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Steve Lawrence, A Guy From Brooklyn
Saturday Evening Post
June-July 1964
Eydie Gorme, wearing blue jeans and a shirt, was dashing around her new kitchen, trying to get dinner on the table. Across the foyer and down the hall of the vast 10-room apartment, the kids, four-year-old David and two-year-old Michael, were already buttoned into their sleepers and bouncing on their beds, waiting for Daddy to come home.
  Then a key turned, and the voice of Daddy was heard in the hall. "I'm home already," said Steve Lawrence, flinging his jacket onto a chair. The kids shrieked, and Steve went to the nursery to administer good-night kisses. He caught up with Eydie at the kitchen door, she with a pot holder in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and they exchanged connubial pecks. Steve washed up, went to the bar in the living room and fixed drinks - a Cinzano on the rocks for Eydie, a bourbon and ginger for himself. He sat down at the kitchen table in a movie-director-style chair stenciled STEVE on the back, lit a cigarette and sipped his drink. Eydie brought on the meal - veal scallopini, string beans in tomato sauce, a salad and stacks of matzos, without which Steve feels no meal is complete.
    Suddenly Eydie broke into song. "
People who need people..." she warbled, choosing a tune from Funny Girl. Steve picked it up and sold it back: "...are the luckiest people in the world."
   "So eat it while it's hot," said Eydie, sitting down in her movie-director-style chair stenciled EYDIE on the back. And they talked and sang to each other over the veal and beans and matzons for 40 minutes, until the management at the 54th Street Theater, where Steve is starring in
What Makes Sammy Run?, called up to point out that it was time he was in his dressing room.
    This domestic scene may seem excessively quaint for so public a pair, but the fame of Steve and Eydie has been heavily based on their being "just folks." As their agent, Ken Greengrass, proudly puts it, "They are truly children of TV. The whole country saw them grow up, get married and have children" on Steve Allen's old
Tonight show. As such, their life has become a video serial, a kind of hamishe Dick Van Dyke Show on-screen and off.
    With and without Eydie, the 28-year-old Steve has had a phenomenally successful career in show business. His record sales place him in the front ranks of America's pop singers, and his nightclub engagements with Eydie have been enormously popular - for one four-week date in Las Vegas last year they received $100,000. Sammy, a stodgy show, has proved a smashing personal triumph for Lawrence, and he now is set to head a series of NBC-TV specials in the fall.
   ...Their marriage, now six years old, has thrived. Eydie and Steve are still, in their own minds, a girl from The Bronx and a guy from Brooklyn, and they show no disposition to forget it. Put them against any middle-class backdrop, an they would look completely at home. The outgoing Eydie is all big eyes and freckles. Steve, quieter, less articulate and spontaneous, faces the world with a broad, pushed-in, friendly sort of face, a new, improved version of the frog prince. He is squat, she is plump. But all this has been no drawback. Their stage manner, like their singing style, is warm, informal, comfortable. Audiences believe in them.
    In fact, Steve and Eydie are very believable, but their careers have placed them in an unbelievable situation for people otherwise so average. They are very rich ("I guess I'm a millionaire," says Steve), and as a result, find themselves cut off from people of their own age. One of their few close friends is Judy Tannen, their secretary, who works all hours, takes dictation from Steve through bathroom doors, plans luncheons and goes to temple with Eydie.
    Sensing their social isolation, Judy introduced them to Don Kirshner, a former song peddler who enjoyed a lightning rise in the record business. He was a millionaire before he was 27, and is now, at 30, head of music operations for Columbia Pictures. Kirshner and his wife are frequent tenants of the Lawrence living room, which converts into a movie theater, complete with wide screen. "This is where we spend a lot of weekends," says Steve. "The Kirshners and a couple of other couples, we're all horror and science-fiction nuts - The Monster of the Blue Lagoon, that kind of stuff."
   The Lawrence living room, lavishly upholstered in blue and green, reflects the splendor of the rest of their apartment. The den is paneled in aged rosewood, has wall fixtures with bare-breasted ladies, and a massive desk lined in gold-stamped green leather. It also has an electronic console for records and tapes, with speakers plugged into all 10 rooms. The bedroom, undergoing renovation, will have an entire wall devoted to closets. "The nice thing about being a success," says Steve, his hand gently smoothing the wood of a closet, "is that you can have the things you've always wanted."
   ...It is not unusual for Steve to compute success strictly in dollars and cents. He was poor a long time before he was rich. He was born Sidney Liebowitz (sic), the son of an immigrant Jewish cantor. The family lived in the touch Brownsville section of Brooklyn, where Steve's father doubled as a housepainter to keep the family eating. By the time Steve was 12, he and his brother Bernie, then 16, were writing and trying to peddle their songs, and competing in bars on amateur nights. Bernie, now in the record business, was originally the singer, and Steve played the piano, but when Bernie was drafted, Steve dropped his real name and, borrowing the first names of two nephews, became Steve Lawrence, vocalist
.
    At the age of 15 Steve won first prize on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts and appeared for a week on Godfrey's morning radio show. "I thought I was a big star already, and M-G-M would call me up and put me in a picture with Jane Powell or something," he recalls, "but nothing happened at all." By this time Steve was picking up a few dollars doing demonstration records. Eventually he graduated to jobs in roadhouses and strip joints where he was paid as much as $150 a week. "Everybody in my family was working hard for no more than forty to forty-five dollars a week," he says, "and here I had a chance to make some real money." SO he quit school in favor of hard knocks in third-rate joints. "I'm not sorry," he says. "I really learned my business." Within two years he moved to Steve Allen's Tonight show, to fame, and subsequently, to Eydie.
     ...When Steve started rehearsals (for the Broadway show
What Makes Sammy Run), his way of doing things shocked some Broadway regulars. "It was pretty weird for us," saidone member of the company. "He went everywhere with a big entourage - his wife, his agent, his secretary, a couple of out-of-work musicians. And when he'd come out to rehearse a number, his crowd would always be in the wings chanting, 'Go, Tiger, go!' Maybe that's OK in nightclubs, but we're not used to it. I'm not knocking him though. He's the onl reason we're still in business." That is true. The show is more or less a turkey, but Steve Lawrence keeps it alive. Abe Burrows, who directed him in Sammy, says, "He's got buttons he hasn't thought of pushing yet." Steve thinks so too. "Now it's a question of can I do a Broadway show," he says, "but what show do I want to do. And there's Hollywood. I've never done a movie."
     What Steve Lawrence doesn't seem to realize is that he sometimes seems to be living a movie, very much the way Hollywood would do it. Every night when Steve leaves the theater, he says, "G'night, Pop" to the doorkeeper. "I don't know what that guy's name really is," Steve says, "but for years I saw in the movies how the actors always said, 'G'night, Pop,' when they left the theater, and now I can't resist doing it myself. I hope he doesn't mind."