Some celebrity deaths hit you much harder than others. Usually it's because they're major stars, cultural icons, and they represent a good period of your life. You're mourning your own childhood or some beloved era as much as you're mourning the person. Sinatra was a big deal. So was Johnny Unitas. And Johnny Carson.
And then there are those celebrities who were part of your life -- you enjoyed and appreciated their work -- but never gave them much thought. And when they pass and you're surprisingly devastated.
That's how it was for me and Eydie Gorme.
Now I understand that many of you may not even know who she was. Or maybe you've heard the name and were aware she was some kind ofsinger.
And many others, of a certain age, do know of her and her work and take with them a favorable impression.
For some reason this one really hit me hard.
She was a singer, very popular in the '50s and '60s, and a concert performer well into this century. She wasn't Barbra and she wasn't Judy so she never received that level of adoration, but boy could the lady sing. As a pop vocalist she could hold her own with anybody -- including Streisand and Garland. She had a big voice, crystal clear enunciation (imagine, being able to make out the words), could belt with the best of them, but above all really sold the emotion of every song.
And the emotion was always genuine. She never became Liza With a C for cheese. She sang from the heart and you felt it.
Ironically, her one smash number one song was a trifle called "Blame It On The Bossa Nova." That's like the great Judi Dench, for all her magnificent work in the theater, being best known as M in James Bond movies.
And most of Eydie's TV performances were either live or on variety shows never to be aired again.
In 1957 she married fellow crooner Steve Lawrence and for most of her career they performed as a duo. You've probably heard of Steve & Eydie. (And some of you may be saying: "Oh, that's where I know the name.") I never personally saw them, but everyone who did said they were spectacular entertainers. I'm sure they were.
But there were many great performers. Why this one?
Maybe it's because she was a Jewish girl from the Bronx. My parents had a friend who went to high school with her. Every Jewish parent had a friend who went to high school with her. Or was her neighbor. Or they were in camp together. There was something relatable about her. She could have been my aunt. Had she showed at family Thanksgivings she would have fit right in. I can't imagine Barbra Streisand sitting at our Thanksgiving table. I can't picture Barbra Streisand arriving with her homemade carrot compote. Aunt Eydie I could.
Yes, they were billed as Steve & Eydie, but they really were Leibowitz &Gormezano. Jews make it to the premier showrooms of Vegas!
But it was that hominess, that sense of being a person that, looking back, really struck me. I wasn't just a fan... in a way I sort of rooted for her.
She always seemed underrated and I never could understand why. Listen to her sing and then compare her say to American Idol divas. Steve Lawrence, who is a terrific singer himself, always maintained he was never in her league. She was very special.
I'm sorry that I never got the chance to meet her. I'm sorry we never invited the Liebowitzs' to Thanksgiving dinner. I really will miss Eydie Gorme -- not because she symbolizes my youth or inspired me to go into music -- but because her singing touched me, and I didn't realize it until now but SHE touched me.