Dinah Shore 1

FOR FIFTEEN YEARS NOBODY FINER

by Albert Morehead

Cosmopolitan. August 1955

Dinah Shore 2

Were you televiewing a few months ago when comedian Morey Amsterdam and colum­nist Earl Wilson appeared as guests on the same TV show? If so, you heard them in a totally unrehearsed and utterly con­fused bit of conversation.

"You never can tell how long you'll stay at the top," comedian Morey was saying. "Biggest thing that ever was, and look what happened."

"Yeah," rejoined columnist Earl, "ter­rific; bigger than ever. But she deserves it."

"She?" queried Amsterdam, momen­tarily puzzled. "Bigger than ever? You mean they discovered another one?"

"Of course not," Wilson said scorn­fully. "There'll never be another one like her."

Along about this time it began to dawn on both gentlemen that they were con­versing on two separate subjects. Mr. Amsterdam was talking about the dino­saur. Mr. Wilson, on the other hand, had in mind Miss Dinah Shore.

Well, as short a time as a year or so ago the trade might have agreed with comedian Amsterdam. While far from extinct, Dinah Shore had slipped. Patti Page had replaced her as top seller of phonograph records; television produc­ers thought of Dinah chiefly as a guest;

and she hadn't had a movie contract for years.

Yet, just when the tide seemed at low ebb on this particular shore, Dr. Galiup polled the public on its favorite girl singers—and lo, Dinah's name still led all the rest. Which was no surprise to Shore fans; after all, she was unques­tionably the favorite entertainer of ten million American fighting men in World War II. Even Dinah, who was a cheer­leader in her college days, couldn't ask for a bigger cheering section than that.

TV Put Her Back on Top

Consistent with the times, it was tele­vision that put Dinah back on top again. With her own new show four seasons ago, she set a standard for fifteen-minute productions and consistently challenged Perry Como for the highest rating among multiple weekly shows. Chevrolet spon­sors Dinah's TV show as well as her twice-a-week radio appearances.

Dinah's success in television was fol­lowed by a starring role in Paramount's "Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick," which also led to a boom in her record sales. In the bobby-soxers' autograph market, a Dinah Shore rose from a fifth of an Eddie Fisher to three Johnny Rays. NBC finally gave its seal of approval by signing her to a long-term contract.

Her popularity within the NBC organ­ization is not confined to the network's executives only. In the living room of her Encino, California, home Dinah proudly displays two cigarette boxes, presenta­tions from the people who work with her. One is engraved: "To Dinah—The Sweet­heart of NBC-TV." The other gift stales simply: "From Your Ever Lovin' Studio 'D' Crew."

Dinah's appeal is much like that of Bing Crosby; one might even call her the female counterpart of Crosby. She isn't beautiful, but people like her looks. Ex­perts may not find her voice of operatic quality, but the public goes for it. And. like Crosby, she has amazing versatility and can sing anything from low-down blues to cute novelties to tender love songs.

This versatility wasn't God-given; Di­nah earned it the hard way. Back in 1940 when she got her first big break—a spot on Eddie Cantor's radio show—her new boss made a remark that epitomizes Dinah's formula for making good on Broadway. "You wouldn't believe it," said Cantor in awed tones. "You wouldn't be­lieve it. I never knew anybody who worked so hard. Every week she shows up with twenty new songs. She's rehearsed 'em and she's learned 'em, and she wants to sing all twenty of 'em so I can pick out one for the show."

Dinah Shore 3

 

"Sing Free If You Have To"

Dinah's advice for young hopefuls to­day is the same as her policy was then:

"Keep singing. Sing for money if you can get it, and sing free if you have to, but keep singing." In 1937, when Dinah first invaded Broadway, jobs were scarce even for headliners. Dozens of Broadway man­agers and agents still tell mournfully of the time they auditioned Dinah Shore and could have signed her, but let her go. To sing at all, Dinah had to sing free. Her first sustaining radio jobs (in one of which she was paired with Frank Sinatra) were unpaid.

