InDepth InterView 2010 Flashback: Lesley Gore

By: Feb. 17, 2015

Today we remember the iconic 1960s pop superstar and occasional musical theatre star who passed away earlier this week at 68, the one and only "It's My Party" crooner herself, Lesley Gore, who generously participated in my InDepth InterView column way back in 2010 with an expansive and fascinating conversation covering her pop heyday, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, CARRIE and much more.

It's Her Party, And Aren't We Lucky?

This afternoon I was lucky enough to score some talk-time with legendary recording artist, Oscar-nominated songwriter and the most iconic female pop singer of the 60s, Ms. Lesley Gore. She will be appearing in Broadway's hit jukebox musical MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET for a special one-night-only event performance on Friday, September 24th, but in this exclusive interview she opens up about her illustrious and accomplished career in the studio and on the stage - and also onscreen in an oh-so-classic BATMAN with Julie Newmar - as well some breaking news about her new biographical musical using both the stacks of hit songs she is so famous for ("It's My Party", "Judy's Turn To Cry", "You Don't Own Me") and some newly written compositions. As if all that - and compelling recollections of time spent with Liza Minnelli, Jerry Lee Lewis, Quincy Jones, Laura Nyro (almost) and many more - weren't enough, we also have some breaking news concerning collaborator and her brother, a world-famous songwriter in his own right due to FAME, Michael Gore and his infamous Broadway musical CARRIE making its way back to the boards very soon! CARRIE back on Broadway is the epitome of good news for Broadway babies who have wanted to know the scoop! Bloody lucky Broadway will be to have CARRIE - and the disarmingly warm and exceptionally delightful Lesley Gore!

In today's chat with Lesley Gore we also discuss her affection for theatre - don't forget she also starred in SMOKEY JOE'S CAFÉ on Broadway a few years ago, in addition to writing songs for FAME - as well as her thoughts on writing a new bio-musical based on her life, plus her many charitable activities and hobbies and an exclusive breaking discussion of the fate of CARRIE. All of this, plus a thorough discussion of her MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET plans and her interactions with the actual legends that inspired the show - Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash - themselves. Plus, she gives her opinions on AMERICAN IDOL, GLEE, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, riffing, rapping and much, much more. Clearly, there's a lot more to the story than "It's My Party"!

PC: You have such a big, bluesy Broadway belt. Why didn't you do more theatre?

LG: Not in New York, but I did Nellie Forbush and THERE'S A GIRL IN MY SOUP and did a number of other things, but, unfortunately for me - because I would have stayed in the theater world if I hadn't moved to the West Coast - because I wanted to follow the music industry which, by the late 60s was pretty much... gone... from New York. The only other theatre I've done is I was in SMOKEY JOE'S CAFÉ on Broadway a few years ago which was a great vehicle for me, but, again, very much the music I come out of so it wasn't a huge leap of faith!

PC: I'm sure you are a fan of Leiber & Stoller's music - do you know their art songs?

LG: Yeah, they're just amazing. Amazing, on every level.

PC: I'd love you to do those great Peggy Lee songs they wrote for her someday...

LG: "Is That All There Is?"

PC: Precisely!

LG: I love their stuff.

PC: Could you tell me about working with the real legends? Didn't you have a history with a few of them portrayed in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET?

LG: I actually had worked physically with Carl Perkins and with Jerry Lee. Jerry Lee and I have done a number of tours together in Australia, we did the Garden together, we played together on a number of really... big... shows. So, every couple of years we'd find each other on some big show together. We always have a good time!

PC: And Carl Perkins?

LG: I worked with Carl Perkins on a number of shows. Live shows. He just showed up and played. He just killed. Killed! Man... he was amazing!

PC: Oh, I bet! What about Elvis?

LG: I had an opportunity to meet Elvis, only once. It was at the MGM Grand. It was certainly not at the height of his career. No, it wasn't at the height of his career, but it was still a thrill to see him and meet him anyway. You know?

PC: Oh, I can only imagine meeting Elvis! What about Johnny Cash?

LG: I never met Johnny Cash, believe it or not!

PC: That's so interesting about you touring with Jerry Lee Lewis of all people!

LG: Yeah, it was great. He came to it with the same stuff he's had all these years.

PC: It's sort of like when they announced Lady Gaga and Kanye West touring together.

LG: Yeah! (Laughs.)

PC: You were the pop icon of the 60s and he was the rebellious rock n roller.

LG: Exactly.

PC: What do you think of Lady Gaga?

LG: I think she's fabulous. (Pause.) I think she's unbelievable.

PC: As someone who performs her own songs as well: do you think she's a good songwriter, too?

LG: I do. I think she's got lots of talent. (Pause.) I don't think I could be out there that way. So, part of me goes, "Wow!" that she can be that free and that loose and that... out there... with themselves. Whenever I've seen her I've thought she was amazing.

PC: So, you're a Gaga fan, I take it, then?

LG: I'm gaga for Gaga!

PC: What are your opinions on riffing used on AMERICAN IDOL?

LG: Well, I have a bit of a problem with AMERICAN IDOL. Forgive me, but it's difficult for me to watch. I can't help but think of people being exploited. On the other hand, I'm really enjoying GLEE.

