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Kaye Stevens (Associated Press)
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December 15, 2017

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December 15, 2017

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January 27, 2012
In 1967, when I was a very young kid (in Indiana), my mom was a big fan of Kaye Stevens, and suggested I stay up late one night to watch her guest appearance on The Tonight Show. The performance was THE one that virtually made Kaye a star - she brought the house down with a riveting version of "That's Life" that received a three-minute standing ovation from the audience, the band, and Carson himself.

I was a precocious kid, a budding artist, and so inspired by that song, that I painted a large oil portrait of Kaye, and began pestering my mom to figure out a way for me to give it to her in person. Somehow, my mother contacted Kaye and asked if there was a chance that Kaye would be in Los Angeles in June - because "the artist" was visiting our relatives in California during his summer break from school. Kaye told my mom she lived in Florida, but just happened to be scheduled to be in LA to appear on a CBS summer show. So Kaye suggested that my mom arrange for me to meet her at CBS Television City and spend the day with her - while she rehearsed with the cast on a sound stage. When she found out my age, she said she would leave my name with all the guards, so they could keep an eye out for me when my cousins dropped me off.

Looking back on it now, what an amazing little time-capsule of show business it was that I stepped into that day. The show was AWAY WE GO! (a summer replacement for THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS) - with hosts Buddy Greco and George Carlin. The guest stars who arrived that day for the mid-week rehearsal - to hang out in the most casual way - and work out the kinks (for two shows that would span several weeks) were Heinz, Heinz and Dad (the family act of the future Gregory Heinz), The Fifth Dimension, Sheila MacRae, and Kaye.

My cousins deposited me with the guards at the gate and main entrance of CBS (Kaye had alerted them, and I was carrying a large - slightly wet - oil painting, so they literally saw me coming). Several of these uniformed men escorted me to the the "Artist Entrance" where Kaye was scheduled to arrive at noon. A friendly woman - also in a uniform with a badge - gave me a Pepsi and a seat just inside the window of the Guard Desk. While I waited, I soaked up the atmosphere. I remember the squeaky clean, amazingly polished, long wide halls of the place - so full of television history - the large photos of Lucy ... Jack Benny ... Elvis. And, for some reason, I remember the arrival of Stiller and Meara (then a hot husband and wife comedy team - now Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara with separate substantial careers) and their two little kids in tow. The crowd outside - in the line for the Studio Tour - saw the popular duo - recognized them from their Ed Sullivan appearances - and broke into applause. Anne waived and smiled until she noticed that her little boy couldn't make it up some steps. So his mom lifted him gently by his arm - just enough - to reach his goal. He seemed especially proud of his achievement. Little Ben Stiller has grown up - and climbed many steps since then.

Then Kaye arrived - on the dot - 12 noon - like a comedic tour guide - a blast of red hair, animated movements, and non-stop personality. She took custody of her "little ward" and convinced me that she loved the painting and would treasure it always. Like a new kind of "Auntie Mame" she led me down one corridor after another - into a mammoth open space where the group of performers, and musicians, and technical folks, were all batting around ideas and catching up. She introduced me to George Carlin (who was still in his original preppy incarnation, trying out new lines for his "hippy-dippy weatherman" character). Carlin admired the portrait, looked back down at me, and asked, "Is he yours?" Kaye deadpanned, "I'm not good at remembering details ... but if he is ... he definitely gets his artistic talent from his mother's side of the family!" Buddy Greco wandered over and said, "Hi." Soon he had everyone in stitches with an involved tale of intrigue from Vegas. Sheila MacRae hit the room with the entire MacRae brood in tow (Heather, Merideth, and Garr), and - sometime later - I noticed that Gregory Heinz (and his brother and father) were there as well, working out a soft shoe/tap routine that looked downright miraculous (each and every time they did it - perfectly).

The rehearsal pianist had arrived from another hall, so Buddy and Kaye leaned on the piano, fed each other lines, and rehearsed their duet with him. Between numbers, Kaye filled everyone in on her back injury. Beneath the Pucci blouse, she was strapped into a full back brace. She explained she had been at home in Florida, at her dressing table, and dropped a curler. When she lunged to the side to pick it up, she slipped a disc. She warned everyone never to do that! (Strange - the things you remember - that stick with you the rest of your life.) Sheila and Buddy sang, and then everyone got together to run-through a group number that was "still in the works." The writers and director intervened, and they revamped, and tried it again and again until everyone was satisfied.

