Union Square Theatre, Stadium 14 on October 17, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 14: EXCLUSIVE ACCESS/SPECIAL RATES APPLY Singer/actress Phyllis Newman speaks to the audience at "The Actors Fund And Tower Cancer Research" benefit concert at Birdland Jazz Club on October 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
Phyllis Newman, Hunter Ryan Herdicka attending a reception celebrating Hunter's 54 Below debut with 'You Make Me Feel So Young' in New York City on 3/25/2013 (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Phyllis Newman attends the "Chaplin" Broadway opening night at The Ethel Barrymore Theatre on September 10, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Phyllis Newman attending 'Gore Vidal - A Celebration' at the Schoenfeld Theatre in New York City on August 23, 2012 �� Walter McBride/WM Photography (Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Actress Phyllis Newman attends "The Lyons" opening night at the Cort Theatre on April 23, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Phyllis Newman (L) and Kathleen Marshall attend the "Venus in Fur" Broadway opening night at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on November 8, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06: Actress Phyllis Newman and Illustrator Travis Foster promotes "What's New At The Zoo?" at Books of Wonder on November 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Wendell Teodoro/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 06: Actress and Singer Phyllis Newman promotes "What's New At The Zoo?" at Books of Wonder on November 6, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Wendell Teodoro/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Phyllis Newman attends the "What's New at the Zoo" book party on September 26, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Phyllis Newman attends the "What's New at the Zoo" book party on September 26, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Phyllis Newman attends the "Follies" Broadway opening night at the Marquis Theatre on September 12, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images)
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"I was supposed to do just five episodes of 'One Life to Live,'" she told The Associated Press in 1988. "I played Renee Devine, an ex-madame from Las Vegas who dressed to kill. The character just took off."

Her other Broadway credits include "On the Town," ''Awake and Sing!" and "The Prisoner of Second Avenue." She was standby for Judy Holiday in "Bells Are Ringing" and replaced Barbara Harris in "The Apple Tree."

Her television credits include starring opposite Alan Arkin in "100 Centre Street," ''Oz," "''Coming of Age," ''Murder, She Wrote," ''thirtysomething" and "The Jury." She was the first woman to be a guest host for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."

Her films include "The Human Stain," ''It Had To Be You," ''For the Time Being, "A Price Above Rubies," ''The Beautician and the Beast," ''Mannequin," ''To Find a Man" and "Bye Bye Braverman."

In later years she focused on fundraising and founded the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative of the Actor's Fund in 1996. Her work earned her the 2009 Isabelle Stevenson Award from the Tony Awards. She also hosted the annual benefit Breathless on Broadway to raise money for research to combat the lung disease pulmonary hypertension.

She started writing her autobiography, "Just in Time: Notes From My Life" after being diagnosed with breast cancer. "I started writing it because I didn't want to talk about it. Not that it was a secret. After I had 50 pages down, Simon & Schuster bought it," she said in 1988.

"Betty Ford was an example for me in talking about my illness. I'm getting some very terrific letters from women about it."

Newman underwent one mastectomy and then had to have her second breast removed. She described it as "no way to treat a lady."

Soon after her recovery she went back to work, first in a one-woman show, "The Madwoman of Central Park West" — which she co-authored with Arthur Laurents — then in "Broadway Bound."

In addition to her journalist son, Newman is survived by her daughter Amanda, a Tony-nominated songwriter.

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