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We've Lost Liz But We Still Have A Wonderful Day

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Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend

We lost a very true star last week when Elizabeth Taylor lost her long and hard battle with some really terrible health problems.
So its great to read that another Hollywood great is still going strong, fit and well.

Doris Day is 86 this week.

This article below is from The Wall Street Journal
By Will Friedwald

We've Lost Liz But We Still Have A Wonderful Day
No matter how hard you try to remain formal, about 10 minutes into your conversation with Doris Day you find yourself addressing her as "Doris." "Ms. Day" may be the appropriate honorific for a respectable newspaper, but it's proof of her effectiveness as a singer and actress that you quickly feel like you've known her forever. In that sense, Ms. Day's allure was the opposite of Elizabeth Taylor's: sunny rather than sultry, an icon of optimism as opposed to seduction—but no less sexy in her own way.

I've spoken with Ms. Day, the top-grossing actress of all time, on about half a dozen occasions now, and one point that we hit upon during nearly every conversation is the volume of fan mail that still crosses her doorstep daily—a fact that never ceases to amaze her. "When I first came up here," she said recently by phone from her home in Carmel, Calif., where she's lived for the past 30 years, "I put all my records and everything away. I didn't think anybody cared if they heard me or not." She assumed that her work would be forgotten. "It's hard for me to understand why all these people write me, and they say, 'Sometimes I'm feeling so down, I can't get myself out of it, and then I put your record on, and I'm OK.' Can you imagine?" As a lifelong fan, I can easily accept what she has a hard time believing: that after so many years out of the spotlight, her recordings and films continue to be cherished by generation after generation. Later this year, Sony Music will release a retrospective box set, for which Ms. Day is personally selecting her favorite tracks.

We've Lost Liz But We Still Have A Wonderful Day

Ms. Day, who turns 86 on Sunday, is that rare movie star who has no problem telling people her age. Some sources claim that she was born in 1922; Ms. Day explains that this error arose because in 1940, when she sang professionally for the first time, she had to give her age as 18. But one fact she refuses to admit is the number of dogs—all rescued animals—that live with her in Carmel. "I have many dogs, but I can't put the exact number in print. But my place is big here, so when they bark, nobody's bothered. I've had so many, and I've found homes and homes and homes for them, but some of them are so precious that I couldn't give them up for anything. I love my babies."

We've Lost Liz But We Still Have A Wonderful Day

It's an urban legend that Ms. Day became a recluse upon leaving show business. In reality, she talks to the people she likes—but that doesn't usually include the media. She lives an active life engaged in animal-welfare work -her organization, the Doris Day Animal League, is now part of the Humane Society, and she is currently opening a horse sanctuary in Texas.
Her neighbors including ex mayor of Carmel Clint Eastwood, are hardly surprised to see her walking any number of her "babies."

Her interest in animal rights probably dates back to even before her interest in singing.
Ms. Day was a budding dancer in her native Cincinnati, a career that was cut short by a car accident at age 13. "I could barely walk for a few years, and my mother thought it would be nice for me to be doing something that I loved, and I said 'I love to sing!' We had heard about [voice coach] Grace Raines. They had to carry me up the stairs to see her. Isn't that a riot?"

Raines was so impressed that she wanted to teach the youngster three days a week, and did so even though Ms. Day's mother could afford only one weekly lesson. Raines not only taught Ms. Day her technique, but arranged for her earliest jobs with the big bands of Barney Rapp, Bob Crosby and, most famously, Les Brown.
Ms. Day's career as a singer was also almost cut short prematurely when she retired in 1941—only temporarily, thankfully—to get married. As she detailed in "Doris Day: Her Own Story," written with A.E. Hotchner, that first husband turned out to be violently abusive. "I don't even want to talk about it," she said. "Anyway, that was really a mistake." Even after she left with their infant son, Terry, "he followed me, and I had to hide"—which was difficult, as she had taken a job singing on the air on Cincinnati's WLW. "My mother was frantic."

Eventually, Brown "rescued" Ms. Day by bringing her back on the road; initially she refused because she didn't want to leave Terry behind, but Brown was so eager for Ms. Day to rejoin the band that he offered to let her mother and son travel with her. His generosity paid off handsomely when their 1945 recording of "Sentimental Journey" became not only a blockbuster hit but an iconic theme for legions of veterans coming home from the war. Small wonder the two remained friends for the rest of Brown's days, until his death in 2001—something that can't be said for most big-band "canaries" and their former bandleaders.

We've Lost Liz But We Still Have A Wonderful Day

The only time Ms. Day sounds sad is when she talks about the friends she's outlived. "Do you know that almost everyone I've worked with is gone? I can't believe it. And you know I have pictures of all of them with me, and I have them framed, and it saddens me when I look at them because every film or album that I did was just a happy experience."
She tears up at the memory of Rock Hudson; he was her leading man in three classic romantic comedies, and died of AIDS shortly after making one of his final public appearances, on Ms. Day's mid-'80s television series "Doris Day's Best Friends."

The one loss that upsets her more is that of Terry, her only child, who was a songwriter and producer. Terry fell victim to melanoma at age 62 in 2004. "My darling son. He was always helping everybody else. . . . I was so young when I had him, we were like sister and brother. The Beach Boys were dying to take him on the road with them, but he didn't want to leave his own son behind. It's not right, you know, that your child goes to heaven before you. I know he's in heaven, because he was a good person."

The thought brings her back to the letters, as if she compensates for the loss she feels by concentrating on the pleasure that her work continues to bring to millions of people. "I mean, it's not like I'm young or anything."

We've Lost Liz But We Still Have A Wonderful Day

Updated On: 3/29/11 at 11:05 AM
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Broadway Legend
Broadway Legend
What an absolute legend. One of my favourite people in the world. Ever.