Transcript:

Speaker Firstly, I'd like you to tell me a bit about your career.

Speaker Well, I really wanted to be an opera singer, so I.

Speaker I was trained as a classic artist. And after years of study, I was talking to my voice teacher and telling her what my plans were. And she said, Jim, did you know that you cannot go into the opera Metropolitan Opera? I said, why not? He said, well, they're not taking African-Americans now. Maybe some time later. And so I use the training I have received to Segway into popular music. It took a little doing because she becomes tilted. When you're a classic artist, you're making it, rolling your hours, doing things that you don't do while you're doing playing music and trying to talk to the person as if you've seen it and you're living them all. So after some years and taking other coaches to help me make that trance transition, I began to sound a little more less operatic and more with the plays and shows and the standards. I can skip over a lot of things. And I was working the area in Washington, D.C. and nearby Alexandria, Virginia and Maryland, and of course, with Duke being a native Washingtonian. Many people asked me about it and I said that would be nice. But I had a friend who was a dear friend of Duke Ellington's, and he's also traveled with him and acted as a band manager. And he says, I've just got to get you heard Duke. I know that he could use you. And so after several false starts, I was able to get to gain an audience with him. And we rehearsed, I would say, about 45 minutes, doing so many different kinds of songs that I didn't know why he was doing that. And I realized he was just he is getting my range. So he said, OK, let's leave here. That was at the Howard Theatre afterwards close. And we went over to Emma's house. His ex-wife. And we use this piano and he went with the same thing. So when he is signed, he said, don't take any jobs that are going to tie you up because I don't know when I'll be calling for you, but I want you to be ready when I do. And I had to get a passport because they were going to go to Europe. And I said to him, I said, Why do you want me to do the obbligato show, you know, the translucency, etc.? And I said, I don't mind doing them, but my forte. Lyrics. And I would much rather do that if I can do it as much as I can, as often as I have to do the obbligato. Of course, of course. June. He didn't mean it.

Speaker So eventually, rather than provoke an unhappy situation after a period of time, I just sort of dug my heels in.

Speaker And when he played the music introduction, I come in an octave lower. And he was a choom, and I said yes to. OK, once again, and I would do it on key.

Speaker So when I came to do it again, I did the next one and knocked off a lot. And the third one, I put it on key.

Speaker Well, he was afraid to take me out to record his studio because you know what I would do and that would cost a great deal of money.

Speaker In the meantime, we had become friends. And I had far rather handled in such a way that neither one of us was provoked and call the other traitor because it was really, really. We had to back off of each other because he had problems. Yes, you can. And, of course, yes, you will. And I handle it being the only way I knew that would cause the least. So I guess the rest is history.

Speaker Popular singers did you admire. Oh.

Speaker At that time, I dug in to people like Porter and Berlin. Oh. Well, I had many people that I liked very much. I loved Ella and Sarovar.

Speaker And.

Speaker I like Johnny Hartman. I love the way you phrased and the Frank Sinatra. And later, Johnny Mathis. And then as the years went on, I loved Barbra Streisand.

Speaker And. I love Celine Deol. She's really magnificent.

Speaker Oh, we have some singers around Washington and Shirley Horn is. A jazz singer, and she plays magnificent piano. I loved her interpretation of her music. So I had a mixed bag of people that I liked. When did you first hear it? I can't remember because she was popular and she was played in so many different places.

Speaker And I don't know where it was when I first heard her. I guess. But I was struck by her, the purity of her charm, the youthfulness in her voice, sincere manner in which she told the story.

Speaker And she was impeccable in the way she delivered her music. Do you remember roughly what year? I'm certain it must have been. I guess my name.

Speaker 40. Forty four, forty five, and then more and forty six.

Speaker Forty eight, and then everywhere you went, you could hear her. I never try to sound like anyone else because then you lose your person. You can take things that they do and it will help you to become better at what you are. But. I mean, you couldn't win. How could you be an elephant's general?

Speaker Did you hear other singers in Ella? People that she must have admired.

