Las Vegas was a town in which my dad experienced some of his greatest professional triumphs and really good times. One day in October, 1973 he left Las Vegas for the final time. He and his sister Vee got in a car and drove the approximate 3.5 hour trip to Los Angeles. Although my dad was ill and very tired, he did the driving that day. He had been in a reflective mood over the past few weeks. One of the things he pondered was whether or not the energy and time he spent on his show business career was really worth it. His "midlife crisis" was coming earlier than most; he was 37 at the time. This was triggered by his health problems and a long held belief that he wouldn't be around for a long time. He was a very bright and introspective man who actually scored genius on the Mensa IQ test and he was reflecting on whether he had lived a meaningful and important life up to that point. The world of show business changed dramatically the day the Beatles came to the US in 1964. He certainly respected, embraced and actually creatively incorporated current artists such as the Beatles, Laura Nyro, James Taylor and others in his concerts. However, I believe that at his core he related best and was most comfortable with, The Great American Songbook and singers such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and even Al Jolson. A saloon singer and proud of it! During that drive, he mentioned to Vee that he felt it was very sad that Nat King Cole was never played on the radio anymore. In essence, he was feeling that artists such as the great Nat King Cole and others of that genre were going to be forgotten. That musical tastes were so fickle and ever changing that great artists of the past would not be remembered. He expressed to Vee that he felt his own humble contributions to popular music would be forgotten as well to future generations. He was really wrestling with some deep questions about his life and its meaning. During a period around 1978 or 79 his earlier predictions seemed to be prescient. I remember going into Tower Records on Sunset Blvd in LA, the largest record store at the time and maybe, just maybe they would have my Dad's greatest hits album. For all intents and purposes his diverse body of work was gone. Thanks to the advent of CD's and then the ever evolving marriage of tech and music accessibility all that has now changed. His music today is available in multiple platforms all around the world. In addition to tech, the world of film and advertising rediscovered artists of my Dad's era with his songs constantly used in film, tv ads, internet ads, tv shows, etc. Books, documentaries, a feature film, and a large full scale musical "Dream Lover" all have helped to keep him in the public consciousness.
And now on to the right here and right now. You kind and loyal people indeed have not forgotten his music, his acting roles, his passion for entertaining and his larger than life personality. I see it with your comments, your responses to posts such as this one and your sharing of your own memories of what he meant to you back in the day. As of this writing, I'm getting closer to being able to announce what I hope and pray will be the greatest testament yet to his extraordinary life and talent. To be quite honest, I had hoped to have this project launched by now but I'm a stubborn fighter and committed to doing it right rather than simply doing it quickly. Maybe in just this one character trait the apple didn't fall far from the tree.
At the end of my Dad's life he did not realize what he meant to his fans nor his respected place in American popular music but I think all of you and your passion for him 46 years after his passing show that he was wrong about this. May you all have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and anything else you choose to celebrate this time of year.
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