Although everybody in the entertain­ment field considers Dinah a polished performer, she still insists she has a great deal to learn. Because of her never-flag­ging desire to improve herself, Dinah does a night club performance every so often. She maintains that the immediate reaction an artist gets in a night club is extremely valuable.

Dinah traces her capacity for hard work to an attack of polio that struck her in infancy. That was in her native Winchester, Tennessee (population then 2,000), in the days when Dinah was still named Frances Rose Shore, abbreviated in Southern fashion to Fanny-Rose and later changed because "Dinah" (is there anyone finah?) was her theme song on her first radio show.

Though Dinah recovered completely from polio, she never got over the idea that neighbors were looking at her and wondering. So she had to dance longer and swim harder and do more things than any of the other girls, just to prove that there was nothing wrong with her.

Dinah Shore 4

 

A Young and Tender Heart

Though she graduated from Vanderbilt University before she moved on to Broadway, the Dinah Shore of the early New York years was still a college girl emo­tionally, rendered misty-eyed at the very thought of all the brave young men going off to war. She dated dozens of them and would daily announce herself irrevocably in love with one or the other. This hero-worship was so complete it almost broke up her association with Ticker Freeman, who was then her coach and today is her accompanist and musical alter ego. When Ticker figured one of Dinah's soldier boys was a phony, and said so, Dinah stormed out of the studio and wouldn't speak to Freeman for months. The GI beau finally proved Ticker one hundred per cent correct. He left Dinah singing the blues while he stole off and married the girl back home. This was a bitter pill for the struggling vocalist to swallow; she had not only lost her man, but Ticker as well. Realizing that she had acted foolishly in the first place, Dinah contact­ed Freeman and apologized. With an im­portant audition coming up, she figured that bygones had better be bygones.

Today Ticker Freeman plays an integ­ral part in Dinah's professional career. He is no Svengali. Neither is he her business manager.

Ticker Keeps Tabs

Dinah may sing a song he doesn't like, or refuse one he does like, but never, never does Dinah do anything careerwise which Ticker doesn't know about. On musical matters she relies upon his judg­ment as often as upon her own.

Although the Shore-Freeman combi­nation is very serious and conscientious on matters which deal with music, they still manage to have a lot of fun.

For those not acquainted with the elaborate practical jokes exchanged be­tween people in show business, and so loved by Dinah, Ticker, and their in­timates, it may be well to give a docu­mented case history of one that happened during one of her TV shows.

The program in question had a Casbah motif. Dinah was to walk down a winding street while snake charmers played flutes, Arabs gave forth with chants, and beg­gars beseeched alms for the love of Allah.

During rehearsals Dinah had a difficult time mastering the lyrics of one of the songs, but when showtime neared and Ticker asked her whether she wanted a cue card set on the TV camera, she de­clined. The show went on and Dinah sang one song as she bought post cards from a little shop in the Casbah. Then she sang another as she sat at a sidewalk cafe.

Dinah Shore 5

 

Cue to Sing Made Her Laugh

As she approached the spot where she was to sing her final song, the same number that had been giving her trouble, Ticker, out of the camera's range, asked her if she knew the lyrics.

Dinah frantically said she didn't, and Freeman immediately sang the first few bars. With a sigh of relief she continued down the winding street, but just before the musical conductor gave the down­beat, her mind went blank.

Ticker, quickly sizing up the situation, grabbed a cue card he had prepared "just in case" and dashed for the camera. He put the card on a mount, and Dinah immediately smiled. The smile turned into laughter as she approached the card, which had been purposely printed in Ara­bic script.

As the tension eased off, she remem­bered the words and continued the song, laughing all the way through it. Those who saw the show will never forget it.

In one respect, Dinah is one girl in fifty million. Like two generations of American girls, she fell in love with, the screen image of a movie actor; but unlike any of the others she met her man and, not very long afterwards, married him.

It began in 1942. Dinah was in a vaude­ville show emceed by Milton Berle and playing at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. With nine shows a day there was hardly time to go out between perform­ances, so Dinah would rest by sitting in one of the movie theaters on the Steel Pier. "The Cowboy and the Blonde" was playing, starring George Montgomery. By the time she had seen the picture fifty or sixty times, Dinah was in love with him.

