Paying Tribute To Musical Duo Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gormé

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The Harmonious Couple Who Graced Forest Hills Stadium

Legends Left Their Mark on American Pop Music

Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme arrive at a black tie gala honoring Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas, May 30, 1998 by AP photographer Lennox McLendon

Among the most charismatic, soulful, and refined pop singers of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first are Steve Lawrence (born Sidney Liebowitz, 1935 – 2024) and his wife Eydie Gormé (born Edith Gormezano, 1928 – 2013). They represented harmony, not only as a duo and solo, but in marriage. Lawrence passed away on March 7 at age 88, but he along with his wife, will communicate with future generations through their music. 

Audiences cannot forget numerous heartfelt classics include “Where Can I Go,” “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” “Pretty Blue Eyes,” “Go Away Little Girl, “Golden Rainbow,” “What I Did For Love,” “Together Wherever We Go,” “The Impossible Dream,” and “Besame Mucho.” 

Lawrence’s family immigrated from Jassy, Romania. His father Max was a cantor in the Brooklyn synagogue, Beth Sholom Tomchei Harav, which is where he began singing in a choir at age 8. With aspirations of becoming employed as a singer, he would spend time in Manhattan’s landmarked Brill Building. His mother Anna Gelb was born in Onyck, Hungary. He was the third of four children, and is survived by his brothers Victor and Bernard, and his sister Rose. 

Gormé, a Bronx native, descended from a multilingual Sephardic Jewish family in Turkey, and was the youngest of three children. Her father Nessim, was a tailor, who married her mother, Fortune. She discovered her talent for singing at age three, but in 1956, made her debut at the acclaimed Copacabana nightclub.

Steve and Eydie (the duo’s nickname) worked together on the talk show, “Tonight Starring Steve Allen” in 1954, became newlyweds in 1957, and performed together until her retirement in 2009. Over the decades, they recorded under labels, which included Coral, ABC-Paramount, United Artists, Columbia, RCA, and MGM. One of his close friends was Frank Sinatra, who inspired his music. 

Music producer Leonard Ruskin’s Forest Hills Music Festival drew audiences annually to the iconic Forest Hills Stadium, and on the evening of August 26, 1967, the couple took the spotlight. On September 9, 1967, Billboard read, “Rain until showtime failed to prevent a capacity audience for Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé at the Forest Hills Stadium on Saturday.” Concertgoers numbered 14,174 and produced a $71,141 gross.  

On August 2, 1969, Steve and Eydie once again graced the Stadium stage, and tickets were available at $3.50, $5, and $6. Macy’s ran a record album ad in the June 16 New York Times edition, where one popular album was their “Real Time Lovin’” collaboration, recorded exclusively for R.C.A. An excerpt read, “There’s no other place where so many of the country’s top performers and groups are yours to enjoy. There’s music here for everyone, from groupies to sophisticates. And what better way to hear this music, to enjoy the excitement, the beat, the sound of now… than under a summer sky at the Forest Hills Music Festival?” That same decade, the duo performed at The Boulevard nightclub in Rego Park, where Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, and Harry Belafonte entertained.

Their duo, “We Got Us,” resulted in a 1960 Grammy for Best Performance by a Vocal Group.   Grammy success followed in 1967 in response to her rendition of “If He Walked Into My Life” under Best Female Vocal Performance. In 1968, the duo starred in “Golden Rainbow” on Broadway. Lawrence is also known for his cinematic roles, such as the 1980 film, “The Blues Brothers,” and as a comedian. Steve and Eydie opened the Atlantic City gaming era in 1978. In 1981, sold-out performances at Carnegie Hall captivated audiences. 

Local and national fans were fortunate to attend Steve and Eydie’s performances and collect their recordings for generations to come, and the stories they share will preserve their legacy. Some fans also explained how they wish for them to be honored. Music runs in the family, with their son, composer David Lawrence, who will also carry the torch. 

“Steve was a kind, loving, sensitive, and comical man, and Eydie was kind and a little shy yet very hospitable. Besides being a great singer, Steve Lawrence was also a good comedian,” said his cousin, Etowah, North Carolina resident Rachel Hershkowitz Rizzi, a Forest Hills native. “Their loving and respectful marriage which they had endured, is nothing short of a miracle in the sketchy music and Hollywood industry. I would love to see a PBS special commemorating their life and musical achievements,” she continued. 

Rizzi and her family are committed towards preserving copies of their music in various formats to pass onto future generations. “I hope future generations enjoy and are inspired by their great voices,” she said. Her favorite song is “Go Away Little Girl” (1962), when she was gifted her first radio. Her husband Allen E. Rizzi’s favorite song is “Footsteps,” which inspired him to pursue a career as a lyricist and songwriter. 

Rizzi now wishes that she attended Steve and Eydie’s Forest Hills Stadium concerts. “I was too busy being a teenager. Being my father’s closest cousin, I felt that I could hear or see him almost anytime,” she reminisced. “Steve was very close to my father, Jewish handball champion Victor Hershkowitz. We did not travel in the same social circles, but while in New York, I remember him as a kind and gentle man. He was my funny and talented cousin.” 

