Transcript:

Speaker Could you tell me when and where you met Lena?

Speaker I met Lena when I was working at NBC television, I was a fashion consultant for live TV shows and. I worked with costume designers and I supplied the modern clothes in those days, and there was a designer I worked with on a show called Craft. His name was Bob Macintosh, and he was designing Lena's nightclub clothes. And I went to a fitting at Brooks costume company, and that was where we met.

Speaker Tell me about this. What kinds of gowns was wearing at that time?

Speaker Well, those were the gowns that she wore for the Waldorf performances, for the various cabaret performances and Las Vegas. And those were the days when there was a stationary microphone in front of her and she sort of stood with that microphone for performances at the Waldorf and so forth. And the gowns were very beautiful, very sensuous, very elegant. And she was just beautiful in them. The fabrics were very unique. They were one of a kind. And with her, I keep the group that was around her. The wardrobe group kept the clothes in an immaculate, impeccable condition. So it was just a joy to see them. And she always kept a book, a notebook of what was worn when. I don't think Polaroids would take in exactly at that point. But there were sketches so that each one was documented and some were strapless, some were long sleeve. I don't recall ever a bouffant or a ruffled thing, but always very slim and provocative in the best sense.

Speaker Now, when you say very slim, I.

Speaker I had to laugh when I saw her and some of the TV shows, whenever she had to leave the said she would sort of mince over to the to the to the chair because she could barely walk.

Speaker Right. Right. They were very slim. And, you know, she once she put a dress on before a performance, she never sat. And very often like because it's for perfection in a performance, certain areas of the dress were sewn flat so that not there wouldn't be a bumpy seam or whatever.

Speaker And they were tapered to the figure and she did mince and so forth. But she moved mean. It was an interesting kind of movement, but they were very slim because it was a beautiful silhouette.

Speaker Now, were you?

Speaker I guess what I that's what I want to ask is this silhouette I was really struck at how perfect it was.

Speaker Did a lot of thought go into. How to market Lina's image?

Speaker I don't know, it seemed to me it was already there when I met her, and I feel that. Her talent and her beauty, combined with the difference of her style of performing compared to other people, just seemed to me much more elegant than most performers. There seemed to be an international appeal that she had from her travel abroad and her own education of herself. She never stopped learning or reading or whatever. And of course, she has, like most women, a passion for clothes, for her performing clothes and.

Speaker It was great fun to look at fabrics, to look at sketches than to go to the first fitting, which was a while, and then go on to the to the next fitting, which was actually a beast of what the whole dress was going to be. And then it was corrections, corrections until it was perfect.

Speaker Now, what was what in layman's eyes was perfect.

Speaker I don't think anything ever was perfect in her eyes. I don't think it ever you know, she always feels she can do better. However, she has a sense of what she knows. She's been good. But then there are times when I think, like most great performers, they torture themselves, you know, and give and give and give. And one always thinks they can be better. I don't care what field you're in if you're a professional. Did you ever have a chance to go shopping with her parents always were terrific shoppers together, you know, whether it's in the supermarket or for clothes or for bargains or for great stuff, you know, we shop a lot together.

Speaker Well, what did you love? What does she love?

Speaker Well, quality.

Speaker And we just love jewelry, you know, we just have such fun trying on jewelry, whether we can ever own it or whatever, so great jewelry is is a great passion. If it sparkles, if it's a pearl, if it's a great stone, we just love jewelry, you know, and and yet we love junk jewelry also. It doesn't matter, but it's just an accent. We love looking at that. We love beautiful leathers, beautiful gloves, fabrics that are so soft and kind of private luxuries that they really caress the skin. And we use you know, there are times when we're absolutely chintzy and then there are times when we absolutely are the biggest spendthrifts you've ever seen. There's no rationale for what it is.

Speaker What's in your memory, what's like the, uh, one of the most memorable splurges?

Speaker Well, I splurged one time we went to get.

Speaker Our coats shortened or something corrected, and next thing I knew without really needing anything, I walked out with three new coats I absolutely didn't need. We both love coats. We've closets filled with coats. And, you know, we love man tailored coats. We love feminine coats. And it's just when you see one, sometimes you buy the same thing. But there's one little thing about it that you just adore and you buy it.

Speaker Who are the French designers that you most associate with, Lina?

Speaker Well, she did shop them all, you know, she had a beautiful Balenciaga, a beautiful bellmen she had. Some Chanel suits that were wonderful, she had some English things that were beautifully done, Celeron pantsuit smoking. Oh, I'm trying to think of I think she had Madeleine Duroc, but. It was mainly Zevi, she Balenciaga and I think the Shanelle things and some beautiful bellmen things I remember that were absolutely lovely. I think there was a patu coat also. That was I think if I'm remembering correctly, it was red and gold, which is a reefers style. It was just beautiful.

Speaker Do you know, I remember seeing pictures of women leaving for Europe or coming back from Europe. She was always in just the best outfits.

Speaker Oh, a big full coat with a fur collar. That was wonderful. Over a suit and a hat and a great bag and gloves. Beautiful gloves, you know, also impeccable. And it was put together so beautifully. And I love those coats of steamer coats with the great big fur collar, really glamorous or of severely tailored trench man's tailored coat was wonderful on her over pants.

Speaker She said a number of trends herself. She considered the best dressed.

Speaker Oh, she's on the international best dressed list. Yes, for a long time. And I think one of the things she she wears pants so well and her rehearsal outfits and working outfits are sort of always the same shirt, pants, a cap scarf around the neck. And it's just easy to work in and always well put together. Right. Colors, you know, whether they're khakis, whether they're black. So but it's all put together with one kind of interesting tone that makes it different and very special.

