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<i>Stairway to Stardom</i> Redux: A Thrilling Medley and Promo Spot from the Legendary Miss Evie Day

Stairway to Stardom Redux: A Thrilling Medley and Promo Spot from the Legendary Miss Evie Day

Music, Television
Another “Stairway To Stardom” novelty act.

Given the elevated and ever-so-serious level of our nation’s political discourse lately, I thought this would be a propitious moment to talk about a good old-fashioned variety show.  When it comes to mirth, music, and merriment, it just doesn’t get more exciting than Stairway to Stardom, one of my all-time favorite television programs.  The show originated from New York’s bastard stepchild of boroughs, Staten Island, and was broadcast locally on Staten Island cable TV from 1979 until an indeterminate time in the early 1990s.  Such was its quiet but significant impact that Stardom very well might someday be regarded by cultural anthropologists as the link between the great modern era of Star Search/American Idol talent competitions and the shit we did in our basements in the 1970s.  Well, at least the shit we did in my basement in the 1970s.

By any reasonable measure, S.T.S. was a hit—a big one—running for almost 13 years, longer than: The Carol Burnett Show (11 years);  Murphy Brown (10); or  Friends (10), to name just a few random super-famous shows that in my personal opinion cannot hold a candle to the monumental achievement that was Stairway to Stardom.  I have been crab combing through the archive in order to begin to bring you what I believe to be the very best—the creme de la creme—of the show’s many high points.  Think of it as high art or as carefully curated kitsch, but for God’s sake, please think of it!

Before we get to today’s headliner, I would like to share the opening of the show which features dancer Lola Perazzo, who I am proud to say I’ve gotten to be Facebook friends with in the last few years and grew up to be a lovely person.  She and I are proof that you can indeed survive growing up as a jazz dancer in the suburbs.  Here she is introducing the show back in 1984:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R4uTk_kufo
I’m going to begin this occasional feature with one of my favorite pieces: the song stylings of Miss Evie Day!  For the full impact of Miss Day’s performance, I recommend repeated viewings—preferably more than 20.  Like any great work of art, the deeper you go the more rich the experience is, and when it comes to Evie Day, it can get pretty deep.  Please consider: her fetching brown turtleneck; her most unusual, multiple-hairstyles-in-one (like Crissy, the 1960s doll with a button in the center of her back to adjust ponytail length); Frank Masi’s introduction with the “I’m-not-so-sure-about-this” grimace he makes at the three-second mark; the elaborate set; the fact that Evie is performing a medley, a nearly-forgotten relic of the last century that was, essentially, the precursor to today’s mash-ups; the songs in the medley (Nostalgia was, I believe, an original song, but I Feel a Song Coming On was written by Tin Pan Alley legends Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields); the scattershot, “maybe-he’ll-play-the-right-note, maybe-he-won’t” piano accompaniment, which not only creates a musical bassinet with which to cradle the fragile instrument of Evie’s vocals but also suggests that he may have been playing with a physical limitation of some sort, perhaps with one hand and a foot; and—last but not least—Day’s vocal instrument itself—throbbing, yearning, urgent, with her patented secret weapon, the slow-as-molassas vibrato that recalls nothing as much as your grandpa’s ancient sedan trying to climb a hill against a strong wind with bald tires!  Voices like this simply don’t come around often these days.

So without further adieu, let’s give a big Muppet Show welcome to my Stairway to Stardom star of the day: the first lady of languorous legato, the legendary lark, the Bert Lahr of the outer-boroughs, the bewigged songbird who put the “Mmm” in “medley”: Miss…Evie…Day!

As a bonus: if you’ve made it this far then you deserve a treat and I have something truly wonderful!  Just to prove that Evie was more than a pretty face and memorable crooner, here she is in 1982 stumping for the show in a promo spot that I personally find as hypnotic as the steady beat of a metronome. Note that she has a different, perhaps even more bizarre hairstyle and appreciate her dexterous navigation of what I suspect was some very tricky copy. Watch Evie proceed to rattle off a complicated list of talents that could land an average Joe or Jane on the Stairway to Stardom!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXB-HBhrojw

P.S.  Don’t bother trying the number, I already have and it doesn’t work anymore.  Pity that.

 

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