| STEVE LAWRENCE and Eydie Gorme are not Mr. and Mrs. Average American Couple. After fifteen years in the music business, as well as almost ten years of marriage and two children, they have reached a peak which few entertainers manage to scale. They are now the top husband-and-wife team in show business, an almost extinct breed to begin with, and what's more they're still happily married.
| They have found it possible to be congenial long-term partners in business, career, and marriage without hating the sight of each other or succumbing tonervous breakdowns. How? "Planning," is their succinct answer, "very careful planning." While they are not just plain folks-and don't pretend to be- neitherare they especially typical of show-business people; they fall somewhere in between. If their lives tend to be a bit unorthodox at times, well, things work well for them and that's what counts. They concede that what problems they have are unusual but, on the other hand, they don't think they have any more or less troubles than anyone else.
"Our problems are just different. For example, we travel considerably. So we take our boys and the dog with us and literally set up house wherever we go. It's not easy trying to bring up our children normally. We try our best but you don't know how you're making out."
Their formula for success does not rest on any devotion to togetherness. Between them they juggle many separate careers in diverse fields, and have often been separated while filing single engagements.
Steve is both a singer and actor. He has frequently played in summer stock and during a two-year stint on Broadway he made a big hit as the scrambling, devious hero of the musical What Makes Sammy Run? Eydie has a career of her own as a singer, recording artist, and TV personality, plus her work in radio and TV commercials. And finally in their joint career as husband-and-wife combo, they appear together in supper clubs, at concerts, and on television.
Even when working together, however, they retain a degree of separateness. Audiences seeing them live for the first time are sometimes surprised to find Steve come on first and sing alone. Then Eydie appears for her solo bit and they finish with duets.
They have never considered billing themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. This, in part, carries over from the fact that each had a well-established career before they were married. It's also a shrewd business move because its makes them a double-barreled attraction at the box office.
"Actually we prefer working together," says Eydie. It's more fun. It's easier on the kids, and it's less work for mother." So this winter they will embark on a new phase of their joint career by costarring in a Broadway musical, Golden Rainbow. Steve, of course, is a veteran of the musical stage but this will be Eydie's professional acting debut. Neither of them appears to be the least concerned about her lack of experience. "Eydie acts all the time," her husband points out confidently. "She acts in all her songs. Beside, in a musical, it's not really a matter of acting. The word should be reacting. "
"Now if I were playing Ophelia," Eydie said. "I'd be worried." ("So would I," quipped Steve)
Golden Rainbow sounds like it is tailor-made to fit their personalities. Steve plays a widower with ten-year-old son, Eydie is his old-maid sister-in-law. The two characters are at each other's throats during most of the show. "There's a lot of conflict between them which we enjoy playing tremendously," notes Steve. "It lets us take out our hostilities onstage and then go home skipping."
The truth of the matter is that they frequently play the bickering couple onstage. There is nothing saccharine about the Lawrences. Each has a sharp sense of humor and, although most of their abrasive banter seems to be good-natured, it can frequently border on the caustic. Their action ate but barbed repartee shows up strongly in their nigh-club act, where most of their jokes are at eat other's expense. During a recent engagement at the Waldorf-Astoria's posh Empire room, it was obvious that Eydie had a bad case of the sniffles. She frequently reached for a box of Kleenex on the piano and, when necessary blew her nose vigorously. Finally, her husband turned to her in barely-disguised irritation and cracked: "What are you trying to do? Blow this show?" The ad lib got a huge laugh, which is what they wanted.
"We will do anything for a laugh, as long as it's within the bounds of taste and propriety," explains Eydie. "Each laugh is golden, it's a diamond. Lots of people think we're angry at each other or that we really mean some of the things we say. But we get a kick if we can put one over on them."
Humorously and musically, the Lawrences tend to think alike. Indeed, they maintain that there are few areas in which they don't agree, which probably accounts for how well they get along. "I hate to use the term ESP," Eydie says, "but we do have a marvelous way of anticipating what the other might do or say." Steve simply called it rapport and chalks it up to the fact they've been married ten years.
In any case, they have a habit of finishing each other's sentences. In conversation, they interrupt each other, talk at once, and constantly provide tart editorial asides on what the other happens to be saying. They laugh a lot of each other's jokes.
Although Steve and Eydie are both native New Yorkers, they come from considerably different backgrounds Steve was born in Brooklyn, into an Orthodox Jewish family. Eydie, who comes from the Bronx, is the daughter of a Turkish tailor. Neither family was what you might call theatrical. "Everybody in my family sang except my other and she used to scream real good. You could hear her three blocks away," notes Steve. "My father was a cantor, in fact he still is, so I was exposed to music but it wasn't show-business kind of music. I started singing in choirs when I was eight and eventually migrated into the popular field when I was about fifteen."
Eydie supposedly made her singing debut at the age of three when she wandered away from her parents in a department stored and barged into a children's radio program which was in progress. Although her mother insists this story is true, Eydie says she has no recollection of it. "Mother says I started to sing and then I began to cry and ran out."
Eydie marks the beginning of her career from the time she was graduated from high school. She had been a vocalist with the school orchestra and there she met a young musician Ken Greengrass, who encouraged her musical interests. (Today, he is still her personal manager.) Upon graduation, however, she took a job with an export company, because she could speak fluent Spanish, and she attended even classes at the City College of New York. Her singing was limited to local engagements on week ends.
She didn't plunge immediately into a music career because her parents strongly opposed it. "They were very strict. They didn't think it was the poper life for a girl - and they were right," she now jokes.
Defying her family, she soon left home to tour with the then very popular orchestra of Tommy Tucker. Apparently the memory of this period is not a happy one even today because she says: "I thought it was a great break, but my parents were terribly upset. Well, they weren't half as upset as I was after two months on the road. I hated it. I couldn't wait to get back to New York but I had a year's contract. As soon as it was over, I went right back to live with my mother and father.
|STEVE & EYDIE
|by Marion Meade|