Then ...

You really have to have been alive in 1967 to realize the significance of this next part of the memory. The Fifth Dimension wandered in laughing and talking to everyone - and then they launched into a casual run-through - acapella - of their two scheduled numbers - "Wouldn't You Like To Ride On My Beautiful Balloon?," and "Let The Sunshine In!" (their monumental 1967 hit that seemed to be playing everywhere anyone went - all over the world - any time of the night or day - for months). Their voices - reverberating in the vast space like a cathedral - gave everyone goose bumps.

Through it all, Kaye kept track of me and made sure I was enjoying myself and "had a good seat" (the only seat, actually). The rehearsal lasted about four hours. Then everyone started heading their separate ways - getting updates about the actual taping in front of a live audience. Somebody asked if Judy Garland's runway - with the lights - out into the audience - was still there. No one seemed to know.

Kaye chatted and walked me to the spot by the Guard Box where my cousins would be picking me up. And someone from the lot delivered her very large convertible to her. At Kaye's careful direction, the painting went safely - face up - into the huge trunk. And she thanked me - profusely - one more time.

My cousins entered the lot, and Kaye waived them over. She thanked them for sharing me with her, and sent her best to my mom. As she stepped into her car, she turned to me and asked, "So, what do you plan to do with all that talent - when you finish growing up?" And, I said, "Something involving what I saw today!" She turned into "school counsellor" and made me promise to go home, study, get lots of experience FIRST, and then ... "when you know you are ready - get the heck out of Indiana!" I said I would. She blew me a kiss and drove off the lot, onto Fairfax, and out of sight.

In the years since then, I have enjoyed a successful career in Los Angeles - involving "what I saw that day." Every time I have ever been to CBS Television City at Fairfax and Beverly for a meeting, or a job, I have felt a powerful twinge of nostalgia for that summer afternoon in 1967 - and the amazing adventure Kaye led me on - with such joy and high spirits.

And, through maturity, and experience, I have come to truly understand how generous, kind, thoughtful, and loving this remarkable woman was that day - to an anonymous kid from Indiana with an oil painting in his hands. Anyone who has a grasp of the nuts and bolts of the entertainment business will immediately recognize that Kaye went VERY MUCH out of her way for me - and then some. She was a saint, actually. At a time when her career was really taking off (and the pressure of performance in a town not known for "splitting focus" had to be part of the equation), she put a lot of effort and energy into making me feel welcome in a brand new universe - one that I have come to understand and make my own.

And now, Kaye has made the leap to a new place - one much better than a sound stage in an entertainment complex.

So, Kaye, if you're listening, this is the kid from Indiana again. I have absolutely no doubt where you are now. And, if - by some miracle - I qualify for a ticket there as well - would you mind leaving my name at the gate again? The only thing I can bring with me this time is love and appreciation. But, if I understand the theme of the show you are in now, I will fit right in. I bet you are a hit there already, singing your incredible version of "That's Life" for a group deeply in touch with that profound lyric. And, in the background, I hope the angels will be giving The Fifth Dimension a run for their money with a heavenly version of "Let The Sunshine In."

God Bless you, Kaye. God Bless you.

With love and thanks,
January 20, 2012
I just read about this in my soap magazine! I loved Kaye on Match Game because she was always laughing and smiling. Rest in peace dear lady. Kolene Graham~ Denver,CO
January 20, 2012
I met Kaye when she was married to my cousin Tommy Amato. She was the first celebrity I ever met and she was amazing (taught my brother and I how to swim). It's a joy to know that she's singing with the angels in Heaven!
January 13, 2012
I was saddened today to learn of Kaye's passing. She was without a doubt a special lady. We Vietnam Vet will always be grateful to her and the Bob Hope cast who spent their Christmas with us. God Bless you Kaye, I know that HE has a special role for you in Heaven.

Another Bob in your life,

Bob Morton
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