2012 - Celebrating 100 years of Frances Faye
Meet the author & other FAYENATICS
Frances Faye Die wanting me!
Should I strip or should I sing?
I was born in the Midwest (a cancer, Fran loved cancers) and grew up in Colorado where I still live. I am an artist and pretty so it does not matter how I wear my hair.
I first heard Frances Faye sing after taking a chance on a $2 album that intrigued me at a used record store. The cover notes were oddly vague yet telling but I was most impressed that someone had recorded Barney Google and I loved the song Fever so I bought it. When I played it, I was blown away by the unusual and wonderful sound and saucy banter. This woman had a unique, high voltage delivery and knew what she was talking about and who she was talking to. I had NEVER heard anything so frank on LP before. I can only imagine what that was like to hear that album during the closeted era in which it was made! Like seeing the first onscreen same sex kiss, I suppose. Fran's voice, rhythm and delivery against Jack Costanzo's bongos were instantly appealing and a sound unlike anything I had ever heard, but the gay content was a wild and shocking surprise. I was instantly hooked. I really enjoyed introducing this discovery to friends.
And over time, I grew to love Fran's music even more. I looked everywhere to find more Faye recordings but rarely turned up anything. Who was this mystery woman, when was that album made? The early 60's I guessed from the sound, but no one was that open or out then. If you try to look Frances up in a library, index or jazz history book you'll find virtually nothing. I never understood why she was so obscure and elusive. Why didn't everyone know who she was?
The talented singer remained a mystery to me for nearly ten years until I finally stumbled onto a written reference about her. Then, in Australia I was browsing a bookstore on Oxford Street and found Stephen MacLean's Peter Allen biography called "The Boy From Oz." I picked it up, followed the habit I had since being a teenager of scanning the index for any Judy Garland references when, Eureka! I found it! Finally something about Frances Faye! I couldn't believe it. That was a start but learning more proved very difficult. Library and bookstore searches turned up nothing and the internet was not then what it is now. Then I found Ray Hagen's breif online tribute, learned a bit more including that sadly, she had died.
I struck up a friendship with Ray, we researched together collecting data and unreleased recordings. It was a joy. My research has uncovered many reviews that said basically although a top notch entertainer, Frances Faye "did not have a great voice." I disagree! She did not have an achingly beautiful voice like Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day or a young Judy Garland; nor did she have nearly the range of Yma Sumac. But she did have a GREAT voice. Her voice is an essential element of her wonderful and unique sound. It is mostly because of her loud, scratchy voice that I truly love her music.
Demystifying Frances has only made me appreciate her more. On the websites I later created I write about her courage, talent, and determination. What is hard to express is what her performances mean to me. I think the vast amount of time and effort I have put into research and assembling my site speaks for the respect I have for the music. Afterall, that is why I did it. To find more, was to hear more. But it was too good to keep to myself, I had to share the music and honor it's maker.
My way of giving back to Frances is to offer what I have discovered to the world; to document online where it can be found by others what Frances achieved in an amazing fifty year career and help rescue her from an unjust obscurity.
I also love Ella, Eartha, Ethel Merman, Yma, Bette Milder, Marlene, Marilyn Maye, Dusty, Rose Chi-Chi Murphy, cabaret ladies like Sharon McNight, Holly Cole & Claiborne Cary; Totie Fields, cabaret boys like Wayne Barker, Bruz Fletcher, vintage drag such as TC Jones, Charles Pierce - with talent and an original act!, novelty and children's songs, the unusual, tragic and camp. Oh the list goes on and on. SEE MY OTHER WORK.
I can't sing.
OTHER FAYENATICS I know we've never dated
These are the ones who in someway or another contributed to the collection or actively keep Fran out there.
Ray Hagen: He got the whole thing rolling with his web tribute. (an updated is below). Together we set out to uncover all that we could find. It was a joy to share our discoveries with eachother. Ray has heard form countless other fans eager to finally learn something about FF. Other favs are Dorothy Loudon, Janette Davis, Jane Russell, Janet Blair, Cyd Charisse, Andrews Sisters.
Stephen MacLean, Author, Director, Peter Allen Biographer: He has shared many intimate memories of Frances Faye and others with me. He pointed me to other Faye sources I did not know. Also: Peggy Lee, Marlene. Died 03/06
Murray Hill, Drag King and Performer: New and energetic fan.
David McCain: Generous collector who also does the legwork of discovery. 78's, soundies, early TV and articles. Half of what I know about FF comes from his tireless research. Almost every newspaper article written before 1970 (expect the Austrailan ones) was located by him. Shares b-day with FF. Also THE BOSWELLS, vintage drag, TC Jones, Rae Bourbon.
David Torresen: Runs Songbirds site. Gave heaps of help to Ray. Some Faye images on this site came from him. Peggy Lee fan.
Michael Mascioli: Faye fanatic. Got every album personally signed. Preserved the SF concert. Sends me new finds for the archive. Sells. Loves all those ladies and acts. His writings have described Faye better than anyone elses.
M. Gallob: Great collector. Preserved and shared the NY concert. THANK YOU.
Wayne Barker: Amazing musican, arranger, collector and wit. Piano & Arranger for The Raymond Scott Orchestrette which performs Re-configured Re-arrangements of Raymond Scott's Classics! Also - A Little Curious (HBO); cabaret hit "Check In With The Jet Set" with Jamie MacKenzie; Chicago City Limits; Radio Active Theatre (WFMU, WKCR); lots of symphony pops arrangements; The Wayne Barker Lounge Orchestra; Recent 10-month USA tour with Australian Megastar Dame Edna Everage. Out of the blue he outbid me on a Faye item on Ebay and has never stopped giving. His rare Betty Hutton got us the Demo Album in a trade. Appreciates the unusual, Marilyn Maye, Tallulah, Raymond Scott as well as 20th Century composers. Great voice too. Great everything. Kinda cute and smoldering bedroom eyes.