Speaker Is there a particular color you associate with?

Speaker Not really. I mean, she looks great and black and she looks great in the light beiges. And yet there are touches of red that I see a lot. But for mostly for daywear, it's it's the neutrals and the basic colors.

Speaker One of the things that Gale mentioned to me was that she thought that her mother sort of started this trend toward wearing turbans. I didn't hear that. That girl thought that when I started the trend toward wearing turbans do that so well, she wore turbans beautifully.

Speaker I mean, I think she did.

Speaker I think she did, because it was just I think she did start the trend. OK.

Speaker I think she did start the trend. And one can imagine why, you know, when one worked late at night and the hair got maybe teased or or worked on for the performance, and then perhaps it was a luncheon the next day, rather than sit again and have the hair done, it was easier just to say that, put it under a turban and with that face. And it was just wonderful. And then then at night go back into, you know, the makeup room and start all over again. So and it was most becoming anyway with some of the clothing that she had.

Speaker Such a beautiful woman. She's dazzling. Do you do you feel that her beauty ever stopped people from seeing who she really was?

Speaker Well, I think it's startling her beauty. It's just amazing. And the beauty is there from photographs you've seen of her as a little child, the faces there. But I think when someone gets to know her, her warmth and her availability, she's she's approachable up to a point, of course, but she's always very courteous. And it's a surprise that when someone gets to know her, that her basic she is. And it's a step you you know, if you're accustomed to seeing someone after a while, it just becomes second nature. And I imagine it was something for her to get to live with, too.

Speaker When you say, how could you describe what she's like, oh, she's not a phony.

Speaker There's no baloney about her. There's such honesty in Lina and she's just very down to earth, which is what she is, is what she is. There no pretenses, none of that stuff. She's a very real person, as far as I'm concerned.

Speaker Um, no.

Speaker When you want, just ask you this, when you were I know we know loved Paris seemed to be a special place for her. Mm hmm. I wonder if you could tell me in your own words, in your own experience, what Paris may have meant for her?

Speaker Well, we had a wonderful weekend in Paris. I was working. For Shanelle at the time and we were going to have a couture show, so I thought it would be a great treat if she would come over for the weekend. So we had she had a Concorde flight, picked her up and beautiful suite at the Ritz. And we room service to ourselves to death. We had the best time. Then we went to the show. We took petite walks and well, Paris is a city that women just adore. We didn't do a lot of shopping because it was a very quick weekend. But the deluxe atmosphere of the Ritz and all of its amenities and services and one of our favorite things is room service and telephone calls and and old movies. And we just luxuriated and all of that and had a marvelous time.

Speaker When you say old movies, who are your favorite stars?

Speaker Well, I love the movies of the 30s and I love a movie that has beautiful clothes in the way Dodsworth is one and so many movies where the clothes were done by Travis Banten or Adrienn or Hickley. They were extraordinary clothes and and yet they never detracted from the performance they were. It was just wonderful the way women looked in those movies. Some of the stories were kind of silly and some haven't held up, but a lot of them are truly beautiful movies that you could watch again and again. And then there are the costume ones that are sort of for handkerchief movies. When you feel you want to cry, weathering heights is a good one, you know, for that kind of thing. And there are certain movies that evoke tears, other happiness, and it seems more or less their movies in the past that do that rather than any movie I could name today that fills you with that kind of feeling and a little escape. But but more inspiring than not, although I'm very grateful for Jane Austen these days, that's saving us. I love sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. And I didn't see persuasion, but those movies are great.

Speaker Do you remember?

Speaker Yes. It's not one that I attended, you know, specifically, but then later I did see Cabin in the Sky and all of the MGM ones where she was singing in this one particular section of a movie.

Speaker Do you remember anything about the way she was dressed?

Speaker Oh, she was beautifully dressed. I mean, she was off and on a separate pedestal or whatever it was, but there were wonderful lace clothes and there was the same as the famous dress that has the fox trim. And she wore a top hat. And then there were sequined things that she wore and they were just very beautiful clothes.

Speaker Well, I understand that you were instrumental in introducing her to Georgia, that I did introduce her to Georgia Sant'Angelo.

Speaker It's kind of a cute story. Georgia was just beginning and at the time he came from California. He's Italian, who was born and brought up in Argentina. He studied to be an engineer and an architect, and he had several sisters and a household with women who influenced him. And they had all fine things. And he appreciated beauty and women and in fabrics and so forth. And for some reason, he ended up working at Disney Studios and then came across the country. And I met him when he was doing some sort of plastic jewelry and some shoes. And I said to him, I looked at these amber beads and I said, you know, do you ever do clothes? He said, yes, I've done some clothes. And I said, well, I have a friend. I'd love to bring her around and see these pajamas, this particular pair of a jammies. And it was in his final studio. But when I brought Lina, he just was so surprised and shocked. I never said who it was. And these were amber beads. And it was a print cotton pajama thing, which was the first order that she commissioned Giorgio with. And she wore those in the Las Vegas performance. And also it was on an album cover, I believe. And so that began something. And the two of them fused in the right way. And we all talked about what she was going to wear next and what kind of fabrics. And he evolved her from that skinny little dress, you know, that that you saw that she couldn't move in and is something that was equally flattering to her figure, but was much more flexible and fluid and more modern. And it just there were the robes and the tunic and pants underneath. So that was an Oriental Shinhwa look. Then there were the organic fabrics that were jerseys that that worked so beautifully. And you saw some of those in the lady and her music in the white dress and then the red dress and then the gold finale thing. So all of that evolved. And he was very careful. There were many hand painted chiffon kimonos and they were just beautiful and totally put together. He did jewelry that worked with what the outfit was designed for. And they had to be, of course, noiseless, couldn't make any noise on stage or interfere if she was miked. So he was very careful of all that. And however she moved, whether she was terribly active or terribly still, the dress or the costume would just fall and have a very graceful line. And then, of course, there's no one who can work a costume better than Lena Horne. You know, she really knows what to do with the length of the train or the train behind her. She kicks it just correctly, the motion of a sleeve and her hands when there's and she just uses every facet of what she's wearing very beautifully. And it never detracts from the performance is just always part of it.