Speaker Well, Ella was tops in her scatting, oh, Vocera did a lot of her. Ella had the edge. And of course, we had a lot of male singers who did this get in and did the riffs jazz, but she was just so on edge, you know, so with it and and Jim creating at the same time. So and the joy that was there. It was so unique and captivating.

Speaker You get together with tea, Carson was one of her accompanist and I knew his wife Janet, and they invited me down to their home and they had out of and she said, I want you to meet her. I had seen her in and seen around and watched them because she was watching them as her second home. But you just don't walk up to a person and say, well, you know, I know you.

Speaker And they were going to Lorton Reformatory. That's a penal institution down in Virginia. And there was a big festival, Frank Sinatra, Count AC, Ramsey Lewis, you name it. They were all there. And we were seated in the dugout and we saw Ramsey Lewis walk out on the side and head for the stage with the force playing ball 40 feet with the diamond.

Speaker And I began to sing. Tall and tan and young and handsome under my breath.

Speaker And I heard Echo. And we heard it other at the same time. And we fell out because he was tall and he was tan and he was gay. So we were a lock then because that show we felt like thought a lot alike and we enjoyed one another.

Speaker When you say that they're resilient. Yes. Could you just say that again? The thing is, yes.

Speaker Tall and tan and young and handsome. And he was all of those things. So that was the year and the era. I believe at the bottom of all of the South American tempo's. And she said, I'm going to try to come see you this evening. Kodak's all right. I said, okay. And she slipped in the door and sat back in the area. So other people wouldn't see her. And so I did my first set. And then on the set. Was the boy from Ipanema the same song we've been singing, so I started into it very seriously.

Speaker And remember that afternoon and cracked up? I couldn't go any further. So, yeah, I was guffawing on the stage, laughing my head off and the audience. It was really. They started laughing because it was such an honest and wonderful laugh about something wonderful going to happen. So she was dying back there and the booze stretched out and whatnot, cause I wouldn't give her up. And I said, ladies and gentlemen, this is a personal joke, but thanks for being so nice about it.

Speaker And then I sang the song.

Speaker So we became friends after a wonderful sense.

Speaker Oh, she... She did. I keep saying does because I can't seem to accept the fact that she's got.

Speaker But being gone doesn't mean that she's gone because she gave us so much.

Speaker But being gone from the point of being gone, that does not mean that she's ever gone away from us because she left us so much. And. She lives on. She's peerless. I I don't think that there's anyone else who can ever sing with that little girl. Honesty and purity of tone.

Speaker And I understand Ella had a relative pitch, which is greater than absolute.

Speaker And she could make the strangest riffs and and go from that down to the chest tongues where woodwinds were, you know, and. And then she would mimic an instrument. And absolutely loved it when she was on stage. And the guys realized that she didn't. Of course, it was an infectious thing. Carla. I was happy later on them to be able to help her.

Speaker When Ali died suddenly and I told her, I said, when you go home, ask your nieces if they will go out on the road with you. And if they don't, you call me. She didn't call because, you know, she was shy and she's reticent and. So I called her and that's it. You don't have to tell me.

Speaker They did not answer with enthusiasm. I said, so I'm going with you. And she said, well, now it doesn't pay. I said, I'm not going for pay. She did. But they won't let you go. I said, Oh, OK.

Speaker So it was a lock. And I, I really enjoyed her.

Speaker And she trusted me because she would come off and say, which of those songs do you think I should use as an uncle? And I would tell her because I'd heard her do that. No. That's it. This is a house for this particular song. And I think that you were really into it and they were with you. So I think this is a better song.

Speaker And she said, OK. And get into it. What did you that something?

Speaker OK, I get this. So I said. And.

Speaker Could you describe what you did for Alla?

Speaker As the companion. And as a secretary and intermediary, anything that I could do to make it easier for her to do what she had to do and.

Speaker You know, when I see her get a load said. To cheer up because Ali had been with her a long time, she didn't need to be alone or with a stranger, she needed to have a friend.

Speaker And so I was just being a good friend and.