Adam Dugas: Even younger than me. Helps to keep the torch going. Talented perfomer and writer. Gorgeous. Big Polish feet. Judy Garland.
Allen Bardin: Very generous collector. Lots of connections. Has created terrific Faye charactitures. Hung. He loves all those ladies. Peggy Lee, Diana Dors, most 50's ballad singers, the rare and obscure. He teaches me a alot.
Freeman Gunter: Bought 1st Faye album while in the 4th Grade! Partied with Frances Faye, also very well connected. Opera queen. Has a terrific collection including authorized bootlegs made with Peggy Lee's blessing and other lounge acts. Felicia Sanders, Carol Sloane. Marilyn Maye, Marlene.
Jim Sears: Teaches FF and Rae Bourbon at University, hosts Ray's tribute.
Simon Moss, One of UK's biggest Faye fans, and a great guy: A collector's dream. He will help you find it.
Luke: unknown fan who sent me the collages displayed on this site.
Chris Marino: In with the SF crowd. Shared the Over Easy episode.
Brian: a Dusty Springfield fan who found this site and sometimes emails wonderful research: Brian was the the first to find mention of "The Lively Ones," and found some Billboard, Downbeat and Variety article dates. Thanks for sharing Brian!
JD Doyle: DJ and founder of "Queer Music Heritage" radio show site: http://www.queermusicheritage.com. He shares in huge colleciton and documents queer music history online and on the air.
Michael Dominici: New Orleans DJ, keeps Fran's voice on the airwaves.
and Bing Crosby, Patti Andrews, Bobby Short, Bruce Vilanch, Peter Allen, Alice Faye, Judy Garland, Mitzi Gaynor, Rex Reed, Bernadette Peters, Hugh Hefner, Ru Paul, Ed Sullivan, Lou Walters, Jack Costanzo, Louis Malle, Robert Mitchum, John S. Wilson, Leonard Feather, Gary Cooper, Milton Berle, Real Don Steele, Bob Hope, Rod Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, Sophie Tucker, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Bette Midler, Bob Downe, Mark Trevorrow, Henry Fonda, Paul Schaffer, Janis Siegel, Charles Pierce, Arthur Blake, John Kennedy Toole, Paul McCartney, Todd McKenney, Steve & Eydie, Tab Hunter, Lypsinka and Bruce Weber.
Michael Mascioli added these two incredible performers to the list of Fayenatics: And comedienne Elmarie Wendel (best known as the neighbor on THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN) and gay singer/recording artist Bill Cooper each pay tribute to Faye in their live performances; indeed, both at one time began their cabaret acts with Faye's rhythmic opening chant from her own stage show, lifted verbatim from the CAUGHT IN THE ACT albums: "Good eeeeevening! Good eeeeevening! Good eeeeevening, ladies and gentlemen! How are you? How do you do?"
8/6/04: Jack Costanzo writes:
"Of all the stars I have worked with, the most exciting was Frances. She allowed me the freedom to stretch out and also be a part of her show. While there was never a doubt that Frances was the star of her show she featured me very much. I have to say there was only one Frances. She and I were dear friends and when her girlfriend joined up with Frances, she and I also became good friends.
You have so much stuff on Frances it is unbelievable. I notice you have a lot of the things Fran said on her shows. There was a maitre'd called Mario at the Thunderbird Inn in Las Vegas. During the show Fran would say, “Mario this song is for you.” And then as though Mario couldn't hear her she would say, "He’s been after me for days but I could never It would be too wild," or “I just can't he’s too short,” or “I'm too much for him, goodness.” I'll try and come up with something once in awhile." Terese adds: I had a fun talk with Jack Costanzo and he gave me a good feel for how it was to work with Frances. My favorite bit: He remembered her singing "Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Men have laid you." He said he'd come and see the show when it's up and running.
FANS WRITE ME:
I wanted to tell you of my brief encounter with Frahnces back in '72. I was in Chicago writing a column for After Dark Magazine, and one night Frances Faye came to play at Mr. Kelly's. The place was SRO, which meant the bar, which, with FF was really OK, as I didn't want to get too close to her, just in case I got hurt. Granted, I'd never seen her perform live. But just listening to the Crescendo LPs was enough to make one feel cautious. Well, she was wild, wicked and wondereful and not a bit over the top. A great musician with a swell sense of humor and a great feeling for working the room. Her cousin, Chicago columnist Marty Faye, was standing right behind me. When I yelled out a request for "Drunk Again," he whispered in my ear "Louder!"
Afterwards I asked to meet her and was told she was already next door at the little showbiz bar name of which I now forget. Sure enough, perched on a stool, having a drink, same dress and make up still intact. I introduced myself, giving her the spiel about After Dark and how great I thought she'd been. All the time she was mostly looking at my hands, which in those Disco Days were fairly laden with jewelry. When she thought I was done talking, eyes still on the rings, she asked me "which one's gold?" A bit startled by the specifics of the question, I pointed out to just one in the collection. "Why don't you give it to me," was her response. We chatted a bit, though I can't recall a word of what followed. It must be that wild, wicked Frances Faye was fairly conventional off-stage and the conversation was not memorable. Except for the opening salvo. And, no, I didn't give her the ring.
