That press conference (with a buffet) marked a turning point in my early career. Rose Marie took an interest in me and became a mentor. Her advice took my radio career to a higher level. The "4 GIRLS 4" show was such a hit in Milwaukee that it made a return engagement the following year. I got a letter from Rose Marie saying that she'd moved on and would not be in the tour for the return engagement. But, she wanted me to get in touch with Rosemary Clooney while she was back in town. I did. I was with a buddy. Gino Salomone has since gone on to become a most popular Milwaukee TV & radio talent. He was present for a dinner full of good ribs and lots of laughs with Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting -- and Martha Raye. Raye had us in stitches with her stories about her years under contract to Paramount Pictures. Especially memorable were her stories about actor Fredric March who, according to her, was well-endowed with more than just acting talent. And he had a healthy set of hormones that motivated him to flirt a lot.
Martha remarked, "Honey, if Fred saw a crack in the wall, he'd go after it."
The other two ladies decided to call it a night after dinner and head back to their hotel. Martha turned to me said, "Hey, kid. Let's get a nightcap." Martha, Gino and I went to the new Hyatt Hotel in Milwaukee and had a nightcap. Make that "nightcaps." That little woman could knock back some vodka. She was flattered when I told her my mother bought her records and loved her work.
I went to New Orleans for Jazz Fest in 1990. While there, a friend and I met up with Harry Connick, Jr. Harry, one of the coolest gents you could ever hope to meet, showed us around and we chatted about music. Harry and I were chatting about the classic jazz vocalists. I mentioned Martha Raye and he, just as I had done when I was an adolescent, giggled. I did what Mom did. I told him she was a solid jazz vocalist who was held in high regard by Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae. Here's another example of Martha Raye swingin' during her Paramount years. She's in a jam session with Bing Crosby and singer/pianist Frances Faye. The song is "After You" from 1937's DOUBLE OR NOTHING.
Martha Raye. What an entertainer she was. She gave me one of the most memorable nights I ever had in Milwaukee. She was wonderful company. I hope her music lifted your spirits for a few minutes.