Speaker And someone who loved them and wanted to protect her because in this business, you do need protection. If you have great we are. What did you do to protect? The you've got some kooky people out there in the audience who feel they know you so well, and if they aren't allowed to have their way and upon the stage, they turn on the artist. The artist doesn't even know any of it's going on. So we were at the showroom and as we went up stairs over the door and Ella walked in and there were these notes. And I pocketed them. And one them was from a dad who sells these. And the veiled threat. So I gave it, Pete. And she didn't need to see it to get upset if she'd want to know what to do. What did I do? So those were the kinds of things that. Happen to people who've been around here. And they could tell you it really is weird out there.

Speaker What was the worst thing you had to handle? With her.

Speaker I think that because this study was really tilted and she had gotten the Ella.

Speaker Or close to her. She would have upset her and thrown her off balance. That was one of the worst things. The other thing is I just try to smooth them over. When she had been booked too heavily with journalists and they said. Oh, yes, she could do your show on unmindful of the fact of being mindful of it and didn't care. They put you to all of this one right behind the other and elbows just going ballistic. And I said, just remember, it's happening at your office.

Speaker It is the people doing this because it was easier for her to take it out on the person around.

Speaker Yeah. That was about those were about the most the hardest thing that I found. I had to be strong.

Speaker She was very fond of journalists.

Speaker In the articles that I brought you, you will see. Maybe a different Ella who absolutely took off in in her suite and was explaining.

Speaker The beat also what the songs got up and began to dance to them. In the meantime, she was getting and going back. So she like these people.

Speaker So she'd still like to dance?

Speaker Yes, yes. If you went out to her house. And she would be very happy that she'd come to see her so she would look bad. So all around.

Speaker Did she ever talk to you about her? Contest.

Speaker Oh, yes. That's how she began to do the girl. There was two sisters right there.

Speaker And I think that they were all. They were great singers and had won some contests, and she they were. They were dancers. And so she sang. She knew she didn't have chance against them. But she didn't have anyone who could beat her dancing to Happy Feet.

Speaker At that time, and I was like 30. Well, did you ever talk about her life back, man?

Speaker Oh, yes, she bit laughs and to some recollections and. I was always happy when she would do that. It didn't make her sad. She would think about. Some of the comical things, you know, she would get away from home and she had to climb over a fence and back there in those days.

Speaker We women had to wear bloomers. And she would say, gosh, can you imagine seeing me up on the top of that fence with gloves on? And that's it. Yeah, because they are horrible when you haven't seen them on somebody else.

Speaker So that really gave her a charge because her estate vividly there.

Speaker And so it was never far for her there, ending what had gone on in her life.

Speaker What was this place?

Speaker You know, I thought it was an orphanage, but in retrospect, it must have been a home for girls who had some problem with the law.

Speaker And her greatest problem was the fact that she didn't have anyone to take care of her. The safety net was gone. And so, yes, he was truant because she didn't have any place to go, no home after mother died. So. That was. But there was a highlight in her life. And she thought it was very funny because it was the only thing it made her happy that she'd gotten away with it, you know. Being homeless.

Speaker It then but it turned things around for her just to talk about that being. She never she never cry in your beer about circumstances because you weren't going to make things different. It wasn't going to change what was.

Speaker So the best she could do was to pick up from there and go on. And. Knowing that we all have something that has happened over which we had absolutely no control. And knowing that people who doubted would love her anyway.

Speaker Did she ever. She knows she was beaten.

Speaker She was. Roll it. She knew she'd run into other kids, the young ones out there in the street. It was it's been written that. That he probably was running numbers for people who would just use the kids to go and do something and she just delivering something. And actually it was running numbers, but she didn't realize that that was, I think, illegal.

Speaker And if she did, you know. She had to live. And there are a lot worse things she could have done. So I'm glad if she did something that was running the numbers and not using her body to earn money as so many girls to have to turn to that sort of, you know, to make them have food to eat in a place over either heads.

Speaker So she was so.

Speaker It is a fortunate moment for her. This amateur contest. Oh, yeah, yeah. Did she even talk about what happened after that? She's. People have seen oh, yeah, she took off after that.