04/04/04: ..Listening to the albums again makes me realize what a great performer she was. Her understanding of music and lyrics is completely original. MB
1/8/04: I just talked to my mother about Frances Faye as she is 82 and a native New Yorker. She told me she remebered her from a club called the Famous Door on 52nd Street and it was not much secret about her being bi sexual (just like Lady Day). She also said that there was a private club in Harlem that had sex parties and people like her and Taullah Bankhead and Laughton the actor would go and that wasn't much of a secret either, interesting. -Mhunt
April 4, 2004:
Well, I heard her before I saw her actually, Frances Faye, whoever she was, on radio 3AW coming down the wire from brash Sydney to more refined Melbourne, appearing as the morning guest of a camp old contraption of the airwaves known as Andrea who occupied the 'ladies' morning radio slot from nine till noon - Frances up rather early I'd guess to do this particular radio show and indeed she'd had a late night out the preceeding evening - which she filled us in on brilliantly and at length and I was rivetted. She'd been, she said, to see the best show imaginable - something called THE SOUND OF MUCAS starring BEATRICE at a drag joint Beatrice ran far away from the bright lights of Sydney - but according to Frances Faye, an un-missable comedy feast. In between Frances's ravings about Beatrice doing Julie Andrews - and Beatrice's other recent stellar production A STREETCAR NAMED BEATRICE - Frances went to bat for Judy Garland (who'd been run out of Melbourne following her disasterous concert there) - and camp old Andrea went to bat for Frances (it sounded like quite the sewing circle I might add) playing copious lashings of CAUGHT IN THE ACT. Hearing her as a teenager, I can only guess at what impressed me in retrospect, even though I wasn't consciously thinking of her as g-a-y because in those days we didn't say gay in Australia - we said 'camp' - but it was the unexpected aspects of Frances Faye that I valued then and now, because everything about her went against type. I did not know anything to speak of about Jews, lesbians of beatniks, but some second sense told me that Frances Faye was so unexpectedly gay, so unexpectedly Jewish, most of all, so unepectedly BEATNIK.
Within two days I had her 'Caught in the Act' album practically worn out - the sound of it mortally offending my mother (always a sign I was really onto something good) who would call 'That woman hasn't got as note in her voice!- then, before the dust settled, I pulled my savings from under the rug and I was on the overnight train to Sydney determined to go to my first nightclub and see Frances Faye and also see the show Frances Faye saw and raved over, ‘The Sound of Mucas’. Furthermore, I had an 'in', because someone I knew actually knew someone else who - yes - actually KNEW Frances Faye herself and could - wow - get me in to the show as Frances's guest.
And so it came to pass that I eventuallty got of the train and found and made my way to the much anticipated mecca called Chequers nighclub thrilled to be entering such an establishment and wearing my very first suit. It was a rainy Monday or Tuesday night on the aptly named Pitt Street, and outside the club was the shot from Frances Faye’s ‘You Gotta Go! Go! Go!' album, Frances as a really swinging young chick, pre-Botox but smooth and youthful and doubtless even younger and prettier offstage. I had been told that alI had to do was to give my name and I'd be expected, that I would be ushered into he club, the world my oyster. Except it didn't quite work that way.
As it happened - this being real life - the intimidating Hungarian maitre d' Casey had never heard of me. I was terrified, and when he told me to check backstage with Miss Faye's secratary, I scuttled into Chequers which was large and empty and smelt of beer and despite its size was showing distincts signs of wear and show biz lesson number one - was not quite the glamour pit on Pitt I'd been expecting; a tired club on a slow night with no audience in sight gearing up or the first show of the week. Directed towards the Chinese kitchen, I took a right towards a passageway, only to be confrontd by the most alarming sight I'd perhaps ever seen Baby Jane Hudson was spotted capering on Malibu beach.
With only her youthful voice and album pictures to go on, I had been naively expecting a Frances Faye of my own personal visual imagination, a young swingin' and very physically active chick possibly dancing the Pony or the Jerk while Jack Costanzo beat his skins - in other words the Frances Faye who used to guzzle malteds back at the Croydon Bar. But as I moved into the gloom of the back stage passage I spotted the Frances Faye I will never forget - virtually crippled and gripping the wall, trying to drag herself out of her dressing room unaided - the actual artifact herself, the gallant reality, in a blaze of garish color - the sparkling gown, the green eyeshadow, the carrot colored wig, the bare lightbulb over her head throwing shadows along the false eylashes over the fabulous big almost Indian Mohican nose, further exaggerating the jowls - Frances Faye herelf in a private nothing moment scowling at the ground, it obviously a great effort for her to get where she was going, in her case, the first show of a long week. That was what I saw. I turned and bolted.
However, being young in an older environment has its virtues, because back in the showroom I caught the eye of a large group of ordinary but endearing looking women - just my kind given my working class background - women huddled at a table ringside intent on having a ball. Calling me over, they turned out to be maids, Frances's personal guests from the Chevron Hotel, where Frances was staying. They said they would have a word to Frances Faye's very nice secratary and insisted I sit with them, and before I knew it - the show was on, the first nightclub show I ever saw - and perhaps (almost) with the possible exception of Peggy Lee in New York in years to come - the best . (Once you see Frances Faye you've nowhere to go but down).
First came the ballet, meaning the kick-line that any major club in those halcyon days boasted. Then the comedian. Then the gold scallaped curtain dropped, and before we knew it, we heard her before we saw her: the bongo play-in with the honking sax then the voice itself, that Brooklyn phrasing with the leather tones ever bending those notes gloriously devoid of vibrato. 'Good evening.......' ...the bongos pounded, the sax wailed, the piano flew and Frances Faye was wonderful. Frances finished, glad to get off - with her favourite parting shot for the sole dispomanaic who been calling for 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady' all night. One of her standby quips but the one I suspect she really always meant: "I've got a message for you,sir - STOP DRINKING!!'The maids asked if they might see Frances Faye to thank her for this wonderful evening complete with Just a Gigglio. However it was tactfuly explained that a visiting friend had just whisked Frances Faye out the rear door 'to take her for a refreshing drive before the next show.’
So we found our way out to the empty streets. The maids asked me to 'a cup of coffee' but I had three buses and a ferry to catch to get to where I was stopping that night. And I'd just seen one of the great show-biz bohemians of that or any other age. Part of me wanted to be alone to savour it. (Looking back I'm thrilled with myself for actually getting my first suit and catching the train for twelve hours and DOING IT, i.e. seeing Frances Faye and the next night seeing the wonderful SOUND OF MUCAS.) Crikey, those were the days - and Sydney before it was 'discovered' an extraordinary place.