The 1969 Forrest Hills Music Festival

Upper Gwynedd, PA resident Liz Hirsch’s all-time favorite entertainers were Steve and Eydie. “Their voices individually and in harmony were a joy. Their music was of a time when lyrics and melody meant something, and their delivery made them special stars in its heavenly sound,” she said.  

1967 Forrest Hills Music Festival poster

Memories came flooding back, especially after each passed away. “I enjoyed their records for many years, before finally seeing them in Lake Tahoe. They were an early summer birthday present for my winter birthday. Their singing was exemplary, and the banter that went with it was funny as can be. I lived in California at the time, and was inspired when they performed at the Circle Star Theatre.” It was also a privilege for Hirsch to see them on Broadway in “Golden Rainbow,” as well as see them perform with Frank Sinatra in Philadelphia, which she calls a wonderful triple hitter. 

Devoted fan Steve Abraham of Rego Park attended Steve Lawrence’s performance in various New York nightclubs, as well at The Coconut Grove in Los Angeles and in Las Vegas hotels. His all-time favorite is “Portrait of My Love.” “I admired his professionalism, his rapport with the audience, and his great voice,” said Abraham. 

“I saw them in 1969 at Forest Hills Stadium when I was 17 years old, and knew even then what was unbelievable talent,” said Bellmore resident Wendy Gordon Scatorchio. “It was sold out and the audience loved them! I was fascinated by their voices and range, and by the beautiful way they presented themselves. They were dressed so classy and that continued to the very end, when performers no longer came out in tuxes and gowns.” 

Scatorchio feels that their mark on music is immeasurable. “No one came close. Every Broadway show and concert in Las Vegas and Atlantic City was sensational. They gave it their all and loved every minute of performing. I always felt that at the shows in Westbury, the audiences just adored them. I saw Steve at his last performance at Westbury, and his voice was still unbelievable, and he still had that classy appearance in a beautiful tux. Missing was his love, and I certainly felt that loss.”

Scatorchio would listen to all of their CDs, but especially loved to see them perform. “It was genuine love and not a stage act,” she said. His baritone voice and range were incomparable. “He was so versatile and his comedic talent was always showcased, especially on Carol Burnett. She said in her tribute that he appeared 39 times; the most of any guest. What I loved about them was their comfort joking with one another. All you have to do is watch them on Johnny Carson, Dean Martin, Regis Philbin, and they did it all with such ease.”

There are some songs that deeply resonate within. She explained, “When Steve sang ‘Where Can I Go,’ a testament to his Jewish background and mine, he sounded like a cantor, and it proves his unbelievable vocal range. They contributed so much to making all the classics by Gershwin, Berlin, and so many more, something that will live forever.” 

She is grateful how David Lawrence honored them in “Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme – Memories of My Mom and Dad,” which debuted on PBS in December. He also released a video of their appearance at Caesar’s Palace. “David’s interview with Michael Feinstein showed the tremendous love, respect, and connection he had with his parents,” said Scatorchio.    

“My hope is that the younger generations will hear them and realize what an unbelievable couple they were personally, and what a major contribution they were to the music world,” she continued. 

A classic record album

Dutchess County fan Laura Forman, formerly of Forest Hills, suggested that the West Side Tennis Club consider developing a display of the artists that performed there. “I am envisioning engravings, including Steve and Eydie’s names.” 

Forman also reminisced. “I have Eydie’s first album that my mom bought when it was released. I learned to sing ‘Guess Who I Saw Today’ and ‘The Gentleman is a Dope.’ The former brought tears to my eyes as a young girl. Eydie had a beautiful voice and quite a vocal range. Steve had a lovely voice. For ‘Go Away Little Girl,’ I imagined someone singing it to me.”

Patty Bugland was a mainstay at Forest Hills High School, who taught music appreciation. At home, Steve and Eydie were musical staples and two clearer, expressive voices among popular recording artists. She recalled, “My mother turned the radio volume up when one or both of them were on either WTFM or WNEW. ‘This Could Be the Start of Something Big’ was a favorite, but when Eydie performed ‘If He Walked Into My Life’ or Steve performed ‘Go Away Little Girl,’ everything stopped for a while. They were so vibrant and in tune with each other. They intrinsically understood lyric, and were perfectly in tune and truly entertained.” 

“Their kind will not pass our way again,” said Kristine Sader of Boulder City, Nevada, who visualizes a street named after them in Las Vegas on the order of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, or a performing arts school. 

Sader reminisced, “My Mom Jean was given the album ‘We Got Us’ (1960) as a gift for her first Christmas married to my dad. I grew up loving it. My favorite songs are ‘This Could Be The Start of Something Big’ and ‘No Two People.’ For solos, I love ‘Blame It on the Bossa Nova’ and ‘A Room Without Windows.’” She also watched Lawrence on The Carol Burnett Show, a childhood favorite. Along with her mother, she attended their concert at the Stardust. “They made you feel so happy. They were consummate professionals and showpersons of the first order, who exemplified class. They took up the banner of the great song stylists like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett,” she continued. 

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