Tribute By Monica Sullivan
Most of the Movie Magazine staff writers find themselves interviewing superstar legends many years older. Sometimes we get this look that says, "Are you sure you know what to ask me? Do you know who I am Honey?: I AM way before your time." Yes, and sometimes way before our parent's time, too, but in the golden age of home video, that's no longer a valid excuse. I discovered Anita O'Day on a video compilation of 1942 soundies, a precursor to the music videos that play on MTV & VH1. When she recorded "Let Me Off Uptown" & "Thanks For The Boogie Ride" with Roy Eldridge & Gene Krupa & his orchestra, Anita O'Day was a bright-eyed, lovely young woman of 22, filled with humor & high spirits & clearly having a ball with Eldridge. She pulled audiences into the mood of the song in a unique style all her own. Big stardom was predicted for Anita O'Day, & if holding the course is any measure of success, O'Day is still working & still singing long after the deaths of many of her contemporaries. She began her career in 1939 at the age of nineteen as a vocalist with the Max Miller Band in Chicago's Off-Beat & Three Deuces clubs. A two-year tenure with Krupa began in 1941, followed by a short engagement with Woody Herman, a couple of years with Stan Kenton & then she was back with Krupa until she left for good in 1946. From that point on, Anita worked hard to establish herself as a solo act. In spite of severe problems with alcohol & drug addiction, she continued to perform & record throughout the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties & nineties. O'Day made a showy appearance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival along with Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington, Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk, Mahalia Jackson & Jack Teagarden. Luckily for posterity, Bert Stern preserved the event in a beautiful color film released in 1960, "Jazz On A Summer's Day." O'Day also starred as herself in 1959's "The Gene Krupa Story," & sang "Memories Of You," plus 1974's "The Outfit" & sang "I Concentrate On You." In 1974's "Zigzag," she played the character role of Sheila Mangan & sang "Green Dolphin Street." A near-fatal drug overdose in the late sixties led to a new life as a recovering addict, a process she describes in vivid detail in her 1981 autobiography, "High Times, Hard Times." So, yes, Miss O'Day, we know exactly who you are And, thanks to your records & films, we'll never forget you.
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 3/7/01
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