“No one sings like you anymore.”
That’s for sure, we say now, listening to Eydie Gorme perfect this line from an obscure 1997 recording.
It’s not one of the Gershwin standards that were Steve and Eydie’s stock in trade, but a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” on the compilation album “Lounge-A-Palooza.”
Was it a joke? Was it for real? Maybe a joke that became real, and beautiful, as you will discover if you find it on YouTube.
And that sums up the whole 1990s “lounge” movement. It was a counter-swing to Soundgarden and the downbeat honesty of the whole “grunge thing.” Dusty LPs in the back of thrift shops preserved something quite the opposite: Songs that were just as honest at their core, but packaged in the tux-and-gown showmanship that defined a previous generation’s model of class.
If the “Black Hole Sun” cover was an under-the-radar nexus point of those two generations, everyone at least knew Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were authentic. They were among the handful of entertainers with a genuine link to the Rat Pack era; the “kids” endorsed by Frank Sinatra, touring as his opening act in his declining years.
The emerging new Las Vegas didn’t have much patience for living history. But Caesars Palace could not deny Steve and Eydie as the logical choice to close its original showroom in 2000. And they packed the Stardust whenever Boyd Gaming could sway them to play there in its final years, before the duo closed that showroom as well in 2006.
A few of the originals still sell tickets, on or off the Strip. Tony Bennett is the biggest draw, but Don Rickles is set to play The Orleans again Sept. 28 and 29. Safe to say that if Lawrence wants to keep singing without his longtime partner, there will be an audience for it.
Others depend more on younger people determined not to let them be forgotten, such as “Jazzin’ Jeanne” Brei’s efforts to keep 91-year-old Treniers saxophonist Don Hill in front of an audience.
Me? I rang up Pete Barbutti, the 79-year-old comedian and jazz pianist I remember watching on “The Tonight Show” as a kid.
It’s a running joke that I only call him for comment on other entertainers’ obituaries.
Barbutti assures me with the update that he and 86-year-old Sammy Shore are still performing every Saturday night at the Clarion Hotel.
“Boy, they’re dropping fast,” Barbutti says of his generation.
He toured with Jonathan Winters before the comedian died in April, and has booked another tour with Carol Channing and Debbie Reynolds.
“The agent called and said Carol Channing was in the hospital, and couldn’t tour. Then she go out and Debbie went in,” he says. “She’s a good buddy,” he says of Reynolds, who recently performed at the Rampart Casino.
Locals packed those shows, and Barbutti says it’s locals who make the drive to see him and Shore perform at the Clarion Hotel.
“I think we’ve had 20 tourists in the six months we’ve been there,” he says.
Even though Steve and Eydie ran in more famous celebrity circles, “I talk to Steve about twice a month,” Barbutti says.
“He calls here and we trade some kind of joke.”
For those who are determined not to let the classic-era entertainers be forgotten, it’s good to know they don’t forget each other, either.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.