PC: Oh, you're a GLEE fan?

LG: Oh, yeah.

PC: What do you think about them using your songs? Have they approached you yet?

LG: Not that I know of! I hope they do!

PC: Tell me about writing "Out Here On My Own" from FAME with your brother Michael Gore. That is destined for GLEE.

LG: I've got a lot to tell you! First off, Michael had an opportunity to write some original music [for FAME]. He literally played me the melody for the ballad that became "Out Here On My Own" and when I heard him playing it in his living room with just him playing the piano and kind of humming the melody, I heard the title in my head and I said to him, "You know, give me a couple of days on that. Let me see if I can write that" And I had read the script so I sort of knew what we had to say.

PC: Tell me about Michael bringing CARRIE back to Broadway.

LG: Well, Pat, you'll be happy to know that Michael is in the process of bringing CARRIE back to life in a kind of new incarnation.

PC: Oh, I know and I love the improvements. Actually, earlier today, I interviewEd Preston Sadleir who was in the workshop. It's fate for you to give me this scoop! I love, love, love the new version. Is it coming back to Broadway?

LG: I believe they are going to try, yes. I believe they are going to do it with Bernie Telsey. They are heading in for, I think, another reading and then I think they are then going to go into production.

PC: They've done amazing work. It's one of the great lost scores.

LG: And I know that they've spent a lot of time rewritinG. Dean [Pitchford, the lyricist] has been in a lot over the summer. They've rewritten the entire second act. They've put a lot of work into it!

PC: And it shows!

LG: And they've marked that time out, they expect to be in and stay in New York for the workshops. It's gonna be a go!

PC: No way! CARRIE is coming back to Broadway!

LG: I've got my fingers crossed, I'm sure it's going to be wonderful.

PC: All the Broadway fans cannot wait for this.

LG: They won't have to wait much longer!

PC: What songs are you going to be singing in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET? How are they going to weave you into the show? How are they going to make this work?

LG: They've done this before, I think Melissa Etheridge was their first guest.

PC: Yes, she was.

LG: They've had a number of people come in. Basically, they are looking for one or two songs that will give the show an extra little stroke at the end. But, it's not easy to top the last four songs in that show!

PC: That's for sure! Knock-outs!

LG: Yeah. They really rock out!

PC: For sure. What's the big song you're doing?

LG: I'm going to do an Everly Brothers' tune titled "When Will I Be Loved".

PC: What a great song! I love that song.

LG: I love that song, too! And we're gonna keep the tempo kinda rockin' on that one. And, we'll probably end on a couple of choruses "It's My Party" just so no one forgets! (Big Laugh.)

PC: No one EVER will, or could! There aren't even any covers! I don't think there are many covers of "You Don't Own Me" either! They should let you do it as an encore!

LG: Uh, there are a couple of covers which I can't really turn you on to. I've got this arrangement - it just modulates like crazy and starts in F minor - I just don't think there's going to be enough time in the space we have to rehearse on Thursday to get the intricacies of "You Don't Own Me". I mean, we do four-hour rehearsals of that song for the road. So, no, I don't think it's in the cards to do it.

PC: And you also have a new autobiographical musical you are working on, correct!

LG: Yes, yes I do! We've been working on it for a couple summers. I'm doing it with Marcia Milgrom Dodge.

PC: Oh, I love her work.

LH: Yeah, she's just fabulous. It's looking good. Anthony Dodge is writing the book.

PC: Will it be your hits plus new, original songs?

LG: Yeah. It's a great opportunity to really show off.


LG: Yeah, but with some new songs, too.

PC: Define collaboration.

LG: Oh, my heavens! (Pause.) You know, as far as I'm concerned collaboration is the essence of life. It's wonderful to be able to have talents, and, very often, we think that we know what our talents are or we find out through a back door that we have a talent. I know that I found out I was a lyricist quite through a back door.

PC: And nominated for an Oscar for your efforts! Not bad!

LG: It's fine to come to it that way, I know I'm a songwriter. Each person I work with brings out something else in me or I'm able to utilize my talent in a different way and it's always fascinating to me to collaborate. It's scary and it puts you out there on a high wire without a net very often, but it's the only way to do something... great. Today, good is not good enough. It's got to be great!

PC: What a great answer! (Laughs.)

LG: Oh, I'm glad! (Laughs.)

PC: So tell me about what you are working on after MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET.

LG: I'm doing some speaking engagements and I've taken a job in California for January and February. I'm also turning my dog into a service dog.

PC: Oh, for the blind or the disabled?

LG: Exactly. I want to be able to take her to hospitals and have older people and disabled people enjoy her as much as I do.

PC: How awesome! This has been a great chat! You're the farthest thing from a pop diva!

LG: They put them on ridiculous schedules, in their defense, so some of them I'm sure are not doing it on purpose!

PC: You were just lovely.

LG: I had an absolutely wonderful time!

PC: And tell your brother we need CARRIE on Broadway.

LG: Oh, we need CARRIE on Broadway! I definitely will!

PC: This has been marvelous!

LG: Thanks so much, baby.


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