Speaker That brings me to you know, freedom is so different from the tightness of the things that you saw in the 50s about how she evolved into that.

Speaker Well, it's it's typical of the fashion cycle changing and and what what is going on in life at that time and for where she was performing? I don't imagine that one of those strict cabaret ensembles would be right for theater in the round because you had to perform all around and she was using a hand mic and moving around. So she she needed the mobility of those clothes. And of course, they were simpler, which it was the right time for the simplicity. And yet they were very graphic and very startling. The colors were wonderful combinations of colors. There were various greens and lilacs and then one nasty touch of Kalki or a mauve, which absolutely gave it that dash and that one a touch of pizzazz that it needed so that it wasn't boring. It was a stage costume, but it was a lot easier than these very strict night, other nightclub performing things. She moved around a lot. And you need that mobility pants provided that certain jersey skirts provided that. And then he did something fantastic for which was during his ethnic period. And it was an entire costume of shammy and it had tattered edges and so forth. And yet it worked. And then there would be the long kaftan, which was a patchwork dress that she used and wore when she was performing with Harry Belafonte in Las Vegas. It was absolutely beautiful. It was black and there were metallic patches here and there, and it was just fabulous the way it looked.

Speaker Oh, well, you saw her performing all during the 50s. Did you see her at the Waldorf? Oh, yes. Tell me about that.

Speaker Well, the world was extraordinary. You know, there is a place where you don't have a dressing room backstage, you dress upstairs, then you come down and the lights are low. And she was in cape in a black velvet cage so no one could see what she was wearing. And then suddenly, suddenly she walked through the tables right up to where the microphone was. And there it was. And it was wonderful. With those Lenny Heyden arrangements of Surrey with the fringe on top, Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, those were extraordinary performances. And Lena could just take a lyric like Surrey with the Fringe on top, which is very, very innocent. And suddenly it was quite provocative. And you started thinking and interpreting it in a different way. And it was playful the way it was done, but it was great fun. You know, her interpretation of those lyrics. Sweet. They were, you know.

Speaker That's the term is used about morning performance suite.

Speaker Oh, yes, well, it's not suite, you know, it's not it's real. It's riveting. It's dramatic and very entertaining. And I'm amazed at the quality of her voice and the instrument and and how serious she is about preparing for work and appreciate it.

Speaker You know her. I think it's better and better.

Speaker How were you at all struck by the difference of the woman, the performance and the woman in person?

Speaker Not really, because I'm a professional myself and one has to have a professional persona. And there's just a mode of behavior and decorum that's that's important when you're working. And then, you know, after all, when we're backstage, getting ready or whatever, we're just very informal and so forth and real. But no, I'm not surprised about any of that, because if I were, I'd have to tiptoe around on friendship. And that's not real.

Speaker Do you remember Jamaica?

Speaker Yes, but I didn't go to a lot of the Jamaica performances of my work schedule was just not one that I was working, sometimes the same hours. But I but I did see it several times.

Speaker Oh, did you were you close to there at that time? Did you think about what she was going through?

Speaker Not as close as we are now, but I knew the beginning of what was going through, what was going to happen.

Speaker You were just talking about money and all the wonderful arrangements he did for her. How would you how would you characterize the relationship? What was how was Leonie important? Felina.

Speaker Well, they were very loving when they were together. Music was a great bond, the first great quality of their mind and the love of fine food, fine trips and squeezing living, you know, at the other end of performances so that they would have fun and and do things together. It was a very warm and loving relationship and great respect for each other's talent. It was wonderful to watch him as he conducted. He breathed when she breathed, you know, there was great admiration and respect and admiration for her. And she was just working hard, hard, hard and depended on him. She knew that he would back her up musically, totally. So that was it was just terrific. They were just really joined at the hip and where one began, the other ended as far as the performances were concerned, and then as a couple, they were just very loving and had lots of fun. And we had wonderful parties and food. And Lenny was a great cook. Lena was a great cook. And he he made a great martini and a great singer and wonderful curried eggs for breakfast in the morning. So there were all kinds of wonderful little tidbits and favorite foods and drinks that were enjoyed by the.

Speaker We think so.

Speaker Oh, yes, yeah, she loves soul food. I don't share that I'm a very simple eater, but I don't share that with her. But I do like the greens and the okra and so forth. But when it comes to tripe or whatever that is, it's not for me. But she loves all of the okra and and the greens. I love all of the greens also. They're a little bit like Italian peasant food, too.

Speaker You know, you share a frigging service in space.

Speaker Oh, yeah. He's just wonderful. He's a great chef.

Speaker As as you saw Lena evolve with what I'm curious to know is through the years. How was the llena that you saw at the Waldorf Astoria different from the in the lady and her music?

