Peggy Lee


Miss Peggy Lee Still Dazzles

by Harold Niesen

One thing has tied my entire life together: listening to Miss Peggy Lee sing. Mom supplied her 45s to me before I could read. Now the forever young at heart Miss Lee continues her not-to-be-missed engagement at the Venetian Room through April 30. She combines pop and jazz with a campy Latin beat, and views good music as a common denominator in communication. “It’s like a smile or kind word that doesn’t care whether you’re five or 95.” Singer/songwriter Miss Lee has recorded over 600 songs. She’s a major attraction in Europe, Canada, the Orient and the U.S. Her countless awards range from musical achievements (Grammy in 1969) to citations of humanitarianism from the Cancer Society and the Heart Fund. She was one of the very first to stage an AIDS benefit. I always thought we felt the same way about life. Our phone conversation Monday proved it.

HN: My favorite song you’ve recorded is “Alright, OK, You Win.” Is there any story behind it?

PL: The only story for that one is when Cary Grant heard it, he told me, “That’s the most profound song.” [laughter]

HN: When you’re on the road, what hobbies keep you busy?

PL: I do a lot of reading, that’s my favorite pastime. Right now I’m reading The Lives and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East. It is very interesting.

HN: I recently attended a Catholic mass based on the Aramaic-speaking Syro-Chaldean Church founded by St. Thomas. It’s like the Eastern Catholic Church vs. Western Roman Catholocism.

PL: That is very interesting. You know, all the living deities are really all one thing.

HN: Do you have a favorite TV show?

PL: I have several favorites: I like 60 Minutes, I like Alf, [laughter] and I love nature shows like Nova and National Geographic.

HN: Any favorite performers you’ve worked with?

PL: I love a lot of them. It’s kind of bad to say, because I don’t want to show any favorites.

HN: Do you listen to any Top 40 music today?

PL: Oh yes, anything that’s good, I’ll listen to. I like Sade, some of those bluegrass groups, The Judds, to name a few. As long as it’s good, I like anything that’s good.

HN: What do you think of Madonna?

PL: I don’t think of Madonna.

HN: Have you heard Pia Zadora’s orchestra collaborations?

PL: I have, and I admire her tenacity and the way she sincerely tried to be respected. I admire that.

HN: Do you enjoy Linda Ronstadt’s work with Nelson Riddle?

PL: Yes, and I’m glad that she brought all that out again. They’re practically re-dos of my albums with Nelson Riddle, and I think they’re wonderful.

HN: How do you feel about the large number of gay fans you have?

PL: I appreciate all of my fans. [My gay fans] have an awful lot of my shoes and gowns and things. I’m trying to help with AIDS benefits whenever I can. I gave the first benefit in L.A. and we raised $350,000 that night and I was alone on the benefit program. It was the very first one and hardly anyone knew about it.

Whenever I see Miss Lee in concert I wonder if she can imagine the special part she plays in my life. Don’t miss her Venetian Room performance. Grab a copy of the Lady and the Tramp video or put on Miss Lee’s Greatest Hits collection and remind yourself what real stars are all about.