Speaker And. She met a chick Webb. And he knew that. Here is a astar.

Speaker And she want to go a little fast because she felt that she could just rush things and become famous overnight. You know, he would have to wait a minute. You're going to have to wait a while. And of course, he took over the responsibility of her well-being because of her age. And that was why they allowed her to go out on the road with him.

Speaker Did you talk a lot about what you thought?

Speaker Yeah, yeah. Well, he said, you know, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for cheap. Then he said, But I look so foolish now that I look back and and see some pictures of myself as a boy, I sure didn't look stupid.

Speaker I said, no, that's stupid, darling. I said you were just unprepared insofar as you're being beautiful is concerned. And she laughed on that one.

Speaker That's all because we look at ourselves. I mean, she was a diamond in the rough period. Just as an artist and didn't know what to do with the self because he was a kid. And the thing that he didn't to with the basket and a hand was something a kid would do and she didn't see it that way. She just felt that she didn't look stupid. It's funny how we can save ourselves in the.

Speaker Shia.

Speaker Finally, she actually, she quips.

Speaker Yes, she did. Did you see that? No, I did.

Speaker I at the time. I see.

Speaker That was back there in which he is with that approximately from 1940.

Speaker Right through the war.

Speaker For I know she lied to bed a couple of years. She became a solo. Right. Right. I don't think I was fortunate enough to see her lead the band, although, you know, that's where all of us went.

Speaker We left school. We'd go to the Howard Theatre and.

Speaker I just wasn't blessed to see her do that, but I would've enjoyed seeing her do that. And she was still young. To see her take, I was such an awesome cure. Very.

Speaker No. She has a right to go. Yes. Did you see them work together?

Speaker Oh, yes. Together I'd see them work together. And in the article I brought you. She was very unhappy.

Speaker And her love life was not going well at all. And she said, I don't know what I'm going to do, too. She said, yes, I know what I want to put my love. I said, just breaking my heart. And he said, you know, baby. What you have to do, it's like a bad tooth. If it's hurting you, you have to pull it all the way out. And that starts to get a little better. It doesn't hurt anymore. And so you've got to go on with what you're doing and hope you'll soon get it all the way up and things will be better for you. She's at best, a kind of guide to class. He would tell you nice things like that.

Speaker I thought that was so sweet.

Speaker She didn't seem to have very good luck with her love life.

Speaker Well, she is. She said that you are just so jealous because she told him to say I was jealous. This came from my insecurity. And jealousy can ruin any relationship. She said, so I must play. And I couldn't seem to control to get a handle on it.

Speaker So.

Speaker But she talked about love, life, and it is better to have loved and lost. She didn't say that, but that's what it meant then, never to have loved. There are. Because, you know, a true deep love that isn't always ever found. And if I were to take a choice, I'd rather have that and withstand the pain that goes afterwards or during it than that I ever had in my life.

Speaker She was married. Yes.

Speaker Yes, I was around, but. I don't think I was paying particular attention to them, but she told me that that that green eyed monster is the thing that that made that go wrong. He said, I tried to to control issues, but I just couldn't see.

Speaker He's not just my insecurity. I just had great insecurities and just made me lose the handle on the RC.

Speaker Did she ever overcome those insecurities?

Speaker I don't know whether she really overcame all of it, but. I think she was able to handle it a lot better.

Speaker I don't know that. In her life, after that, people watch that she met. If that was the main factor or not or whether it just wasn't supposed to be.

Speaker I really think that.

Speaker They and those of us who are lucky in love and lucky in life. And not that is fair or anything, but she was so lucky. In her career, she. She just was just the ultimate.

Speaker Brown adopted son.

Speaker It was I love you. Doing something.

Speaker Was she ever able to overcome it? She would say to me, this is huge dog on it. I don't know why this is supposed to our life's supposed to be like this.

Speaker But.

Speaker I just can't seem to find somebody that's really gonna be mine and that there aren't going to be some serious repercussions here that neither of us needs to encounter. But she's right.

