Monday, March 21, 2005

bobby short, icon, dies at 80

Bobby Short, icon of Manhattan song and style, died today at the age of 80. He died of leukemia.

I was first introduced to Bobby Short through his commercials in the 70's for Charlie perfume. I didn't know back then that Bobby Short was known as one of the most elegant song stylists and cabaret singers in the country, that he interpreted songs of love from the great American songbooks of Rodgers and Hart or my favorite, Cole Porter. I only knew Bobby Short from the little ditty where he sang the praises of Charlie. I didn't know back then that Charlie was much better suited to taking the grease spot out of my driveway, rather than dabbing on my wrists and pulse points. All I knew was that this incredibly elegant voice was singing the praises of Charlie. I saved my meager allowance to buy this fragrance, hoping that I would become as elegant and sophisticated as I imagined the women who listened to Bobby Short were. I never purchased Charlie (thank Buddha for small favors!), but instead purchased all the Bobby Short CDs I could.

Mr. Short liked to call himself a saloon singer, just like another one of my favorites, Frank Sinatra. Six months out of the year, he held court at the Cafe Carlyle, in the Hotel Carlyle on the upper East Side of New York. Over the years Mr. Short became a Manhattan institution and a symbol of civilized culture. I regret that over the years I have visited Manhattan, but never when Mr. Short was in residence. I only have my Bobby Short CDs to listen to, I have no memories of hearing Mr. Short's baritone cuttng through the stillness of the night.

Whenever I hear of an artist "selling out" by performing in a commercial, I think of Bobby Short. As an immigrant child living in Los Angeles, I would not have known of Bobby Short. My parents didn't listen to him, neither did any of my friends. Maybe I would have discovered Mr. Short after seeing Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, but more than likely not. So take it easy on those artists who shill for fragrances, automobiles, or iPods. Hopefully someone in the advertising field will call upon an artist because of the quality of their work, rather than what the kids will dig and the kids will be exposed to an artist who opens up their world rather than merely panders to them.

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