Saturday Song Selection: Special Edition
“What a delight to watch somebody who really knows how to sing get up there and do it.” – Johnny Carson
“Her voice was incomparable and her interpretations tugged at my heart. May she rest in peace and be welcomed by the angels.” –
Ann Hampton Callaway
1960 – 1969 – Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme co-host the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon alongside TV emcee and game show host, Dennis James, relieved during the overnight hours by comic Morty Gunty. Year in and year out, the young nycityman family faithfully tune in to one of the limitless 7 channels currently available, on first, the black and white GE, and then later, the recurrently broken behemoth that was our color Admiral. Enjoyment of the show is only occasionally ruined by the typical telethon cavalcade of meekly talented wannabes and never-was’s who volunteer for these rare attainable moments on the tube; and worst of all, by the questionable taste of the “Look at Us We’re Walking, Look at Us We’re Talking” segment when Jane Pickens Langley, the fourth co-host, parades melancholic and mortified, ill children about the studio as she painfully, and with a vibrato so over-wrought and pronounced that it registers on the Richter Scale, warbles the tacky tune.
1963 – Eydie Gorme’s hit song “Blame it on the Bossa Nova” makes the Billboard Top 10, Mom (nycitymom) purchases the, still owned, 45rpm platter and the then nycitytoddler, swings, sways and shuffles about the Staten Island abode to the irresistible beat.
August 10, 2013 – 84 year old, Eydie Gorme passes away, 4 years after retirement and her withdrawal from the public eye. I search for clips on YouTube and discover, obviously and unfortunately too late, the under-appreciated and exceptional talent that existed right in front of us, lo these many decades.
Although cursed with a braggart's heart when it comes to my deep abiding affection for, and pride in, my native metropolis, as if I sailed from the old country on the SS Mr. Bacciagalupe and planted the flag of ownership at the tip of the Battery myself, and then dispatched all my fellow countrymen across the harbor to Staten Island to claim it forever and always for the good people of Italia; truth be told, one of the five million wonderful things about living here is, despite the competitive and covetous claims of rivals such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the Big Apple is the genuine entertainment capital of the globe. My lifetime residence has afforded me the opportunity to see, and relish in, the artistic abilities of the premium purveyors of American pop, and the torch carriers of the Great American Songbook - among them, Joe Williams, Mel Torme, Jimmy Scott, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Liza Minnelli, Rosemary Clooney and Tony Martin – the point of said impressive inventory – why did I pass on Eydie? What did I have that I don’t have (number 17 on the charts for Eydie in 1966)?
Peruse the pulsating pipeline of the internet yourself and unearth the indisputable virtuosity of Eydie Gorme. You’ll look at the many clips and wonder, “why wasn’t this woman on Broadway” she appears born to it. And alas, she did dip her toes in the Great White Way in the late 60’s, when she and hubby Steve co-starred for a little over a year in a musical adaptation of “A Hole in the Head” called “Golden Rainbow,” from whence came the chart-topping standard, “I’ve Gotta Be Me.” But, her musical comedy resume ends there, and it is unfortunate, for in Ms. Gorme one can picture and project a flawless Fannie Brice and a model Mama Rose. And feel free to call me crazy or to laugh at my lucidity, but in performance is there not a detectable style similarity somehow to both Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand? Judy came before and was clearly an influence as they share an energy, a dynamism and even vocal and presentational aggressiveness. Brooklyn-born Barbra is the younger and so came to the fore after Bronx-bred Eydie, but in stage manner they are distinctly and undeniably New Yorkers, the power of the city pours from their pores as they take command of the arena and the audience.
A Little More Eydie, A Lot Less nycityman
The former Edith Gormezano was daughter to immigrants, Fortuna and Nessim Gormezano, (isn't that the title of a famous aria?) Dad, hailing from Sicily and Mom from Turkey. Cousin to the man unnaturally smitten with Calendar Girls, Neil Sedaka, and a William Howard Taft High School classmate of, less than subtle director, Stanley Kubrick, interesting and beneficial pairings seemed her destiny. With a natural gift for languages (maybe Italian and Turkish), she worked for the United Nations as an interpreter before finding success as a Big Band belter, first with the Tommy Tucker Orchestra (not the anchorman from “Family Guy”) and later with Tex Beneke's band (not the late, disgraced New York City weatherman.) In 1953 came the start of something big, when Eydie walked onto the set of Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” and when her soon to be spouse and performing partner, Steve Lawrence, walked into her life (1967, number 5 on the charts.) Three years hence, Gorme and Lawrence were betrothed and the entertainment world gained the enduring pairing of Steve and Eydie.
If you were unfamiliar with Eydie Gorme, explore her work. If you had some knowledge but it was slight, follow suit. Perhaps, you too, will come to value a singer deserving of a position in the pantheon, and a rightful place among the upper echelon of great American song stylists.
In closing, as is appropriate, Eydie shares her talent with the world, and a large late night audience, in a 1966 appearance with Johnny Carson on his “Tonight Show.”
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