Speaker Oh, I think quite different. I think what happened from the Waldorf days, there was perhaps an invisible curtain or something between Lena and the audience because it was that kind of a performance, whereas there was a great relationship with Lena and her audience.

Speaker They gave to her and she gave back to them whatever they sent her, she sent it back in triple. And she really related to that audience. One could feel the love, the warmth. One could also feel the nights when it was a bit cooler. And it's I'm imagining that it's that way for almost any performer. The audience gives you a great deal. And the medium of being in the theater was quite personal. And as the show really revolved around her, there was she was on that stage almost every minute. It's what she gave and so forth. And you could sense that there were nights when the performance went way over the top, you know, because of what was going on, the rapport between the audience and Lena. And that was a thing that I think happened after the world or if going on the road, working in the round, moving much more freely and not excuse me, not having to hold that stand up Mike or work just around that, then I think, of course, making people or the way one does today makes that performance a lot freer and a lot easier.

Speaker I was really struck by. The difference in the way she moved, I was looking at her on the Perry Como show, and then I look at her, you know, with the exercise routine and all that, her music, I mean, seems to be such a liberation.

Speaker I don't know if it was as much a liberation as what various choreographies choreographers wanted her to do. Remember, the the lady and her music was her own show. And Lina started out as a dancer. People forget that she is a fabulous dancer. And when you saw what the body was doing, you know, really bending down and and moving around so gracefully. And I think she's good as any dancer, you know, and she's always loved dancing. So that was part of it. And I just don't think on those TV shows that it was thought of. You know, perhaps it was the evolution seeing Lena at the Waldorf or or in a nightclub down in Florida where it was a more static performance as far as what the body was doing, not the voice and the gestures. And then the body was allowed to catch up with it, you know, and lady in music, so that it became one total thing that you saw.

Speaker She went through a personal evolution to get to the women we saw. Did you were you close at all during the civil rights movement when she sort of blossomed?

Speaker Mm hmm. Could you tell me the change you saw there?

Speaker Well, you know, I didn't see that many changes in her because I just knew her, you know, honestly, the way she was. As I said, we never tiptoed around. And yet our relationship is one that's been very private and very discreet. And yet we know each other very well. So perhaps we know with each other the depths of what we're all about. And that perhaps never surfaced or wasn't natural to surface for other people. But I believe as one grows and ages, one becomes surer of one's identity and one discards a lot of stuff that one doesn't need. And you you get to the true inner core of what you are. And also, I think you become confident and comfortable with yourself. I then believe that she became comfortable with itself publicly, with people that perhaps weren't that close. But I always see the same person and I see it better and better and better. So I've never noticed sharp changes that way. Naturally, when one of us suffers a tragedy which happens to all of us. We repressurize our life, and I think that's happened to all of us as we grow and age, both of us have been through rather large tragedies in our lives and we've shared it. And I think it's just it's wonderful to have a friend at that time and to reveal that sadness or that joy or whatever it is with each other. And that's what friendship is about. So she had hers and I had mine.

Speaker What was it like for her to finally to have a chance to take care of her father?

Speaker Yeah, but it was wonderful for her to have finally, I imagine when she was growing up, it was a different kind of growing up period that I had where I although my daddy was not home all of the time, he was home. He was home, and that was his home base, whereas her dad, it wasn't in her family life. So I think finally, to reconcile oneself with one parents is great to get to know each other on an adult basis. One evolves as a child and they all look six foot four and then all of the sudden you're the same size and you speak the same language and you have that respect for them. But your pals in a very loving way. And that's lovely when you when you get to touch each other's lives, sometimes we don't we don't live up to what a parent wants, but the parent will settle for wherever our lives touch. And I think that's what happened there. He absolutely adored Lina and he was charming and a lovely storyteller, much like my own father. So it was great. It was a great experience to know him.

Speaker And recently, he meant a lot to her. Oh, yes, yeah. Very bright young man. Terri was a very bright young man.

Speaker Unbelievably handsome, he had the lightest eyes I've ever seen. There was so liquid, you almost wanted to dive into them. Extraordinary looking young man and brilliant soul searching all of the time, which I think is typical of that particular era in which he was growing up. There were many inequities in life and injustices, and he was someone who wanted to right the wrongs. Very brilliant young man. And I don't know why God does things like that, but his life was over much too soon. But he was adored by his mother and whatever time they all spent together was very precious. And I think as he grew up later, like Lena growing up with and getting to a point with her daddy, Teddy got to that point with his mother, you know, as he became a young man rather than a child or a teenager.

Speaker I'm sure it was a real source of pain for her to have been separated from her.

Speaker It must have been it had to have been sometimes one just doesn't talk about those things, but you can sense it, you know, whenever it's not exactly as it should be or as one wants it to be, you have to rise above it and press on. And it's it's a source of pain. But one has to be happy that one wakes up every day and you have another day and you can do something else that day or help someone or whatever you're going to do. And you just can't question those things. You just have to somehow work it in and cope with it. And it was like, well, there was a period talk about things coming in threes where one loses three people that one cares for. And they were the men in her life. And I believe it was a period of about 18 months. That's rather a collapsed timeframe. You know, one can hardly mend from one grief episode. And I think we all mourn and grieve in our own private ways. And it's cumulative, you know, that takes a long time to get over.

Speaker I guess I would say jump start or what got her back into life after all that loss.

Speaker I think you just have to there's one day you wake up, it's like studying geometry, you know, you don't get it for six months and all of a sudden you understand it and you move on. And one day you wake up and said, now let's get on with it. When you have a big blow, whether it's an illness or something, you know, first you cry or you get mad first and then and then you just decide. Now, come on, let's get on with this and let's do it. Excuse me. I need a handkerchief. I'm sorry.