Speaker Yes, I'm just unlucky at LA. Well, let's pray that you will one day before it's all over. Be lucky at LA.

Speaker Were there, and I think she really went away from here being a lonely person.

Speaker With no man in her life is concerned.

Speaker Did you see that with her?

Speaker Oh, yes, Senior. She tried not to let it consume. We will look at the soaps and we talk about life and people things and.

Speaker She tried not to linger on the fact that she had not been able to control, you know, the green eyed monster because she knew there was problem. No one could take so much of that, and she let them she let the fall fall where it was supposed to fall. She was big enough to do that. So many other people were made excuses and dressed it up or undressed it. Turned inside out. But she said the bottom line. With my green monster.

Speaker Did you? Boy, that they.

Speaker It was her nephew, her sister's boy, Ray.

Speaker And.

Speaker I didn't know for a long while that it was her sister's boy, but that's who.

Speaker That's who it was and she figured it was just such a neat thing if they could just go ahead and adopt him. And she was going to take care of him anyway. But that would be nice if she could call him her son. And he could call it his son to. That's what it became.

Speaker I'm curious because no one has ever been able to explain to me why her sister had to give up her child. She died. She died later.

Speaker His sister died in New York.

Speaker And Ella had to go and get the kids. After she buried her and she took five kids, the man hours and took the mother with her so she could take care of. He is still the mom, but Chief Gene Ray decided to adopt Ray because her head was named Ray Brown. So, you know, they were able to give him Razmi and. Of course. Although they did that, it didn't. Make things gel, and that is to clear the air for them to be able to really, you know, have fun and love one another without. Something coming along to model things for them. So I don't know how. And foil to became. But. The marriage to.

Speaker If you travel with Ellen to his. All right. Very famous. Did she enjoy that?

Speaker Yes, she really did.

Speaker She was never stuck on herself, you know?

Speaker And she would see people's faces and somebody would come up and tell her how they felt and what she did for them, and she'd get MacNiven some write ups. And so she reaches out.

Speaker I must have a really good car. She didn't really believe she was that wonderful. It is hard trying to convince her that she was so unusual. And she said, are you just telling me that?

Speaker I said, No, I'm not. But.

Speaker The cute thing that I saw is when we would travel inland to Basey and Duke could be going that way and bases coming this way and there we are. And baozi and to go, wow. Hugging each other, you know, they loved each other so much. Each man wanted to be with the other one was doing.

Speaker And then of course they just adored her and they they knew me and say, oh, it's just so nice of you to come and be with her now. And I said it was. It was my. It is my joy, you know, so. Oh, you know, you would you're nice to say that's it. But I'm telling you, the truth is she really didn't take herself seriously.

Speaker I don't know how she missed it. But you couldn't tell her that she was that famous and that well-loved all over the world. Yes, you see. Time and time again, kids and grown people tell her how wonderful she is.

Speaker I think they would just look for someone, say they want to tell me something nice, you know? And so they told me how wonderful I am and I wouldn't agree. What are you going to do with a person like that? He just love them and go on.

Speaker Bases. Special.

Speaker Oh, yes. And the guys in a van allowed because they she's a another musician. She had this musicianship, you know, and they just loved it. And they would go out to her house and they'd have dinner and all those guys, you know.

Speaker And what the guys really loved her and basically loved her. And Duke loved her. So she was that kind of person that she could you just had to care for her because she was just so real. It's just such a real person and totally oblivious to how wonderful a person who she really, really was.

Speaker So she was never difficult to she'd get ticked off about him, overbook, you know.

Speaker But. Other than that. I think she rolled pretty well with other things.

Speaker And haven't just picked up an and though because they had made another appointment for some places, she wouldn't have had to go until another day if it gave a day off with not care that it didn't give her a day off and that they will get it next year but is so tired. Yeah. And you just can over time. A person like that isn't a joy to go from one place to the other and answer the same dumb questions because people can ask you some dumb questions.

Speaker And she wanted to be sweet and and so she would try our best and well-thought-out.

Speaker She won out. You know what it was? It was hard.

