Yes, that's her. No, it's not a drag queen, though late-era Joan, with her overly severe make-up and hard-jaw facial expressions, inspired many. She didn't start out that way. "You're a writer, aren't you?" the newly arrived Joan asked screenwriter Frederica Maas, eyeing her up and down at MGM in the early 1920's. "And you dress like a lady. I need that. I want to be dressed right. Smart. I figured you could help."
After taking her on a whirlwind shopping trip, Frederica notes in her autobiography that Joan now "had class - even if it only showed in her wardrobe. She had two obsessions: her goals of stardom and of becoming a good actress. At considerable cost, she achieved both, (but) in the end, she died a lonely victim of too many sleeping potions and too much alcohol." Poor Joan, there's always bad news. But at least she left us her movies - and hot-cha photos like this:
She also left us her songs. "What?" you're asking. Yes, Joan Crawford sang in quite a few of her movies. And in this Movie Stah Cheerful Exclusive! you'll hear them all, from the early 1920s to the 50's. How well does she sing? Not bad, actually. She sang like she acted, as if she were still doing silent movies; deliberately, cleanly, with maximum emotion or none at all. No in-between for our Joan. None. But then with Joan, there never was.
Let's hop forward a few decades or so to "Dickie," as she was sometimes called by her friends and close associates.
1970's "Applause" - yet another Cheerful Exclusive! - features Pearl Bailey in terrific form, and backed by a big brassy band. The opening title number is enough to awaken even the sleepiest little bee in the room. But there's also ballads and blues, like my favorite number, "When The World Was Young," which she performs in an aching, though more hopeful, manner than most. And the finale, "Tower Of Strength," tells you all you need to know about this indomitable singer.
I'm not that fond of impersonators, and I generally forget about them unless someone brings them up. But there's one who stands head and shoulders above them all. I'm not even sure you'd call him an impersonator, much less a drag queen. An illusionist, maybe?
It was my Cuban Luvuh who stumbled upon this 1973 "Live In Concert, Jim Bailey At Carnegie Hall" LP - a Camouflaged Cheerful Exclusive! - and it's like nothing you've ever heard. Bailey, as you may know, was an illusionist (I decided to go with that term) (for now), in the late 60's and into the 80's, specializing in female divas who sang. It helped that he was trained in opera - he's a fine singer on his own - but surely some other kind of magic was at work.
On the first of this 2 LP set, he performs a Barbra Streisand concert, as Barbra (of course), and, yes, it's wonderful, but it's the second LP, in which he performs Judy Garland in concert, which truly stands out, especially when he sings "The Man That Got Away," which goes way beyond mere impersonation. He's Garland, alright, as if he's crawled beneath her skin, but he's also having a conversation with you - about what it means to love this singular performer and what she means to him. The last portion of the LP set features Bailey-as-Bailey singing in his own voice, and besides his opening number, which is maybe a bit too Vegas razz-ma-tazz, it's quite a performance. All of it is!
Since spring is still springing, it's time for a dollop of jazz, don't you think? Derek Smith certainly does.
I love this 1955 mini 4-track LP, which includes Derek Smith, a noted British jazz pianist, performing with his trio - Allan Ganley on drums, Freddie Logan on bass and Harry Klein on baritone. There's nothing show-stopping here, just delightful light jazz, including a charming version of Gershwin's "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off." It practically fizzy-pops out of the speakers.
Fizzy-pop of a different kind came, conquered, then left us this week. Yes, I'm referring to Annette
This giggly-fun 2-CD "box set" has all the best of Annette, including the beach party tunes, the movie and novelty songs - like "The Rock-A-Cha," which is a blast - even a Beatles cover (no, really) (and it's good). Plus the session musicians are outstanding. Could she really sing? Absolutely. But it's her infectious, one-of-a-kind Annette-ness that really makes you smile.
What are you going to do when you're forced to sit next to - and even hold hands with - a guy you're so not into? The Secret Song File is struggling with just such a situation below. The guy really bugs her, if you know what I mean; he's like a mosquito or something (and yes, that was a huge hint). It's almost sacrilege!
Maybe it'll be better when she gets home. She can play the very latest CD from this premiere American alterna band and scream - with her mouth in a perfect "O," just like the lead singer. Or maybe she can just scream "Yeah!" three times in a row (making the last one plural). Oy. If you don't know who the band is by now, then it really is sacrilege!
But then one person's sacrilege is another's one's holiday, right?
Have a go at it in the comments!