Speaker I, uh, it's it's our life.

Speaker It's allergies. But that's OK. I just need. I'm so sorry. I finally suddenly decided and I think I was saying that that just happens.

Speaker You know, you wake up one day and you say, now let's get on with this. It's time to go public again or go out and breathe some air and walk around and not just sit around the house or read or be alone and and think too hard on something that's a natural evolution.

Speaker I think for anyone who's been through some really big and tough moments, it's happened to a lot of us. And this was quite a triple dose of something. You know, I don't imagine anyone would get over it quickly, particularly three men who meant so much at different times, one a child, one or daddy and one a husband. I mean, that's quite a blow that it's an example of strength. It's an example of character, for example, feeling. And remember, Gail was still alive and Gail's life was was growing going forward. And there were children from Teddy that had to be looked after.

Speaker So there were young people replacing the people who who left us.

Speaker When you see.

Speaker One of the songs that. Mosley, Every time I hear her performance yesterday when I was young, what goes through your mind when you hear the number four on that?

Speaker I think it's one of the greatest songs that she sings and she gives a new meaning and she lives every moment, and it does it tells you that there were great moments in yesterday. And also what a survivor I am. I'm still here. I'm doing what I do best. And you total up all of these incidents. And yesterday was great. But today and tomorrow I have to be looked at and are better. I just think the the emotion that she pours into that is extraordinary. And it's quite beautiful to listen to vocally and technically. But it's it's just the emotion and the strength and the revelation of her inner self that she gives in. That's in the rendition of that song. That's extraordinary. It brought the house down all of the time and there were ovations, you know, instant ovations and applause when she performed that song. And she does. And I think different than any other artist who performs that song, including the man who wrote it, Mr. Aznavour, I believe.

Speaker Did you ever witness her together with Billy Strayhorn?

Speaker Yes, we went for some strolls. I met him later on. He was beginning. I beg your pardon? Oh, yes. I did meet Billy Strayhorn and was very impressed with him. I met him just as his illness was beginning. He was little and gentle. And the relationship between those two, they were really kinfolk. It was absolutely wonderful. He meant a great deal to her and without flowery words or whatever, they just knew what they meant to each other. They were very, very tight together, real kindred folks. They understood each other on a human level, on an artistry level, on a musical level. And then they have similar tastes. They love the same city. They loved beautiful clothes. He was impeccably dressed. He was not tall. He was quite slender, but he was fabulous looking great chic. And the two of them together were something to behold.

Speaker Now, didn't she?

Speaker Yes, she did through quite a bit of illness.

Speaker OK, if you would just say that back to me.

Speaker Yes, she did. She did. Nurse Billy through quite a bit of that illness. And it was very sad when you knew he wasn't going to recover.

Speaker How did she take it?

Speaker Well, it was another loss, it was another loss of someone that means a lot and you work with and spend time with and suddenly they're not there. Oh, I can imagine all of us feel that way. When you want to reach for the telephone and have a chat with someone, you want to say the name out, hey, let's do this. And they're not there to answer. Those are the the things that that hurt and that prove to you that someone's not around. I don't know.

Speaker I haven't none of us have received a white feather or red sweater yet to know where people are. But one of these days, we hope, will meet up with them again.

Speaker That's seem to be the meaning of her album, We'll Be Together Again.

Speaker Exactly. I didn't realize I said that.

Speaker I have, but you've mentioned to me that she's a real perfectionist. Mm hmm. Yes. What what are the things? When no one gets angry because it usually around that, what does she get angry about?

Speaker Well, like all of us, you know, sometimes you just wake up on the wrong side, but also I think it's the lack of professionalism and when someone tries to kid you that they're ready and they're not. And I really I don't really like being bluffed like she you know, someone tried to say, yeah, I'm ready or I'm working on it or whatever, you're either it's either coming along or you haven't gotten to the spot where you were supposed to. But don't fudge, you know, just own up to it and say, I'm not ready yet. It's not good enough, whatever. And I feel that's the mark of professionalism.

Speaker I know it drives me crazy, I'm worse than she is.

Speaker If you well, this I would love it if you could get this into words for me, because what you described in terms of the woman who doesn't suffer fools gladly, who doesn't really who.

Speaker Really wants honesty and truth, could you tell me something about those qualities in her? You know.

Speaker It's it's when you meet somebody and, you know, they don't mean a thing that they're saying to, you know, it's absolutely it's typical of big cities, you know, I'm going to call you and they never call. We're going to have lunch. Let's make lunch that we never have lunch or someone is just trying to jazz around a personality and use that person. You know, that's kind of silly when people think that you don't know what's going on. So it's that kind of stuff. And and it's it's also.

Speaker For friendship's sake, you know, there's a time when you just check in with each other. It doesn't have to be lengthy and so just checked to know that the other cares about the other. But I just think anyone who who is full of baloney and a lot of hot air about stuff and and takes credit for something that they've never done or really is hasn't done their homework about whatever the project is in depth. All of that lack of professionalism in in the work life is one thing that I think is intolerable, as does any professional like Lena on a private basis. It's also a lack of honesty. You know, you just have to level up. I mean, both of us, if we feel, for instance, you're invited to something and at the last minute you really don't want to go. And I I've always felt that when you accept an invitation, you have a responsibility to be a good guest and not just go sit in a corner and have your chin on the floor. And I think, you know, there's a time to say, listen, I'm just not up to it. I wouldn't be a good guest. And that's the way it is. Or. There's a time when it's kind of a last minute thing and you just say, sure, I can go, I'm free and I'd love to do it, you know, that kind of stuff. But people who are pretentious and pompous and really have inflated pictures of themselves are kind of intolerable. And anybody who's a killer and doesn't have a sense of kindness and you can sense that right away when someone is the worst kind of user or really not kind, and there are some barbs in what one is saying. I mean, that's the kind of person that suddenly the best thing to do is they just don't exist.