And when I got back to Melbourne, I sought out the old dyke who told me I was on the list and would be a guest at Frances Faye's show, when in fact - for her own reasons - she was merely playing a trick on me and delighted in telling me she hadn't bothered to ask for any favours for me.
'You just learned your first lesson in show business', she told me.
'And what was that?
'You got IN', she snarled, (herself a Lana Cantrell devotee who allowed
that Frances Faye would be an okay performer 'If only she'd change her fucking act every now and then.')
The third and last time I saw Frances Faye perform was San Francisco at - I think - the end of 1977. Times hadn't so much changed but really just rather caught up with Frances Faye. At the time I was doing TV interviews for Australia out of New York, mainly for a teen audience, mainly ephemeral pop stars. It did cross my mind that I should tape Frances Faye for radio - because someone in radio might have actually heard of her - and I rang her suite at the Holiday Inn - a suite at the Holiday Inn - that amused me. But alas there seemed to be tension in the air so I contented myself with the show, Frances Faye lapsing into anger with her band, who did seem like they might have shown a BIT more respect. 'Can you believe we rehearsed five hours today?’ she snapped. As ever her opener was ’The Man I Love’ - the structure of the act unvarying - but as ever, what an ear she had for slotting and evaluating pop songs of the day, in this particular case her canny and exciting version of a Barry White release that never quite made it but deserved to - 'Ecstasy’ (when you lay down with me). Apart from the sound, the bridge of this song produced a frozen image of Frances Faye that shall always remain with me - the proud nose in the air hovering intent and demonic over the keyboard, one hand suspended, then the finger crashing down on this one particular piano chord she kept repeating - ‘Ecstasy when you lay down with me.’
...Later on, in the 80's, I was working in Los Angeles having the wretched inevitable Hollywood experience. At this point I remember Frances Faye's old friend Frankie Mitchell got Frances Faye's phone number to me, asking me to ring her; I think he had it in the back of his head I might end up living in some guest cottage he mentioned at back of the Faye estate, whatever it was. In the halcyon days, Frankie himself had sometimes dropped in on Frances Faye in Los Angeles en route to his beloved New York, never to make it any further than Fran's pad. He'd have such a ball with her he would never make it any further, Frances ... watching her beloved 'Dating Game' on TV, sending out for pizzas, the pair of them roaring with laughter...
Not long back I noted that Bob Dylan made an observation in passing - the old crone said that the 1950's were a lot more interesting than the 1960's. When I think of Frances Faye doing what she did - and when she did it (and sometimes on the same bill as Lenny Bruce, no?) - I can't help but see his point. Good on you for doing your website. Frances Faye remains remains one of the best kept secerts of 20th Century show business.
... I remember that FF said she was singing in Manila (!) when Judy's plane touched down there after she flew out of Australia and she said she got a message to Judy.
... I'd never forgotten her great version of ‘The Beat Goes On’ from the night I saw her in Melbourne or on 'The Mike Walsh Show' performing with the blonde hair, she looked so great.
... In closing here, I got to know Peggy Lee very well towards the end of her life - marvelous woman - and if I remember, one time she said her favorite album of her own was ‘The Man I Love.’ Unusually, the title song was not one of my favorites by Miss Lee, so I said to her mock-pointedly, 'You know, I always thought Frances Faye did that better than anyone else.' To which Peggy Lee - who loved a bit of subtle sauce - replied without missing a beat, 'Well, it was easier for Frances, Stephen, because Frances didn't have to mean it.’
5/15/03: I again want to congratulate you on that marvelous site! It's veryheart-warming to know there's a lot of Frances fans out there. ... Although I am not gay, I truly admired her for being who she was.
She was solace and inspiration to me in the 50's and 60's. ... Someone I knew in the late 50's introduced me to her -- and then I went looking for her records. ... In some of the bad moments of my life, I would always put her records on and they never failed to cheer me up and get me singing and dancing around the house. Most people I know have never heard of her, and my husband is a professional musician ... When we first met and I played Frances for him, he was a little puzzled -- but then he got hooked!
I heard about her death when Paul Shaffer mentioned it on Letterman's show. I realized then that he was a fan -- I even sent him a postcard thanking him for mentioning it!! What a talented gal! She's not your ordinary female vocalist but there's something addicting about her performances that makes you want to go out and find some more.
Again, kudos to you. Mahalo nui and aloha, lei
...I have been listening to her for years, I've seen her show in New York, she came out of retirement and did a few nights ... and right now I can't remember what cabaret. I took my girlfriend to see her and in the middle of the set she stopped walked down to our table took my scarf off my neck and put it around Margaret's shoulders "Its cold in here, be a gentleman" that I remember...she, like my mother, was a balabusta...and I don't know what that means... when I lived with my parents in Brooklyn back in the 50's, I would play Frances Faye and my mom would yell, what are listening to that screamer for...it seems my mom went to school with her. Carl R.
