TV performer from golden age of lounge entertainment

Eydie Gorme - Born: August 16th, 1928; Died August 10th, 2013

Eydie Gorme.

Eydie Gorme.

 

With her husband Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, who has died aged 84, was one of the last survivors of an American show-business tradition that dated back to the big-band era and the halcyon days of lounge entertainment.

Their stock-in-trade was their mastery of the classic American popular song, coupled with a comic act they had been developing since they first met in the early 1950s.

Outside the duo Steve and Eydie, they both enjoyed successful solo careers. Gorme reached No 10 in Britain in 1962 with Yes, My Darling Daughter, and had a US top 10 hit the following year with Blame It on the Bossa Nova.

She was born Edith Gormezano in the Bronx in New York. Her mother was Turkish, her father, a tailor, was Sicilian. Both were Sephardic Jews. The youngest of three children, brought up speaking English and Spanish, Gorme worked as an interpreter with the UN after leaving high school in 1946.

But having sung in a band at school, she was determined to make a career in entertainment. By 1950 she was singing with Tommy Tucker’s band. She struck out on a solo career in 1952. In the following year, she was given a regular TV slot on The Tonight Show. There she met Lawrence, and by 1954 they had released Make Yourself Comfortable, their first single as co-headliners.

As TV performers, they specialised in “old-married-folk” banter that was slightly naughty by pre-sexual revolution standards. At one point in their “tux and gown” nightclub act, they would dance elegantly and Lawrence would make a grand gesture, a dramatic dip.

The couple married in Las Vegas in December 1957, at a time when Gorme was building up her solo reputation with hits including Mama, Teach Me to Dance, Love Me Forever, and, most notably, You Need Hands.

When Beatlemania struck the US, Gorme cannily took a step sideways and recorded a successful album in Spanish, Amor (1964). In 1965 came a follow-up, More Amor, and in 1966 her Spanish-language album, Navidad Means Christmas, was a hit. She also won a best female vocal performance Grammy in 1966 for her recording of a song from Mame.


Making life harder
She reunited with her husband for the album Together on Broadway (1967), after which they co-starred in a Broadway musical, Golden Rainbow (1968), which ran for a year. But pop and rock were making life harder for artists like Gorme and Lawrence and they made their final singles chart appearance with We Can Make It Together (1972), featuring the Osmonds.

They established a series of award-winning TV tributes to composers such as George Gershwin (1975), Cole Porter (1977) and Irving Berlin (1978).

Like many performers who were part of the early days of television, Gorme looked back on that era with fondness. In a 1996 interview she said of The Steve Allen Show and its very brief rehearsal time, “The beauty was, if you screwed up, that’s what people loved.”

Gorme is survived by her husband and her son, David, a composer of movie sound tracks