Speaker Um, one of the things that you mentioned to me was how would a private person, Lena? Right. Um, and I've noticed that. When you just put this to ask a question.

Speaker Lina's friends are very protective of. What is what? What is that about, why the feeling, the need for protection?

Speaker I don't know if it's so much perfect protection as it's a sense of great regard for her being the person that she is and a public figure. I think any public figure is vulnerable. I couldn't bear it if all those fans came up and started kissing me and pulling my hand and whatever. I just don't know how people in the public life can take that graciously. So she does need to be protected from those kinds of situations. And also her privacy has to be protected. It's really nothing to hide, but there's nothing you want to share. You know what I mean? It's just your business and nobody else's business. It's not as though there was the greatest secret in the world out there really isn't really. Some of the stuff is quite mundane and ordinary. And believe me, as as uninteresting as anybody else's life, you know, just the same little things that go on. But they belong to her. They belong to us. They belong to the group. And that's all there is to it.

Speaker How important is family, very important family is very, very important. They're their roots and the children, the grandchildren are just wonderful and she's wonderful with them. They mean a great deal to her. They adore her. And it's why one is here, I think, to perpetuate a family line and so forth. And so they're very, very, very important.

Speaker I. I'd love you to tell me about. You were telling me that. When she gets ready to perform, she goes into training, could you tell me?

Speaker Absolutely. She's like an athlete when she gets ready to perform. It's all work depends on what are the performances and so forth, because that means there's a big breakfast in the morning, very late lunch and nothing before a performance, you know, for a singer. One has to be so careful about what one ingests before one has a long, strenuous performance. But her meals are absolutely filled with the right kind of protein, the right kind of vitamins. Her her exercise is takes place at a certain time. She gets hopefully the right amount of sleep. And there is absolute there are no abuses at all. It's all for work. And then it's really interesting because Lena is she has the same disease I have. It's called punctuality. And so she is she's going to take a plane. I always laugh at her that she leaves so early as you're going to be the mayor of the airport. It's not necessary to leave that early. But there she is hours before when she's going to work. It's several hours before she has to be on stage and she gets into that dressing room and the whole, you know, relationship with the performance and and the person she's going to be on stage begins the makeup, takes a certain routine. The whole dressing room table looks a certain way. There's a science and a system. And this goes on at this time that goes on at that time. It's really quite fun to see how we're all the little pencils and this and that belong. And there's very definite routine about all of that. Then there's a moment when. The dress is about in the underpinnings are going on, and then when the dress is finally on, there is no more sitting, no more getting around. In and out she goes perfectly.

Speaker So she can talk to her before just before she's about to go on, although she may concentrate.

Speaker No, you can, but you better say the right thing like any performer. If you say something silly and asinine, you know, that's kind of ridiculous. Also, it's it's sort of she might have asked a question about something that had to be done or whatever, but, yes, one can speak to her. But if it's some stupid kind of thing that can distract her or perhaps be the wrong kind of news before one goes on, you can imagine that can happen to anyone. If you're going to give a speech or you're going to make a presentation. Just the wrong the wrong information at the time is really the wrong information.

Speaker When have you been most moved by the person she is?

Speaker When I had some problems and when I had some losses in my family, she was there when I had recently a serious illness, she and the family were there. And I'm always surprised and touched by that. And then our holidays are always great fun. We make we make we all make a lot of Christmas. We might have it individually with our family.

Speaker Then there's a certain routine. And then it's it's the sharing of those kinds of things and and the rescue of each other that happens at those times. And that's I guess that's what friendship is all about. You don't expect it, but you really know that someone is going to be there. And, you know, it's asked me a question and say, can I I say, name it. And she says, name it. And and we follow through. And she's that way with everyone she's close to.

Speaker And what is relaxation for her, how does she relax?

Speaker Oh, well, you know, she's I wouldn't say she'd ever been an athlete and played golf or tennis or any of that, but I think good music, great reading. She loves to read and loves to look at old movies. And then quiet evenings with friends are great relaxation. And now to see her playing with Jenny's little boy is is wonderful to see her with the baby, you know, and around the children. And that's very relaxing and very satisfying and fulfilling to her. Gives her great pleasure because you watch this little person develop from this infant to and you see suddenly personality characteristics, even someone who's less than a year old. It's really lovely to see.

Speaker Um, what?

Speaker I don't know how you can read in the dark here. Yes, what Christmas is like.

Speaker It's plenty.

Speaker I just need a Christmas answer.