Murray Hill forwarded this one:
I have no idea what I've stumbled into or onto re this site - but I knew Frances Faye (Farkas) slightly through my aunt, Helen Isaacson, in the late 40s - early 50s! This was in Beverly Hills, Calif. Sometime in the mid or late 40s, while visiting Aunt Helen, I noticed a picture of Frances Faye on one of her den walls. It was very personally autographed. My aunt took me to several clubs on Sunset Blvd. to to catch her act which was great. Again in the mid 50s, I had moved to L.A., my aunt and I and a few other people went to see Frances Faye at a Club - I think it was Ciro's (did they have floor shows?) Anyway we got to the club late and it was packed. As soon as he saw my aunt, the maitre d' ordered a table and chairs to be set up for us right on the hardwood dance floor. I also remember Frances Faye visiting with my aunt who lived on Doheny Drive. My recollection is that they were very close friends for many years. I realize this isn't the kind of stuff that adds to this legendary performer or what you are interested in; it's more in the realm of her personal life. Nevertheless, I just had to write. I recently borrowed an album by Frances Faye and one of Beverly Shaw's. (This was before I knew she had a website and/or this fabulous fan club.) It was such fun being transported back to my youth. I know a fellow who has quite a Frances Faye collection. He has offered to play them for me - but never seems to be available when I am. Still can't get over the lengths true fans will go. A tribute in 2001! Wish I could make it. I can't believe that all this stuff is being updated as recently as November 2001. Best wishes, M
Congratulations on your MAGNIFICENT Frances Faye website, it is just incredible. I particularly enjoyed my old friend Stephen Maclean's memories of seeing, hearing and meeting her... what brilliant, detailed and perfectly hysterical recall he has! What is it about Frances Faye that moves us so? that she was out, and proud, and LOUD - when we were all in diapers? There's that, with its inspiring cultural and historical significance, but it's more likely the musical, vocal and comedic skill of probably the greatest cabaret performer -
I discovered her only eight years back, here in Sydney - like many via the CD release of Caught In The Act - but the great thing about great artists is that it doesn't matter when you discover 'em, only that you discover 'em! Frances is a legend among older queens and lesbians here, of course, having played in cabaret here over many years, right up to the late 70s. I think she loved Sydney - and Sydney adored her.
I'm an entertainer, too - a comic and singer - and I worked with a fabulous, funny old sax and flute player named Ted White, on an album project of mine directly inspired by Frances. Ted worked with Frances in Melbourne in the 60s, and he told me the first thing she did at rehearsals was to give all the players, whom she'd never met, a joint! What a way to loosen them up and snap them out of their various bags of tricks. (You can imagine how uncooperative straight white jazz players can be, especially around gay & lesbian singers.)
Cheers - MARK TREVORROW (aka 'Bob Downe')
I think Frances's importance as the first out, gay mainstream artist (more than as a gay icon) cannot be exaggerated. She paved the way for Peter Allen, she (obviously!) inspired Bruce Vilanch - and through him Bette Midler and countless others - and I believe you can trace her right down to contemporary, out and mainstream gay comedians like Justin Bond (of 'Kiki & Herb'), Julian Clary and Lily Savage in the UK - all of whom I am proud to call friends - and yes, I'd like to think Bob Downe could be included in the list! ;-) another Australian is the incredible Paul Capsis.
Frances Faye/ A Mother's Reaction.
Here's a story that you might enjoy. Not long after purchasing the "Caught in the Act" LP, I was listening to it one day when my mother entered the room unexpectedly. "Who's singing?" she asked curiously.
"Frances Faye!" I exclaimed.
She picked up the LP jacket, took one look at Fran with that buzz cut, frowned, and remarked, "She looks weird." She put down the LP jacket and left the room. Need I say more? Gotta go-go-go now, but I'll be back some other time. Bye. Brian
Here's my "how I found Frances" story. Its like coming out all over again ! In my opinion it is impossible to have sex to a camp classic soundtrack. I once had to leave a particularly fine orgy in a Berlin bar because somebody kept selecting the Andrews Sisters medley on the juke box. I just couldn't suck and sing at the same time ! And so this was how I discovered Frances Faye. It was 1984 and I was just 21. A guy I'd met in a bar and dragged back to my London bedsit spotted my album collection and suggested music while we did it. Oh-oh ! Peggy Lee ? Too smoochy. Ella ? Too smooth. Judy at Carnegie Hall was out of the question ! I settled on a scratchy copy of a disc I'd bought a few weeks before and had only played once: "I'm Wild Again". Perfect, I would be unable to sing along. Half way through "Toreador" the guy says "this is good, who is she ?". Sex was over for the night. Frances took control. It became a mission to find out more and to spread the word about my discovery.
I spent the next few years adding to the collection. "Caught in the Act" was a revelation. Was that really a reference to gay meaning gay ? In those days ? Apparently. So she was not only fab, but gay too. So why didn't everyone know about her ? Faye albums have never been easy to find in the UK, but a few trips to the San Francisco record stores helped. Finally, after ten years I found "Francis (ouch !) Faye Sings the Blues", and then no more - I had a complete set !
And the guy in 1984? He promised he'd call again. He didn't. I never attempted having sex with Frances Faye again.
- Simon Moss
Thanks for such a great Frances Faye site! I just heard her for the first time this past weekend. My girlfriend is a cabaret performer at a club in San Diego and one of her fans (and friends) gave us a tape of a live album. He used to see her (Faye) perform in LA on a regular basis, back in the heyday of live performance there. Anyways, we both completely flipped and couldn't believe that we'd never heard her before. I shudder to think about how many albums of hers I've probably passed over in my thrift store forays. I was digging through the web and found a link to your site from francesfaye.com. We're both hooked and depressed as hell that we've lived without her this long. Anyways, thanks again. Great site. Sincerely, CP
I was at the Spindletop. That is the night I met FF and spend most of the night with her and Teri up in their hotel room! It was one of the wildest nites of my life, and not the least because of a bizarre thing that happened that is going into my book." FG
I've been thinking that Frances totally sacrifices her career in the cause of true self-expression, pays the price, and stands her ground to the end. That impression was supported by things Jack Costanzo told me when I met him last year. DZ
Magnificent website -- it really paints a vivid picture of the wonderfulness that she embodied. I've been learning all sorts of things I never knew about our beloved Miss Faye. I had no idea of her connection with Miss Danny Kaye! DS
I think I first heard Faye singing I LOVES YOU PORGY with Mel Torme on tv -- little black and white screen. Knocked me out. So when I came across a couple of her albums in the shop, I bought them. $1.79 each. The one I especially loved was the Folk Songs. Very moving. So happy to see it finally on CD just a few months ago. Of course I have the Porgy and Bess -- wonderful recording. Never saw her perform in person, but did see her in at least one movie -- don't remember if it was PRETTY BABY or not. Tiny woman.