Speaker You talk about grants.

Speaker What I mean is overbooked with interviews. That would be office grants, wasn't there? In other people. Most. Sally, Mary, that what owe Booker, Mary J. Mary J. Well, if you want to really get to the core of the problem. That's where it is.

Speaker But it must've been around some of the time when.

Speaker Well. Sheila Gnomon. And.

Speaker I don't think she and she blamed him for things that a lot of things that she should have blamed him for. Really? But she did. She machine playing.

Speaker And I was so angry, I didn't know what to do, but I had to to of silence.

Speaker What kind of things?

Speaker Well, you know, the same thing. This let me go on and sort of saying, look at the office. I mean, he could curtail all that.

Speaker He could have stopped, but she wouldn't tell.

Speaker And that's where, you know, it has to go to the top and feel today.

Speaker But. He at one time.

Speaker I was told by some musicians that no one thought he was the star over in Europe and that, you know, his name should have bigger than hers. And so he stopped the car and went away, didn't change it. Isn't that while she didn't say anything under a very changed.

Speaker But, Elissa. She started to have problems with it.

Speaker Oh, yeah. She was in Washington when the worst of it came down. She had done Wolf Trap.

Speaker And it's very hot and muggy down. It's a beautiful piece of property untouched by anything that this family has. And they put perfect construction there with absolutely good acoustics. And it was a joy to go there. When you come off the stage, so you were wet because the humidity and all had close in on you. Then she'd get in the limousine and it's cold. But she needed to have some kind of relief from the heat. And she had Cheater's said, well, why don't we have dinner tomorrow? And I said, well, that's great. And. So time what's going on? And I said, I wonder what happened to them. No one called me. And I call over and she had collapsed ill at the Watergate and the Watergate is about two and a half blocks from George Washington University Hospital. And they had come and gotten her and rushed her there. And she was so sick. So very sick and she didn't realize she had diabetes. She said June, she said why they got this needed muffing, she said because it hurts and they come the test to see what test is going to read, you know? And it hurts so bad. You know, I don't have to be this. I thought maybe they'll find that out.

Speaker And.

Speaker We, of course, had to be quiet about the seriousness of her. Her illness, because we know that anything is released, is released through the office.

Speaker And so we said that she's doing nicely and we give them. Answer. And it was, you know, she's gonna do just fine, but she was critically ill at the heart of it.

Speaker She was a.

Speaker And that's one thing that really annoyed her. She hated being overweight. She said, yeah. Look at those cute small curls out there and look at me. And I said, Elyse, listen, you couldn't conquer that. I said, I don't think there's you know, you have so many things besides not being there. You see? And I said, but you can even.

Speaker You can curb it. You really can. And at first when she was, you know, neat when they started getting things under control. She was the perfect size. She always wanted to be. But then everything else was gone bonkers.

Speaker You know, the sugar and the hard. And all of the. No one would have wanted to. Lose weight that in that fashion.

Speaker So she feels she loves being small. It just was not good for her health. And. As long as she could get out there and saying she didn't care if you were old or out in a wheelchair or if you propped her up. She wanted to entertain. That was where her joy was.

Speaker So to me that. You always like to protect Ella because she beat her so much. Yeah. One by one by.

Speaker You know, people are a weird lot. They want to be around you and and bask in your life. But at the same time, many of them have feelings of envy. And. So they would say cutting remarks, and she was a very sensitive person, and if she walked off when you were laughing, if we were laughing and talking and then we stopped to say hello.

Speaker She just knew we had talked about her delivery and security.

Speaker But. There are many things happening. Through fam the family. And.

Speaker It kept her sad. PTO.

Speaker She was so generous with our water. But sometimes you just can't give enough focus on people.

Speaker Well, you know, it does seem odd to us because. How many people would have them? She did. And she put herself on a budget, a strict budget. She wasn't, again, about she didn't drink and she didn't use illicit drugs and she didn't party. She would put her money away. She'd go to Europe. She found some beautiful stemware. He said, I've got some of it.

Speaker But next time I'd like it to rest and I can go with my budget of the.