Speaker Well, Christmas is meant plenty and and always thinking of marvelous things to give each other. We all look for something funny. Then we look for something kind of ratty and it's books and music and tons of presents, tons. They're never enough presents until they touch your ear lobe, you know, and everybody gets plenty and very thoughtful. And for some reason it's unidentified. But it seems that in our group, one person gets a special Christmas every year. I don't know how it happens. Somebody either defines it or there's a dowsing rod that does it. But for some reason, everybody hasn't even spoken of it. And one person gets more of a focus than the other. And that's such fun to see that your presents have worked and laugh and then read all of the cards. And sometimes our wrappings are just awful and sometimes our wrappings are beautiful and we recycle the best ribbon and press it and use it again the next year. And it's just sad. We all start early and we all say now this year it's going to be very minimal and then don't you buy this and don't you buy that. And sure enough, it turns out that we walk into the room and the presents are up to our earlobes. Again, it's really wonderful. Everybody gets music, everybody gets books, certain people get food. I give every year llena some kind of bathrobe. I mean, I don't know how it started, but there's always some bathrobe, some robe that she uses and then something very extravagant and then a book that's going to make her happy and some little piece of jewelry that's going to make her happy. And then they give me they always say I'm the hardest to give a present to. And I said, I don't know why you say that. I just love these simple things like gold, silver, pearls, you know. And so we tease each other about all of that. But there's there's great love in the room and we're just so happy when we've struck it right and given good gifts. We always try to get the guys gags, you know, and that's harder and harder to find.

Speaker Well, this is really family, it's Gail's husband and Kevin, and it's Jenny and now her husband, Bobby and Amy when she's in town and myself and before Jenny got married, there would be different paths that she might bring. Or if somebody was a stray that Christmas, Jenny would invite that person and sometimes it would be somebody else, you know, but basically, the inner crowd is always the family and me. And Gail's children, and then we we sometimes even do a strange Christmas, we'll have pizza, we'll open our presence and we'll go to midnight mass. And that's kind of marvelous.

Speaker Revision. I don't know if it's always been important to me, but it seems to be some.

Speaker I wouldn't say it's religion, I think it's a spiritual thing that's coming and rising, and I think it's always been there and I think all of us have a excuse me, a spiritual side and one, just as I say, as you shed these layers, as you grow and we've been through one or two trials in your life, that sense of the spiritual becomes, I think, more obvious to you. And maybe you never had time for it in the correct proportion to the rest of your activities before this time. But as I said, all you need to do is get one of these sort of kicks in the tummy and you repressurize things. And I think those moments of we all meditate in different ways. We all heal ourselves in different ways. I think just being quiet and sensing all of these things and getting ready for whatever the next steps in your life are about to take place at almost this stage of your life.

Speaker First, tell me about Lena now.

Speaker I think Lena now is really in charge of herself and her life. I feel it's about time she she has her own rhythm, her own schedule, and she does things at her pleasure and the way she wants them now. And I think that's really wonderful. She's got the apartment she loves. It's it's organized and decorated the way she loves it. The kitchen is a joy to her. Everything is exactly where she wants it. And whatever she schedules, she schedules the way she wants to do that privately. I mean, when she has professional engagements, that's something else. But she does everything now according to her own rhythm. And it makes life softer and easier. And it's lovely to do to do things the way you really want them and you be in charge of what you're going to do once and for all.

Speaker It's it's just I think it's a great comfort, it's a great natural way to live when you think that someone for as many years as Lena has had to live by a particular schedule and travel and do this and that now to have free time to be able to read when she feels like reading, to be able to watch something, to be able to talk to someone, to get her hair done on the day she wants to take care of whatever manicures or whatever she wants to do it and not when it had to be done. I think that's kind of a wonderful freedom movement and brings great peace and a lack of pressure. There's no pressure now in the sense that there was pressure before. So that was so easy and comfortable for her. Well, as I mentioned, we both love jewelry and fortunately, we have some friends who have shops and they've been very kind to us. They've let us go into the vault and caress a big yellow diamond for as long as we felt like it. And we really didn't have to own it. Just touching it and being with it for about an hour was enough. Or we try on lots of things and certain famous jewelry establishments and it's in this pretty and wouldn't this be wonderful and so forth and so on. And then we've had a great joy in that. I remember one particular Saturday we were shopping at a jeweler on Madison Avenue in the 50s and we looked at this wonderful diamond necklace. It was beveled and you could wear it on both sides. And we looked at each other and this was long ago and the price was 5000 dollars. We said, oh, my God, we can't afford that. And this, that and then and so suddenly we thought, you know, that isn't really bad. And when we went back, it was gone and we were furious. And this has gone on for years. If we only bought that necklace, if we only bought that necklace, we could have shared it. And it was just the most beautiful diamond necklace, I think, from the 40s when jewelry was really set beautifully. And then I always when we look at something now, we say, oh, God, we can't afford that. I said, yeah, look, it was just buying magazines and we'll be able to afford it. So we do silly things like that. But there's no joy, like, you know, trying on this jewelry and having fun with it and then giving it back doesn't hurt at all. You've had it on your ear lobe or on your finger or whatever, and it's good enough.

Speaker Does do you think that. But let me ask this in terms of. What you know of Lena's childhood growing up. Do you think that she has had the opportunity to resolve some of the pain from those early years?

Speaker Oh, I think so, absolutely, she wouldn't be where she is without first of all, what can you do about it? It's over. And I think if you place things historically, it's behind you and it's done.

Speaker And I just believe and I think she does, too, and solutions rather than problems and no regrets, there's nothing you can do about things that have happened, certainly where you had no control over a situation. It's kind of silly to fret and stew over that that has those those energies have to be replaced with something better. And that's all happened to her. I mean, the gift of a grandchild and a great grandchild and seeing her, her grandsons, Kerry's children and and seeing what Gail's children have done, I think those are joys that that take you forward into the future. And you can't worry about what happened in the past. It's over. And that's all there is to it.

Speaker And now that she's able to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it, um. I've noticed that it is what I call a large social. For quiet times, I mean, those. Where would you go in a weekend or what kind of pleasure would you take away from home?