That she didn't reach great acceptance, even in the gay community, isn't so surprising. So many fine artists and singers in particular, gay and straight, had only modest public acceptance -- Lee Wiley, Jeri Southern, Helen Merrill, Sue Raney, etc. I didn't realize she had died. Sorry to hear that. If she was still around, I'd have made an effort now to interview her. AV
THANKS FOR THE NOTE. I HAVE BEEN COLLECTING RECORDS SINCE THE AGE OF 10. I HAVE RARELY, IF EVER, COME UPON ANYONE WHO LIKES FF. IT RESTORES MY FAITH IN HUMANITY TO KNOW THERE ARE MORE OUT THERE. MIND YOU, I HAVE CONVERTED MANY PEOPLE INTO FAYENATICS.
Unfortnately, I have never seen her except in PRETTY BABY. I would love to have seen her in person; she must have been really something else! Everytime I listen to CAUGHT IN THE ACT it's like I'm experiencing it all for the first time. She certainly is good for what ails you!
May 2006: I just stumbled across your Frances Faye pages ... and what a delight they are! I never met the lady, but my best friend in 1955-56 was the press agent for a club (name now escapes me) where she played. He was scared to death of her. I've always been in awe of Faye as a performer ("I've gotta go go go..." made for the strongest exit I've ever seen) and she deserves the loving attention your site pays her.
Something else I owe you thanks for: I was recently criticized for having a character in a story refer to a friend as "gay" in 1970, on the grounds that the word was not yet in use. This from someone who was about five years old in 1970. I remember the term coming in to mass usage after Stonewall in 1969, and the gay guys I knew (all, to everyone's surprise, guys I had been in the Army with at Fort Dix) were saying "gay" long before that. Your quotes from the "Caught in the Act" album gives me evidence that it was around at the time (1958-60)...
Thanks again. J. Butler
June 2006: Thank you so much for the research and work you put into your sites on Frances Faye and Bruz Fletcher. I have been a FF fan since buying a $2 LP in the mid 80's- and like so many was captivated by her unique and brash style. Thanks to the internet, now she will never truly be lost- especially with sites like yours.
I was directed to your site by Mark Trevorrow, who has single-handedly been launching a FF revival on latenite national radio in Australia. He has turned a dry and sad dusk til dawn looney parade into a campy showbiz cabaret spectacular- well almost!
I have all FF LPs, thanks to e-bay, and a few 78's including "Uh- huh"- not on any other albums. There was a time when Australia was half a world away, not any more- and your site is a gem! Keep spreadin the word.
Again, Many thanks for your sites- and I think the Bruz story would make a fab film!! Will E.
July 2006: Hi. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your FF site. It's great to see someone is trying to keep her memory alive. I first heard about her only last year when I watched "Pretty Baby" on cable probably because there was not much else on at the time. When I saw Frances Fays's character I thought and thought who might that actress be, but alas, it was no one I knew of. So I did a little research on the web and got a pretty good picture of who she was, mainly from your site. I've since bought all her albums on ebay.
I am a little heartbroken that I found out about her only after she had already passed away. I wish I could have met her, and seen her perform in person. ...This homophobic world did not allow Frances to become famous enough for me to have heard of her before her death. I am old enough to have heard of her. Try to imagine how devastating it is to know someone wonderful existed only after they are gone.
08/06: I've enjoyed reading the site. I have NEVER in my life spent so much time reading complete web sites! Excuse all the !s but with FF that's just the way it is! When do you ever find time to paint and teach! Surely you have enough material for your own book on the "neglected ones"! I can't tell you how impressed I am with your vast talents - your paintings are just wonderful and really do exemplify the unfettered wildness that you obviously share with the one and only Frances ("Fraaaaances? - my name is Frahnces Faye, gay, gay gay.....") Faye. What a great biopic your story of her life would make!!!
I was fortunate enough to hear/see Ms. Faye several times in the late 50s at the Hesperia Inn (near Victorville, CA). She was the opening night headliner when the Inn was built (by my father's uncle) as a draw for potential land purchasers of his development. I can't pinpoint the years exactly but it was probably 1957-58. She did appear other years, as well. Always a smash hit. Alas, I was still in high school (3rd, 4th year) and didn't even know what the word "gay" meant as I was deep in the closet myself. But I, and my straight cousin, both loved her and went to as many of her shows as we could. This must have been during the period of her hip recovery because I recall that they put up a special curtained aisle so she could be carried to the bandstand and perched on a barstool at the Steinway grand piano before the lights came up. When I read your reference to her having to take her shoes off for a session, I recalled that indeed she was a hard and heavy heel stomper. Although the Inn had purchased a grand piano for the bandstand, Frances would not perform on anything but a Steinway and at the last minute they bought the one she used at the Crescendo and it had to be kept in pristine condition. I did get permission to try it myself but had to clean the keys afterwards. I don't recall actually having a conversation with her myself. I was introduced when my father was drinking with her in the Lounge and he got me an autographed copy of her Folksong album ("Bruce, you're a doll"). I also recall him telling me that she could drink him under the table; but the next year I believe she was "on the wagon". This is at odds with your statement that she never drank. Perhaps it was only during this painful period of adjustment.-?- I saw other acts at the same time and venue (including Mel Torme, Rudy Vallee, Hildegard, Marie Wilson (who also had a (very butch) female companion) but none were such unique entertainers. With Frances, shouting was expected, from the audience as well as from her; and her asides to her band members (my ex-husband on trombone - Horns Up!) and to members of the audience (including as you mention earlier, all the "right" people.) She used the same gags repeatedly but no one ever got tired of them because they were always delivered with such honesty. Yours truly. Bruce G
10/06: My Mother grew up with Frances. They were a few months apart in age and went to the same schools. They lost touch but met again in the early 1950's when Frances played at the Club Charles in Baltimore. I remember going and meeting her. My Mother died in 1958. It was neat reading this. M Hoffman
Tyler: Faye expected a lot from her musicians and grew tough after years in the business and being taken advantage of because she was a woman and lived an unconventional lifestyle. Here is another exclusive interview I had a friend conduct with a prominent musician:
“He had great respect for her as a pianist and entertainer, but said she was very tough on her musicians, and used fire people right off the bandstand. Once they were both working in Las Vegas at the Thunderbird. He was finished for the night, and back in his room when he got a knock at the door. It was Faye's drummer, who said she had just fired him right in the middle of the show. He said that thought that was horrible, but the drummer said, "Oh, its okay, she's fired me before." Later that evening, Faye tracked the drummer down still visiting the room, and called to apologize and hire him back, but the drummer told her to shove it, and to leave him alone. Well, she called back about three more times, each time offering him more money, and finally the drummer relented, and told her he would go back to work for her, but she could never speak to him like that again, etc... He said it was a hoot.
