A tip o’ the top hat to Fred Astaire

“As a dancer he stands alone, and no singer knows his way around a song like Fred Astaire.”—Irving Berlin

Today marks Fred Astaire‘s 113th birthday. He’s been gone nearly 25 years (he died on June 22, 1987), and if you wanted to make a list of the things that are wrong with the world today, the fact that Mr. Astaire no longer walks—nay, glides—among us would be on that list.

Astaire had a down-to-earth elegance that is all too rare, and, in addition to his legendary talents as a hoofer, he was an icon of classic style, a darned good singer, and, from all accounts, a fine gentleman, to boot.

This world’s just a little poorer for the 25 years we’ve been muddling through without Fred Astaire, but his film work reminds us of what we once had.

The clip below finds our Fred paired with the lovely (to put it mildly) Rita Hayworth in 1942’s You Were Never Lovelier, performing a Jerome KernJohnny Mercer song that could well serve as the Cladrite Radio theme song, “I’m Old-Fashioned.”

Happy birthday, Fred, wherever you are. And say hello to Ginger for us.

For more on Astaire, we recommend Trav S. D.’s overview of his life and career.

Goodbye to another glorious gal

Popular recording artist Margaret Whiting, the daughter of songwriter Richard Whiting (“Hooray for Hollywood,” “She’s Funny That Way,” “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” and many, many more), has passed at age 86. Whiting, who was mentored early in her career by the great Johnny Mercer, recorded more than 700 songs and earned a dozen gold records.

Whiting led an interesting later life as well, as she would cohabitate with and eventually wed John Robert Stillman, a prominent porn star whose stage name was Jack Wrangler; the two were married for 15 years until his death in 2009.

We encountered Ms. Whiting a few times some years back, over the course of our employment as a waiter and bartender at a popular Central Park South eatery. Ms. Whiting, as we understood it, lived upstairs in the building that housed the restaurant, so she was a fairly frequent patron. Though a pleasant enough sort, she wasn’t terribly outgoing, so we have no memorable tales to tell, but she was accompanied on occasion by Mr. Stillman.

Whiting’s greatest success came in the late 1940s and 1950s, as the big bands gave way to a focus on individual singers, in advance of the rise of rock ‘n’ roll.

We hope Ms. Whiting’s final years were peacerul and happy ones, may she rest in peace, and we’re happy to be able to pay tribute to her by sharing a pair of our favorites among her recordings and a video of a live television performance from 1952.

Margaret Whiting — “It Might as Well Be Spring”

Margaret Whiting — “Moonlight in Vermont”

Happy 88th, Ms. Whiting!

Songbird Margaret Whiting is 88 years old today.

Whiting, the daughter of successful songwriter Richard A. Whiting—he wrote “Hooray for Hollywood,” “Breezin’ Along With the Breeze,” and “Too Marvelous for Words,” among many others—signed a deal as a young woman with family friend Johnny Mercer, who had just launched Capitol Records. Mercer’s gamble, if it can fairly characterized as such, paid off royally, as Whiting went on to have numerous hits in throughout the 1940s and ’50s.

We encountered Ms. Whiting a few times in the 1980s. She occasionally patronized a restaurant on Central Park South where we were tending bar and waiting tables in those days. As a customer, she was amiable enough, but she seemed a bit private, keeping largely to herself, so we have no stories to share of our encounters.

Ms. Whiting was long involved with Jack Stillman, better known as Jack Wrangler, renowned gay porn star. Though Stillman, twenty years Whiting’s junior, insisted he was gay, not bisexual, the pair obviously forged a lasting connection, as they were together from the late 1970s through his death in 2009. The two were married for the final 15 years of their time together.

We hope this birthday finds Ms. Whiting in happy spirits and good health. We’re celebrating the occasion by sharing with the Cladrite Clan her first hit, recorded as the vocalist for Freddie Slack and His Orchestra, That Old Black Magic.

Margaret Whiting with the Freddie Slack Orchestra—“That Old Black Magic”