Speaker Well, none of us like to go out Saturday night. I think it's the worst night to go out, you know, and certainly not going out on a weekend night, but strolling during the weekend up and down Madison Avenue, doing some shopping. Perhaps if if there's an early movie, one could take that kind of fun. There are times that we went to the museums and we both of us had to be kicked out of the Egyptian room looking at the gold jewelry. One night the museum was closing around us and we looked at the costume exhibit at the Met. And things like that are wonderful pleasures. You know, it takes a lot to get her stirring and say, you know, this is what we're going to do and so forth. But once we get there, it's a wonderful experience. And so you say, you know, it wasn't so bad that we got out today.

Speaker What is it? That's what keeps her at home.

Speaker She's just comfortable there, you know, and unless it's something that's better to go to, you know, I don't know why you leave sometime. So I think unless it can be replaced with a more pleasant situation, there's no need to go out.

Speaker The just earlier when we were talking about Lenny, yeah, describing what kind of person he was and the kinds of things he likes, I think we sort of lost I think we went into it when he instead of using his name so we can go back and say that again.

Speaker Yeah. When we were talking about about Lenny and you were describing the kind of person he was, the kinds of things he liked and.

Speaker Oh, I think Lenny was a true sophisticate, you know, he he loved the best foods he could. He made a production of what a martini should be all about. The glass had to be chilled. They had to be the right glass. The vermouth had to be such and such. The gin or the vodka or whatever it was, had to be the right brand. Don't ask me because I'm not a drinker, but I know that that had to be the stinger's had to be just so and everything had to be first rate. There was great study of a menu in a restaurant. It was a great study of what one was going to eat that night. And then his love of music, he had a very classical musical background and he was a real artist. And there was no no one who arranged for Lena better than Lenny. And when they performed together, I think he breathed when she did. And he was he was backing her up every minute. They were beautifully connected professionally where she began, he ended and and he knew every note, everything that she was going to do. And she was very confident and comfortable and sure that the performance was going to be what it should be because Lenny was there. He was a beautiful musician and highly respected. And we've seen, you know, he had a great position at MGM. And you've seen credits, you know, music conducted, orchestrated and arranged by Lenny Haden in all of those big MGM musicals. So his his participation and his contribution to those musicals was something stellar. And he just a great guy. He always dressed a certain way, had to have this cap at a certain angle and wore wonderful jackets and just the right slacks, shoes, whatever. And he was really put together and impeccably dressed and had great style that was uniquely his.

Speaker I thought you can say it was my bracelets and I've been so careful, so careful.

Speaker Could you just give us again, because of that movement, I was ask me the question again, I forget it. That religion or something is involvement with religion. Now. And what you're telling me is basically that you thought it was less religion, whether it was.

Speaker Oh, yeah, that's a spiritual.

Speaker And and you said what, because I forget how why how I got into it, you said that religion seems to be important to me now at this time.

Speaker And you were saying you didn't think so much?

Speaker I'm not so sure that it's religion as much as a more obvious spiritual sense now. I feel that it happens to all of us as we've had some tragedies or as we're going on to the next phase or plateau of our life that we repressurize ourself. We take time to be quiet and still and meditate in our own ways. And I choose to call that a more spiritual approach than perhaps a conscious religious thing. I feel that she's always had that and now has just more time to recognize it and live with it and be comfortable with it.

Speaker Oh, I just want to ask I forgot to ask you earlier whether or not. When Lenny was ill and then he died shortly after. Were you at the funeral? What did you fly out?

Speaker No, I didn't fly out. No, that was in California. He died in California. And I didn't fly out for that.

Speaker OK.

Speaker Let me just finish off by asking you, we're talking about what a. How simpatico they were and. Especially musically, how they almost they were like joined at the hip. But then, you know, in the mid 60s, there seemed to be like a growing apart.

Speaker I don't think that that was so, I think that was it, not in the middle 60s when and correct me, I'm not sure I'm historically correct, was that not the civil rights movement and things like that? Well, those were of an enormous concern to me, to all of us.

Speaker And I just think that so much of that jolted so many of us. And I don't think there was that kind of a strain. I think he was working he was still busy on all the pictures and so forth on the West Coast. And then these things were happening here on the East Coast with I began, I think, with the death of Medgar Evers. And that was one of the beginning, things that made one so conscious of the whole movement and the injustices and and what was or what not taking place. And I know Lanas place was rightly so with a lot of a lot of the schedule was participating in what was going on there. And she did lend herself to all of that at that time. And then I imagine because I live in my skin, you live in your she lives in hers. You take it, you absorb it in a more personal way. I can never feel what you feel and you can't feel what I feel, you know, and that may well. Look like or be perceived as a bit of a strain, but I really don't I think it's identifying yourself and and focusing on something and missing something and seeing what you can do about something. So that was a very big time, I think, for all of us in this country and for all of us who feel that way. And and when you think of it, it's still a very rough thing between that and the assassinations of the Kennedy people. And so, I mean, it's just horrific thoughts for that time. And I think it naturally puts a different emphasis on any kind of relationship. And if you're two people who are strong with each other, you have to understand that.

Kitty D'Alessio
Interview Date:
1996-02-27
Runtime:
1:10:36
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
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MLA CITATIONS:
"Kitty D'Alessio, Lena Horne: In Her Own Words." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 27 Feb. 1996, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/889
APA CITATIONS:
(1996, February 27). Kitty D'Alessio, Lena Horne: In Her Own Words. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/889
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Kitty D'Alessio, Lena Horne: In Her Own Words." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). February 27, 1996. Accessed December 07, 2021 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/889

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