He also told the story about her having her hair done in pincurls, but, for some reason, it all kind of fell out. She went onstage looking kind of "plucked," and said, "When you are as pretty as me, you can wear your hair any damn way you want." He said she could sell a song like nobody else, and was a great, swinging piano player.”
Entertainer Mark Trevorrow reacted, “I'll bet Fran was tough on musicians - and I'll bet she had to be, they always think they can slack off with female singers/band leaders (and fags I might add!)... straight guy musos can be lazy and arrogant. You really treasure the open-minded, focussed, dedicated, talented ones.
This is the thing for me about Fran - I feel truly connected to her from my 25 years of performing cabaret, theatre, radio & TV. I instantly understand whatever situation is described about her, or by her. Amazing and wonderful.”
1/13/07: Wild, wild, wild Frances! Best new writing about Frances Faye in years at David del Valle's blog: http://filmsinreview.com/Features/CampDavid/jan07-1.html
1/21/07: I came across your faye bio on the net. I saw her many times and several of them at the Spindletop steak house in NYC. The restaurant served steak on the ground floor and then you could walk up a flight of stairs to the show room where she appeared. The piano was on the left when you walked in. Frances was always a hit but what is more interesting is that she was
able to walk up and down that flight of stairs by herself. There was no elevator. she still has no peer and I still go to shows and concerts all over the world. Thank you for your informative article. It would make a great movie. m broad
4/26/07: Thank You for your great Fayesite! She was, as Don Sherwood, San Francisco's #1 disc jockey often referred to her, "First in the field of One!" I had the pleasure of interviewing her on my radio show several times, and years later connecting with her again at Slate Bros. club in Hollywood. Frances was a real Artist; unique and most Original; a wonderful Entertainer, and someone who never took herself too seriously. We'll never see another like her, ever.
My friend Mike Donaldson is a Jaye P. Morgan fanatic (I would say he's the world's MOST FANATIC Jaye P. Morgan fanatic), and has set up a nice site for her (see www.jayepmorgan.com ). I'm really glad people like you and Mike take the time and are so inclined to do this. Frances was an integral part of music History, and as such deserves all the accolades she garnered over the years to be preserved for all time. I wish I had any of my interviews from my radio days. Alas, all gone. But I have the memories, and believe me I cherish them. I hadn't seen Frances for years, but when I went to see her at Slate Bros., the minute I walked down the cramped little passageway from the club to her "dressing room" (barely bigger than a broom closet,) she looked up, saw me and her face lit up as she boomed "VERNON! It's been so LONG! San Francisco radio!"She remembered chords and lyrics easily, but names and faces were her specialty!
Bless her soul ... and yours, for caring, Tyler. - Verne Langdon
(In a conversation with Verne, Verne recalled how Frances really stood out in San Francisco in the 60's. In those days, you couldn't get into most clubs or even bars without a jacket and tie, Fran's wild dress stood out from the norm and got alot of attention. Facks was one of San Francisco's premier niteries. The clubs were filled with smoke, just 4 tables back and you couldn't see a thing. Fran must have had such incredible energy to do 3 shows a night, night after night in that environment. When he met her the first time, Verne was surprised at what a lady she was and what clean language she used. )
6/14/07: Hi, Just thought I would add a little story for you.
Back in the 60's, my grand mother used to work at the Chevron Hotel in Sydney. At the time this was "the" place to stay, and was often frequented by international celebrities. My grandmother worked on the 13th floor, which was where all manner of famous people were accomodated. One of her famous guests was Frances Faye. After her stay, being very happy with how my grandmother and her co-worked had looked after her, she presented them each with a special token of thanks. My grandmother recieved a pewter/metal vase which Frances told her she had bought in an antique store, and to look after it as it was quite valuable. We still have that vase today. She also gave an autograph to my mother. I thought this showed a very generous and gracious spirit. Just thought I would share that. D.Taylor Australia
7/07: I am in the process of 'uploading' my old vinyl to digital. One of my 'treasures' is a record that I bought as a kid in 1960 - 'Night and Day / I wish that I could shimmy like my sister Kate' (Vogue Pop, 45-V 9186) by Frances Faye. I heard it on the only commercial radio station (Radio Luxemburg) that was heard in England at the time and immediately was bowled over by the 'intensity' of the performance.
A few weeks after buying the disc (which was NOT easy to get - I had to especially order it), Frances Faye appeared on TV on a Sunday evening - she 'headlined' on 'Sunday Night at the London Palladium'. She sang both sides of the disc - telling us that 'Shimmy' was her 'very, very favorite song' (while, on disc, she told us that 'Night and Day' held this honor - I like them both!). Sadly, I have NEVER heard another song by Frances Faye - yet, she has been, and still is one of my 'all-time' favorite singers! Since being able to 'upload' my vinyl, I have listened to both 'Night and Day' and 'Shimmy' again and again and still find them as exciting as ever.Today, just for fun, I 'googled' Frances Faye and came up with the website. I am grateful to you for the site and I am now going immediately to Amazon.com to see what other delights are available - imagine, I have wasted 47 years in not knowing other songs by this fabulous entertainer. Again, thanks for the efforts that you have made with the website.