Dinah Shore 6

 

How to Catch a Cowboy

She made no bones about it, either. Immediately she announced to her room­mate that this was the man she was going to marry. When she got to Hollywood she made the same revelation to Bing Crosby, with whom she was singing at Army camps. "He used to kid me a lot about it," she recalls, "especially when he found out I hadn't even met the man." Later Dinah sang at the Hollywood Canteen, where her first question was, "Is George Montgomery here?" He was, and in uni­form, too; so they met, and neither of them dated anybody else from that time on. A year later, when George came back on a furlough, they were married.

George and Dinah make as logical a couple as Hollywood ever saw; they are the sob sisters' delight. George is a man of parts: as an architect, he designed their new house, and as a skilled lathe hand, he made all their fine furniture and now runs a flourishing factory in his spare time. But he is also as genuine a cowboy as you'll ever meet off the screen. He has the authentic background, having been born and raised on a Montana ranch. His speech is the cowboy's drawl; he is the strong, silent type personified, and, lady, don't be surprised if he calls you "ma'am." George is currently work­ing for Columbia Pictures and United Artists, and is in the throes of working on his own production, "Red Blizzard," with Bud Guthrie, the author of the screenplay of "Shane."

Aside from radio, television, recording dates, and an occasional motion picture or night club act, Dinah also manages to find time to be a good mother to her two children—Melissa, eight, and Jody, one year old. Dinah is a fond mother. The twentieth-century child never ceases to amaze her. Thoughtfully she recalls the time she took Missy to see the stage pro­duction of "Brigadoon." This was a spe­cial treat; when the curtain rose, Missy grabbed her mother and said, "Mommy, it's just like television in technicolor!"

They Planned a Large Family

George and Dinah always planned on having a large family, but since Missy's birth they have not succeeded in having any more children. They applied at a great many adoption agencies, but were stymied because they had a child of their own. George and Dinah finally found an agency that felt they were ideally mated, and, therefore, would be excellent par­ents. Jody was born March 3 and brought to the Montgomerys’ ten days later.

Good Egg in Hard-boiled Business

Dinah, after half a generation spent in the most hard-boiled business on earth, is still the naïve girl who came out of Tennessee fifteen years ago. At RCA-Victor there was consternation among the top brass (who unanimously proclaim that Dinah is their favorite recording star) when someone assigned her to re­cord "Sweet Violets," a traditional bawdy song with cleaned-up lyrics. But they needn't have worried. Dinah had never heard the original of that song, and if she had, she would not have had the slightest idea what it meant. At radio conferences, most of which begin with an exchange of everyone's latest off-color jokes, someone occasionally slips when Dinah is present; but after he stops him­self with a gasp, a glance at Dinah is reassuring. It has passed completely over her head.

Despite the fact that Dinah's naïveté and her position as a good Hollywood wife and mother are real and not just publicity gags, it would be a mistake to underestimate her shrewdness and toughness in business dealings. Dinah has the best deal in the country on phonograph records. She gets full royalties with no deductions. This makes quite a difference, especially when there is a twenty-seven-piece orchestra at a minimum of $41.25 a man and a seven-man chorus at $64 each.

Furthermore, Dinah is a businesswom­an, although she is certainly never ruth­less. Though she may fly into rages when she thinks someone is trying to put some­thing over on her, she is pretty forgiving about it after a half hour or so.

When business doesn't interfere, Dinah and George like to pursue their hobbies. They are both tennis enthusiasts, and whenever possible they play a few sets. Painting also takes up their spare time, and Missy joins in this, Jody is too young to dabble, but Dinah says, "Give him time." She has expressed a genuine desire to attend school and study serious paint­ing, while George, on the other hand, has a yearning to study architecture.

If her present routine lasts, though, the art studies will have to wait, because today Dinah works on a six-day-a-week, fourteen-hour-a-day schedule that brings in a golden tide. And, as things stand now, there is no sign at all that this tide is receding. Instead, it just keeps on rising with each passing year.