Speaker They didn't enjoy it. And the fascination of insects, of I love me so much that they will do this for me.

Speaker She wasn't appreciated.

Speaker And then I'm sure they say, well, why aren't you here? How could she be there? I make enough money to take care.

Speaker So it's a resentment kind of thing. You know?

Speaker So that would have been coming from the children.

Speaker Well, yeah. And other members of the family. Mm hmm. How many people to take care of? So she starts responding while she starts work. Well, for a drink of water.

Speaker I don't know the number exactly. However.

Speaker It went way past her having just nieces and nephews, she had an aunt and she had a cousin. I guess she had many cousins. How many of them she was taking here?

Speaker No, but there was a lot of money.

Speaker And see them reared and then the girls would have their separate families and she would see to that. They all had what they needed for their kids.

Speaker People feel that you should do for them.

Speaker And then when you do for them, they're essential because of it. And it seems as if it was one of those things that you couldn't give him up.

Speaker Did she ever say.

Speaker She was happier on the road. You know. She really was. But she was doing what she loved most. She would get restless.

Speaker She really was happiest when she was out there because she was making herself happy. But she was making a lot of people happy and knowing that, you know, just kept her going.

Speaker I saw so many universities and schools and young kids where she would give her concerts and she would give them huge grants so people could graduate. And so the little kids will have a place to go during the day when they should be taking care. She loved children so much. I'm like the Pied Piper. She just was the most loving person we had children with cancer.

Speaker Did you ever visit?

Speaker Los Angeles. Yes, I did that. She didn't know I was coming. I call and I told her I had a job and she said, well, you could have stayed away.

Speaker Said, I know you were on the road.

Speaker So anyway. She did a dance around the room and Ray had a combo upstairs and they were rehearsing. So. In a win win, those kinds of things happen. She was happy. But she just won the first Nakota Parties and so forth. Sometimes that would leave her by herself. Not with happiness outside of her career. And that's what she really needed to balance things.

Speaker Why did they leave? Well.

Speaker You know, it's also fair and I'm happy in that. As a result, we top it. We'll hear from her. Because if she didn't love it so much with such a passion. Part of that will be lost. Hannah. And she got gratification there. A great deal of it.

Speaker And she saw immediate results. And she saw a lot with people's eyes, not their lips.

Speaker And. She fed on that. So. I guess it kind of answers the question, you know.

Speaker I have been told that she was a great fan of movie stars. Two whole wheat reserves.

Speaker Oh, she did. She was. She really was. And she was set up. And it pae the eyes biggest sources, you know, coming you. Oh, they're coming.

Speaker And it was as if she wasn't a star herself. She didn't realize that she was a star in her own right.

Speaker But she idolized them. And most of them idolized her. Because they never saw a person so down to earth, so unaffected by their greatness.

Speaker Here is this woman who was in her own right, sometimes bigger than the star that she was, you know, admiring it.

Speaker That's the way she was.

Speaker Toby, a list of people used to come by and see her.

Speaker I know Mel Tormé was one because Mel loved her very much.

Speaker But he said, oh damn, I could get to see it would go over there and see her at the house.

Speaker So often she would tell me that different artists. I mean, you name it. And these people would come to see her. I've seen her lovely, thoughtful things to let them know that they loved her. So I would not want to leave any one person out because it did cross a wide span of various people who were really great artist in their own right. And and they they felt that same dollar for her.

Speaker So it was just unadorned joy that they got them listening to her sing and that she got from seeing them take on a life and bring it to life, take on a story and make it live.

Speaker And so she appreciated all of those things.

Speaker She finally, of course, you know, she was confined to her home. Did you see her during it?

Speaker Yes, for a short while. I did. She told me, she says June. They lost the toe. That was the first digit to go. And they were able to fix it so that they could put. In place of her toe hotton or something or foam rubber so that she could wear those shoes cause she loves those shoes. And she said, I can wear my shoes. But every time we turned around, she was losing another digit. You know, that really made me angry, and I guess it shouldn't have. But. You know, to see a person just. Every time we turn around, another part of her was gone. And I wonder how really deep down inside this would do to. And I never talked about it because I think that they did it. And I don't think that she would. I think I would have been so tasteless. So. And for a long time, she sometimes, but she still had that toe and then it was the leg and it kicked off for me.