11/10/07 Dear Mr. Alpern,
I came across your website devoted to jazz great Frances Faye several months ago after re-discovering Ms. Faye as an artist.
While an avid fan of several great singers, I had always, for some reason, dismissed Frances Faye. Now I am convinced that she was one of the greatest and most individual jazz interpreters. Whether swinging with a big band, singing an intimate ballad or getting down and dirty with the best rhythm and blues artists, she invested every song and lyric with her own special insight. Indeed, her Bethlehem albums with Russ Garcia are among the greatest jazz accomplishments by any artist!
Additionally, I have written to Verve, Collectibles, Collectors Choice and Jasmine, among others, in an effort to request that the Verve (and Imperial) albums be reissued. While so much material by inferior artists has come to the surface, it's hard to believe that neither "In A Frenzy" nor "Swing and Sway with Frances Faye" have yet made their CD debut. Therefore, please let me know if there is anyone else that I (and others) can contact in the cause of getting all of Frances' albums back in circulation.
Congratulations on your great website devoted to Frances Faye. It contains a wealth of information, documentation and rare photos with regard to this sadly underrated artist. I sincerely hope that more and more people discover it - along with Ms. Faye's remarkable talent.
All the best,
My father ... was born in 1931 under the name Johnny Fay (perhaps Faye) and given up for adoption. ... My oldest sister (in her 50's) came over the other day to relay a WILD story about the possibility that my father's birth mother could perhaps be Frances Faye. I KNOW it sounds crazy.
However, as my sister tells the story, my fathers adoptive parents have some blood ties or relation ties to Danny Kaye...exactly how escapes me at this time
My sister went on to tell me there was a period of time where Frances Faye was absent from the show business scene shortly after her rise to popularity at the age of 15. My sister hypothesised that Frances Faye became pregnant at a young age and, to keep her pregnancy a secret, she disappeared while she was pregnant, and ultimately to give birth. Because my father's birth parents knew Danny Kaye, they arranged to have them adopt my father. And, as you can see, his middle name is Francis (yes, different spelling)...coincidence?? My father knows for a fact his birth name is Fay, however the spelling may be wrong. ...Even if you know for a fact this can't be possible, I'd still love to hear from you
I just found your great site.
To the list of NY venues for la Faye add the Grasshopper. I'm not sure of the date, but I will check. I went with my partner and another friend. Having made reservations in my own, I noticed right away what splendid seats we had. When she came out, in a black velvet, man-tailored suit, with a terrific-looking young man at each arm, she headed right to our table and asked, "Is this the Crist table?" "Yes," I said, realizing the mistake: somebody had thought the reservation was for Judith Crist, a newspaper reviewer at that time. We ironed that out, and Faye was courteous, a tad brusque (not at all out of character), and obviously a little feeble but not at all impaired in the alertness department. She walked down the few steps, on the two guys' arm and gave a great performance. Thank you very much. R/
Tonight for some unknown reason I started thinking about Fran wondered if I could find anything about her on the Internet...I found your site.See in the early 80's I spent 2 months with her at my dads home in Oklahoma, I should say two fascinating months. I am probably the youngest fan of hers, I am 47. I want to thank you for an amazing site, I loved reading all about her, remembering how much I loved her. She gave me some wonderful memories I will always cherish...
Fran and my Dad were very good friends, she was a handful. Every morning when I woke up she would be in the living room with a Dr Pepper in one hand, a joint in the other (maybe I shouldn't have said that) and playing her music. Teri made her cassettes, every tape was labeled by months and year they were released, she would sing along I would dance. I loved sitting on the floor at her side she would tell me stories of her life. After she returned to LA, she was appearing on a talk show, at the moment I don't remember which one...she called me from the show to tell me Teddy Pendergrass was on with her, she would get me his autograph as she knew how much I loved him. After the show was over she called me back to say he was an ass hole...Fran never held anything back. DH
I was just remembering having seen her about 1975 at a midtown NYC nightclub called 'The Tiptop Club'. What an experience. My father was thrilled that I saw her; he remembered her as 'the zazu girl'. She was rather infirm, and had to be helped up onto the little stage. What a show! She was brilliant and those eyes were mesmerizing. My father called her a singer's singer, and I could see why after hearing her. She sat at a spinet piano with 2 guys backing her up, and she was truly astonishing! So glad to share this for what it's worth.
As I was reading stories on your site I could hear her voice, feel her hand on my face.***
FRANCES FAYE–SHE SHOWED ME HER TRACKS
February 13, 2011
When we were a rowdy bunch of young lesbians, we went up to Vegas to hang with some friends and see some shows and we accomplished what we set out to do. My dad knew we were going to Vegas and he turned me on to one of his childhood friends. Little did I know it would be Frances Faye; we went to Caesars Palace, she was performing in the lounge…Two drink minimum and we saw her play the keys, fine jazz, plenty of eye contact. After the show she invited our crew backstage and asked me if I was the daughter of her friend, I nodded and she proceeded to show me her arms….Tracks for days and she said to me, “Don’t”. I looked at her arms and my response to her was, “I have too much respect for myself, in fact I love life.” Thinking about that time and what she was about. She was out and proud: Not bad as she said, “The Jewess from Brooklyn.” Don’t have any idea why she was an active junkie or recovering, but the bottom line to her giving me advice was, “Don’t.”
Love thyself and you shall be loved
March 19, 2011
My father George Mann of the comedic dance act Barto and Mann appeared with Frances Faye at Loew’s State Theatre in New York in August, 1938. I thought a photograph taken of Frances at age 25 with singer Jerry Cooper might be of interest to readers of this blog. -- Brad Smith
Contact info: Tyler_alpern@yahoo.com
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