Saturday, August 29, 2009


Known for his bisexual chic just before the AIDS pandemic broke up the party, cabaret singer and recording artist Peter Allen managed to record duets with some of the most popular lesbians of his time: Dusty Springfield backed him up on “Back Doors Crying”, Lesley Gore on “She Loves to Hear the Music”, and Frances Faye on “Just A Gigolo.” Though I was familiar with Dusty and Lesley, Frances Faye came as a revelation. Her sassy, upbeat, comic delivery scored this side of sophisticated. Recently, I was watching Bruce Weber’s Chop Suey (2001) and was pleased to see his tribute to Frances Faye, if not startled to discover she played the madam in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby (1978).

As Bob Downe writes at YouTube: “Frances Faye (1912-1991) was one of the world's most loved and enduring nightclub entertainers, with a career spanning the late 1920s to 1980. She hit her stride on New York's 52nd Street in the '30s, becoming known as the ‘Zazou-zaz’ gal as she thumped the piano and belted out her funny, racy blues and jazz songs.”

Here's rare footage of Frances from 1942, singing and playing her own hit composition, “Well All Right!”, which became a hit for the Andrew Sisters.

Do you think brandy is fattening? Here Frances teams up with Martha Raye and Bing Crosby for a hot scat session.

Frances Faye rarely appeared on TV. One amazing exception was her 1956 NBC duet with Mel Torme singing from Porgy and Bess.

In 1960 she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show where she sang a medley of “Darktown Strutter’s Ball” and “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate.” As Bob Downe notes at YouTube, Frances Faye was riding high in 1960. She had shattered Peggy Lee's record at New York's Basin Street East and had released perhaps the greatest Live album ever made:
Caught In the Act, recorded at the Thunderbird in Las Vegas.

Also in 1960, she appeared on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy’s Penthouse, singing "The Man I Love", "Just In Time", "Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." This performance is a perfect example of Faye's famous double entendres and references to homosexuality and lesbianism. An admitted bisexual herself, involved with lifelong partner Teri Shepherd, Faye frequently hinted at this frequently in her act. On national television, she would often playfully alter pronouns in love songs or weave her girlfriend's name into the lyrics of song. For instance, in this performance she's inserted "it's a Teri, Teri day" into "The Man I Love" and in her Ed Sullivan performance she sang "why do all the boys treat Teri so right" in "Shimmy Like My Sister Kate."

In yet another rare 1968 live broadcast of her act at the Lido in Melbourne, Australia, Faye sang “The Man I Love”, “What Now My Love”, “Darktown Strutter’s Ball”, and a grooved up, boogaloo version of her signature tune, “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate”. She excels at mining humor from truncated lyrics.

Is it true that when you're pretty it doesn't matter how you wear your hair?

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