Posts tagged ‘Lonette McKee’

A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody

Michelle (MB look)
(above) Michelle DellaFave, circa early 1980s

The title of our article references a refrain that over time has become almost cliché; but the man who put those words to music, the great Irving Berlin, once told Life Magazine that he considered his 1919 composition “the best individual song written for a musical” — not his best, mind you, but the best.

Having served as the theme for The Ziegfeld Follies throughout much of that production’s run, “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody” could also lend tuneful context to the story of Michelle DellaFave, for whom beauty and music have blended in seamless harmony virtually her entire life.

With both her Mother and Aunt having been dancers, and her Father, a drummer, it was perhaps inevitable that Michelle and her younger sister, Tanya, would follow their elders’ paths into show business. Singing and dancing lessons, as well as acting in school plays, helped prep the girls for their future careers.

And for Michelle, growing up in New Jersey, her proximity to the Big Apple would provide the opportunity to audition for the storied Copacabana nightclub, where she joined the ranks of that venue’s famed Copa Girls. An ad in a local trade paper led her to try out for a spot with The Golddiggers; and once she was a part of that ensemble, her powerful pipes and glamorous looks paved the way for her selection as one of four Dingaling Sisters, singing, dancing and clowning with Dean Martin each week on his popular TV series.

Dean & Michelle Soubrette 2
(above) Dean embraces Michelle in a sketch on the 10/28/71 episode of The Dean Martin Show
'71-'72 Dings Portrait (Photoshop C4 Adj.)
(above) The 1971-72 Dingaling Sisters (clockwise from top): Michelle, Lynne Latham, Tara Leigh, Taffy Jones
Helen, Lindsay, Jayne, Michelle
(above) The 1972-73 Dingaling Sisters, 2nd Edition (l. to r.): Helen Funai, Lindsay Bloom, Jayne Kennedy, Michelle

While with The Golddiggers and Dingalings, there were also two USO Tours accompanying Bob Hope to entertain America’s Armed Forces abroad and at home, as well as appearances on such programs as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and a prime-time special hosted by Gene Kelly. Separately, Michelle was paired with Lonette McKee in singing-dancing duo The Soul Sisters on the first season of Jonathan Winters‘ syndicated TV show.

Michelle, Gene Kelly, Diane Davis
(above) Michelle (left) and Diane Davis (right, one of Dean’s Girls from The Dean Martin Show) flank Gene Kelly on his January 1970 NBC special, Gene Kelly’s Wonderful World of Girls with 50 Girls, Count ‘Em, 50
Michelle & Lonette McKee copy
(above) Michelle and Lonette McKee, who sang and danced together as The Soul Sisters on The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters (1972-73)

Pulling back a bit from the world of entertainment to raise a family, Michelle never fully lost touch with her roots, continuing to perform from time to time in regional and local theatrical presentations. Then in 2007, she stepped up her game, releasing a brace of albums (one pop, one gospel), and re-teamed with one of her colleagues from The Dean Martin Show, Lindsay Bloom, to tour the country, entertaining veterans, active-duty service men and women, and civilians, and visiting VA hospitals.

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(above) Michelle w. longtime friend and sister Dingaling from The Dean Martin Show, Lindsay Bloom. The two reunited in 2007 and toured the country, performing for audiences of Veterans, active military, and civilians.

Now back in New York, the city of her birth, Michelle headlined her first solo show this past April at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Room, and continues to volunteer her time on behalf of Vets and other good causes, in addition to singing at various events — most recently, at a gala last week celebrating the 238th anniversary of the U.S. Army.

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(above) Michelle w. Dean’s daughter, Deana Martin, following Deana’s August 2012 show at Feinstein’s in New York. Michelle and Deana worked together on both the 1969 edition of Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers and on The Dean Martin Show.
Michelle & Ricci Martin
(above) Michelle w. Ricci Martin, following Ricci’s show in Atlantic City in October 2012. The two would often see one another when Ricci would come to the set of his father’s series to snap photos of the cast members and guest stars.
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(above) Michelle with Tommy Tune, backstage after his June 1, 2013 show at New York’s famous Town Hall. The two go way back, having worked together on both The Dean Martin Show and the 1969 and 1970 editions of Dean’s summer replacement series, Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers.

For this eternally pretty girl, the melody lingers on. But what makes the song that much sweeter are the two qualities evoked by another Tin Pan Alley standard that all who’ve been touched by Michelle know she possesses in abundance: Heart and Soul.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy, Healthy Birthday, Dear Michelle, and Many, Many More.

Keep the party going! Join Michelle and other alumnae of The Golddiggers, The Dingaling Sisters and The Dean Martin Show by LIKING both her Facebook page and ours:

June 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm 3 comments

In Memoriam: Jonathan Winters

Jonathan Winters, Dean & Dingalings
Pictured above in the “Records ’Round And ’Round” finale from the Nov. 4, 1971 episode of The Dean Martin Show are: (l. to r.) Tara Leigh, Lynne Latham, Eddie Albert, Dean Martin, Jonathan Winters, Taffy Jones, and Michelle DellaFave.

As evidenced by the many photos of, and tributes to, Jonathan Winters that have appeared online in the wake of his passing on Friday, the beloved comedian was a frequent guest on The Dean Martin Show, taking part in numerous sketches not only with Dean and other guest stars, but also with the series’ regular cast members, including The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters.

One of the gals in both of those groups, Michelle DellaFave, was also paired with future film and stage star Lonette McKee in singing-dancing duo The Soul Sisters, who performed each week on the first season of Jonathan’s syndicated series, The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters.

As with so many other great entertainers, he will be missed, but the body of work showcasing his comic genius will live on for present and future generations to enjoy.

R.I.P.

April 13, 2013 at 2:28 am 1 comment


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