Peggy Lee


Tintyped: Peggy Lee

by Sidney Skolsky

My tintype for today, Peggy Lee, suddenly became hot.

She sang a triple-gaited mambo version of Rodgers and Hart waltz, “Lover.” It sold more records faster than any other recording she had ever made. It smacked the Hit Parade real hard. She was signed to play the feminine lead in The Jazz Singer.

She was singing at Ciro’s when director Michael Curtiz saw her. He wanted her for the movie, saying: “If she can put into acting the emotions that she puts into singing, she’ll be terrific.”

She’s in a world of her own and is oblivious to everything else when she is singing. She sends herself.

She is 5-foot-7, weighs 118, has hazel eyes and silver-blond hair, which is unlike any natural hair on anybody. She considers it a distinctive trademark.

She was born in Jamestown, North Dakota, May 26, 1920. She’s of Scandinavian descent. Her real name is Norma Egstrom.

She got the name Peggy Lee from the manager of radio station WDAY in Fargo, when he gave her a singing job.

She sang in noisy dining rooms, with bands on the road, but it was at the Doll House in Palm Springs that she actually developed her style of singing. She again had to compete with the restaurant crowd noise.

She lowered her voice instead of shouting. With each tune she dropped it lower. The customers piped down. She had the whole place under her spell.

She is a creature of moods.

She is considered intelligent but somewhat naive by her friends.

She can play the piano. She does so mainly in private, “Because most of my musician friends play better than I do.” She has a large collection of bongo drums.

She is a good impersonator. She can mimic any accent, as she did on her recording of “Mañana.” She does a good imitation of Frank Fontaine as John L. C. Sivoney.

She doesn’t think she is sexy but many Hollywood men think otherwise.

She was recently divorced from Dave Barbour. They have a daughter, Nicki, aged 8. She and Dave met when they were with Benny Goodman’s aggregation. Dave was the guitarist and she was the singer with the band.

She and Dave, before they separated, wrote “Mañana.” They also collaborated on “It’s a Good Day,” “Just an Old Love of Mine,” “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” and “If I Had a Chance with You.” He would write the music generally; she, the lyrics.

She also writes poetry. She is waiting for some publisher to bring it out in book form.

She insists she’s more interested in her career than in dating. She does okay. Her recent steady is actor Brad Dexter. She wants her next marriage to last.

She lives in a spacious English house in Brentwood. She has a special music room which resembles a French cafe. She likes to have many friends over for jam sessions and yak sessions.

She is a good cook but she leaves housekeeping and cooking to professionals.

She likes a big breakfast. When she treats herself to one, she has just a salad for lunch and a light dinner. She likes almost anything with hot mustard.

She likes pets. She has a Collie named Banjo and a canary named Jo-Jo, for José Ferrer. Another Ferrer, Mel, is a close friend. He staged her nightclub act.

She had a dim view of Hollywood until she got her movie job. “Hollywood is just for rusticating,” she’d say. “I want to be in New York where the tempo of show business is really up.”

She admits now that Hollywood is beginning to look different.

She can rehearse for hours and is indefatigable. She can get along on very little sleep without looking tired.

She sleeps in a king-size bed of pink and white. She likes fresh air and sleeps with the windows wide open. She sleeps in flimsy pastel nightgowns. She likes to change sides from time to time during the night.

She amazes people with her energy.