Steve Lawrence Moves
On Without Eydie
The Former Star For the Stars Recently Celebrated His 80th Birthday Without His Equally Talented And Renowned Wife, Eydie Gorme By His Side
(Left)Publicity photo of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme from the 1970s. (Right)Publicity photo of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme from the 1950s.
By David Fantle and Tom Johnson
Reel to Real Special for Modern Times Magazine
July 13, 2015 — In discussing Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Frank Sinatra once said, “Steve and Eydie represent all that is good about performers and the interpretation of a song . . . they’re the best.”
High praise indeed from the “Chairman of the Board” himself. In the mid 1990s the husband and wife singing duo of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme toured with “Old Blue Eyes.”
Lawrence was born Sidney Liebowitz, in Brooklyn on July 8, 1935. Eydie Gorme was born Edith Gormezano in the Bronx on Aug. 16, 1928.
While singer Tony Bennett was able to introduce himself to a new generation of fans and reinvent himself in the mid 1990s after appearing on episodes of MTV Unplugged, Steve & Eydie still never attempted a crossover or reinvention; instead they remained dedicated to their prime audience – the cocktail generation raised on the music of the Rat Pack.
During a phone conversation we had with him in the 1990s, Lawrence had a few things to say about Bennett’s transformation.
“I think we could bring the same to the show that Tony did – that is, he’s doing what he’s always done and that’s the way to go,” Lawrence told us. “You don’t abandon one audience in an attempt to capture another. A few of our colleagues have done that and it’s proven to be a big mistake.”
Outside of occasional appearances on The Dean Martin Show back in the 1960s; the closest Lawrence came to attaching his star – even for the briefest of moments – to anything remotely considered hip or topical was when he appeared as agent Maury Sline in the 1980 hit film, The Blues Brothers starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
Their stylish act consisted of married couple comic banter, but the centerpiece always remained the music. Lawrence, the easygoing crooner with the rich baritone, and Gorme, the belter with the big, brassy voice, covered the musical landscape with hits from the masters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern.
In October 2010, Steve and Eydie reached a career milestone when they celebrated their 50th anniversary as a popular singing duo. They were married in Las Vegas in 1957. Joe E. Lewis attended the ceremony wearing Chinese pajamas and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who were married there the same day, were witnesses.
Steve and Eydie began their careers as members of the cast of Steve Allen’s original Tonight Show. While starring with Allen, their individual recording careers flourished with such hits as “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” for Eydie and “Go Away Little Girl” for Steve. Steve and Eydie share a Grammy for the album, We’ve Got Us, and Eydie won a second Grammy for her solo recording of “If He Walked Into My Life.”
Steve and Eydie’s television specials saluting the great American songwriters are still considered stylish time capsules that exemplify the vanished tux and gown traditions of Las Vegas showrooms. The critically-acclaimed Steve & Eydie Celebrating Irving Berlin received seven Emmy Awards, Their tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, Our Love is Here to Stay picked up two more Emmys.
We wondered if the idyllic couple who project a blissful relationship on stage actually ever had a serious marital spat.
“We’re no different than anyone else,” said Lawrence. “Our disagreements run the gamut from professional to personal. In fact, one of the best shows we ever did came on the heels of a fight we had. I can’t recall what precipitated it. We walked out on stage and we were so hostile to each other. The more venomous it became, the more the audience loved it. When the show was over we were cleansed. It was actually cathartic.”
Steve and Eydie had two sons, one tragically died in 1986 at the age of 23 after knee surgery from a fall in a softball game. The young man, Michael, had experienced a mild heart condition as a teenager. Overcome with grief, the couple didn’t perform for a year.
On Aug. 10, 2013 the singing team was silenced forever when Gorme passed away just shy of her 85th birthday.
Since then, Lawrence, for the most part, has been absent from live performances and public appearances are rare.
When discussing the prospect of retirement at the time of our interview, he said, “Retirement is a decision based on a lot of different emotional levels. We’re sometimes the best ones to know and sometimes we’re the last ones to know. When you can no longer reach certain notes; when you are physically not strong enough to transmit that needed energy to an audience; these are all tell-tale signs along the professional highway that it might be time.”
For Lawrence, becoming uncoupled is perhaps the most portentous of those tell-tale signs.
David Fantle & Tom Johnson have been entertainment journalists for more than 30 years and co-authored the 2004 book, Reel to Real: 25 Years Of Celebrity Profiles From Vaudeville To Movies To TV. Fantle teaches film and television at Marquette University in Milwaukee and Johnson is a former senior editor for Netflix. They can be reached at www.reeltoreal.com
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