Speaker And she'd get up and say, you know, well, where are my shoes? Now, if that would not make you fall flat on your face and not want to get up on. So but the last time I talked with her was her birthday before she died. And Kita Abbas and his wife. And they said, oh, boy, she's really on it.

Speaker Today, she's nailing it because she's fully aware of everything. And she was her old self.

Speaker So.

Speaker We were glad to see her happy, able to surmount. You know, what she was going through? I mean, you know, when you've got to have Spider move you. Into a comfortable position. It was heartbreaking for me.

Speaker I just wonder how she's doing.

Speaker And yet when a baby would come out with their. She would take that baby and sing.

Speaker Hello, Sally. All the way through. To not miss a lyric. Remarkable woman.

Speaker Do you recall how you heard about her death? Oh, yeah.

Speaker You know, I have so many friends who are close to her. I knew that she was very, very ill and Kidder, who was a bassist whom she loved dearly. They are Peter and Pinky. His wife told me. I don't know whether I was relieved. Omaha. In a way, I think I was. And in another way, she was gone.

Speaker I felt that.

Speaker If she was free of all of this and that's the only thing she could do, then I'd rather see her in another place.

Speaker He's a much better place.

Speaker If you were.

Speaker I to think that when someone said, oh, gee, that's a that's a very difficult thing.

Speaker Her. She had such a wide repertoire. And she could bring such magic. Toothsome. Sometimes that my dad was my best song.

Speaker She did. And so I was always finding a best song that Ella was doing. And it was uncanny because some people can't hear a whole lot of best songs that they could do that sort of pointed to. Oh, which one?

Speaker Well, I don't know. You have to stop and think of the ones you just did. So I think that's where she puts me. You know, I don't know.

Speaker What would you say is Sieda? Legacy. When it read it out, I'll be vastly. What did she do?

Speaker She gave us. The kind of. José.

Speaker And Makana. Ship this should give us when she would sing. And we forget all of our problems. We came in there and she gave us. The kind the unique kind of specialty that she was because she was not just one of the most magnificent and wonderful singers in the world. I don't know of anyone else who had the uncanny ability. To stay a little girl. And out of that months, keep this baby all the time. Pule.

Speaker Untouched.

Speaker And when she did a song and really, do you see how? And I bet she couldn't top the other one.

Speaker She leaves here saying she really gave us everything.

Speaker And if he ever knew her, the kind of joy, that unbridled joy she could bring to a comedic situation, you know?

Speaker So on. She was a good friend. And when she was. When my son died, she was in the studio being interviewed. And she found out while she was there.

Speaker Couldn't see anything else.

Speaker Because he knew that was my life. So she was a wonderful person.

Speaker Yes. OK. OK.

Speaker There we sat. In the bleachers and out of the dugout comes Ramsey Lewis. And we both Landsdown, about same time he was going out there to take a picture of Lockjaw Davis, Eddie, Lockjaw Davis. And I started singing under my breath. Tall and tan and young and handsome. And I started hearing an echo.

Speaker And it was alos singing the same song at the same place, the same. And we looked at each other.

Speaker We must have starts the song at the very same moment because there we were singing the same word.

Speaker And just just fell out because we knew that here is the boy from Ipanema. So it was a rare, rare moment.

Speaker I don't think he ever knew that. I didn't tell him. I doubt that she would either.

Speaker Good story. I think we're finished. And Roberto.

Speaker Thanks.

June Norton
Interview Date:
1999-03-04
Runtime:
1:00:33
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-c824b2xs57, cpb-aacip-504-kp7tm72n64
MLA CITATIONS:
"June Norton, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 04 Mar. 1999, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/506
APA CITATIONS:
(1999, March 04). June Norton, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/506
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"June Norton, Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 04, 1999. Accessed June 25, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/506

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