| Tonight's singing star, Eydie Gorme, is more than a Young, dark-haired girl with a smile and a singing voice that have a peculiar charm all their own. She's a shining example of today's TV business and its frantic pace - lovely, warm, human girl who would like a husband, children, a home of her own - and who just doesn't have time to fall in love, now that her talents are finding nationwide recognition.
It was about a year ago that Eydie did a song for Coral Records called "Frenesi." Up until that time, she had been a hard-working, fairly successful singer with popular bands such as Tex Beneke's, and she'd been doing a lot of night-club dates in New York and around the country. What Eydie Gorme had, she'd fought for, as all aspiring young performers must fight. And then the great, unexpected break that such hopefuls pray for - and secretly wonder if they will ever get - came to Eydie.
Steve Allen walked into the offices of Coral Records one afternoon and, after a couple of hours there, realized that from somewhere among the offices he had been bombarded constantly with the same tune. He tracked it down and found an executive working away - with the "Frenesi" record playing softly on a small phonograph at his elbow.
"What's this?" Steve asked, with the natural curiosity of a true showman. "You repeat this record all day long. What makes?"
"Nothing," the man said. "I just like it."
The arm of the player swung again into position, and the record played.
"Eydie Gorme?" asked Allen.
"The same," said the man.
"I caught her on TV guest appearance the other night," Steve said. "Hmm..."
It was three days later that Eydie Gorme - in person - walked through the same office and happened to meet Jules Green, Steve Allen's manager. Now, it is Mr. Green's well-known habit to speak in quietly intimate tons, with a this-is-just-between-you-and-me quality whether he's asking the latest baseball core or inviting a lady to tea.
However, at this point Eydie had never met Jules, nor did she know him from Adam. When he stepped up to her, introduced himself, and asked, "How would you like to be on a TV show?" - well, as Eydie remembers it now, "It was as though he were asking me if I'd like to buy a hot diamond!"
| So, sliding away, she laughed nervously and said she was sorry, thanks a lot, she was afraid she wouldn't have the time.
She didn't realize that she had very nearly said goodbye to the biggest opportunity of her life - until a day or two later when Ken Greengrass, her manager, phoned her and asked, in a sorrowful voice, if she'd gone completely out of her mind. "You were offered a spot on the new Steve Allen show - network - and you tell his manager you are too busy!" said Ken.
While she was recovering from shock, he added, "Believe me, you are not too busy for a spot like this. We're signing tonight..."
Now, at last, she had the job she'd been waiting and praying for, and she threw herself into it with every bit of talent and energy and heart she possessed. But, somehow, after the first few days, she knew it wasn't working.
With typical honesty, Eydie set out to discover why she wasn't making the grade. She had a film of one of the shows run for her, and watched it, pretending she'd never seen or heard of Eydie Gorme before. It didn't take five minutes for her to find the answer. She was too fat. Some ten or fifteen pounds too fat. Where she had merely looked voluptuous to a live crowd in a night-club show, the TV camera mercilessly showed her as a "dumpling."
Still, she faced it. There was no good trying to tell Steve of anybody else what she was going to do. She must go ahead and do it.
| At first, she starved herself. That didn't help matters, and it did make her nervous and miserable. Then she tried eating only certain dietary foods, and the result was that she could think of nothing but food.
Finally, she hit on the idea of ordering the things she liked, but eating only a small portion of each - half a slice of toast at breakfast, instead of three slices, and so on. And that worked. One day, Steve and the others on the show looked at her in a special way, when she turned up in a new dress she couldn't have worn three weeks before. They complimented her delightedly - then canceled the auditions for a replacement. She had won against time, and she'd done it all herself.
Watching Eydie working on the Allen show in Florida, during that crazy week when Steve took the whole outfit down there, no one could help but admire the seemingly easy manner, the poise, with which she has fitted herself into the very casual format. After all, Allen was all over the place and so was everyone else in the case. Furthermore - so far as an innocent bystander could see - nobody had done a smidgen of preparation for what was to be a very involved network broadcast.
Appearances were deceiving of course. A lot of people had been working like beavers behind the scenes, even when they seemed intent only on getting a sun tan. Suddenly, it was late evening, and the show went on the cameras, and there was Steve way up at a top-floor window of the hotel, bathed in a spotlight, yelling and shooting guns. A few minutes later, he was introducing a porpoise in the pool. And, seconds after that, he was suggesting that we all listen to Miss Gorme sing a song.
She came out smiling, completely at ease, and sang like an angel. "Man!" a reporter whispered fervently. "That's showmanship!"
As to the problems of working on an unrehearsed program like Tonight, she says: "I'm getting used to it now. But, for the first weeks, I was in such a state by curtain time my neck was all swelled up, I was popping allergy pills into my mouth every five minutes, and I didn't have an octave left in range."
However, it had been up to her to sing or swim with the new impromptu method of producing such shows. There was, for instance, the afternoon when she was handed a brand-new song, in sheet music form, and told to sing it on the show that night.
It was not, as she'd momentarily hoped, a simple ballad. It was an extremely complicated arrangement. She spent an hour mastering it, then, with the sheets of music in her hand, went out on the studio stage to find Skitch Henderson alone at the piano, frowning and picking out notes with a forefinger.
He brightened when he saw Eydie. "There you are!" he said.
"Yes," said Eydie. "Skitch, how am I going to sing this tonight? It needs so much rehearsal, and I - "
"Now, don't worry about a thing," Skitch said in his special way, holding his hands in front of him and waggling soothingly. "Just don't worry about it. I'm going to do a new arrangement."
| "What!" cried Eydie. "I've just learned this one!"
"Don't worry for a minute," Skitch said again. "It's all going to be all right." As she turned to go, Skitch reached out and took the sheet music from her hand. "I'll need this. It's the only copy of the song."
"No!" Eydie yelped, making a wild lunge for the music. Skitch held it behind his back, frending her off, saying "Now, don't worry, don't worry..."
"And you know what," Eydie recalls, "we went on the air just three hours later - and that song was one of the biggest smashes we've ever had!"
Eydie has had to learn not only to take such problems in stride, but how to take a casual, good-natured part in almost any procedure or act which demands her presence - singing, dancing, reading lines in sketches. In other words, she has had to become a versatile, accomplished star.
|TV Radio Mirror|
|by Philip Chapman|