Posts tagged ‘Michelle DellaFave’
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.
(above) The 1971-72 Dingaling Sisters (clockwise from top): Michelle, Lynne Latham, Tara Leigh, Taffy Jones
(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.
(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
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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:
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.
(above) The luminous Francie Mendenhall, whose birthday is today, was the lead vocalist on many of The Golddiggers’ musical numbers — including one that underwent a rather interesting eleventh-hour metamorphosis. Details, as well as a stereo cut of the song’s final version, follow in the story below.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Thus muses Juliet, frustrated that her beloved Romeo bears a family name that’s anathema to her own family, in Shakespeare’s play about star-crossed romance.
But what about a song? Or, for that matter, its lyrics? How sweet might a tune with which we’re all familiar be if it had a different title or words?
The question arose recently when Michelle DellaFave, a regular cast member on The Dean Martin Show for 4 years and in the lineups of both The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters during that period, was going through some of the treasured mementos of her sister, Tanya DellaFave, herself one of The Golddiggers from 1971 to ’72, who sadly passed away back in 1984.
It was in a loose-leaf binder in which her sister kept her sheet music from her Golddigger days that Michelle found a song with an unfamiliar title: “Fern Hill”. But a closer examination of the pages revealed lyrics and a melody that, to any fan of The Golddiggers’ recordings, would immediately ring a bell.
Apparently, “Fern Hill” was the working title of the piece, but handwritten revisions to the text indicated that the song’s composers — Lee Hale (The Golddiggers’ Musical Director) and his frequent coauthor, Geoffrey Clarkson — had made a last-minute decision to change the title to “Cloud Hill”.
Under that name, the song went on to become one of The Golddiggers’ most memorable numbers — a dreamy, reflective ballad featuring a mellifluous, exquisitely-rendered lead vocal by the troupe’s standout soloist, Francie Mendenhall. In fact, Francie tells us that before changing the original title, Lee Hale had asked the girls if they had any suggestions for an alternative, and fittingly, it was Francie herself who came up with “Cloud Hill”.
The tune was captured on vinyl for The Golddiggers…Today!, the group’s third album release, and brought to life on the home screen during the first season of their syndicated television series, Chevrolet Presents The Golddiggers, with an impressionistic interpretation that interwove Francie’s singing with a sensitive, graceful balletic accompaniment performed by her colleague, Janice Whitby.
In reviewing the archives of Tanya DellaFave, who performed with The Golddiggers from 1971-72, her sister, Michelle DellaFave, herself an alumna of both The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters, made a discovery that affords a rare glimpse into the songwriting process. Shown above is a photocopy of the first page of the original sheet music given to members of the ’71-’72 Golddiggers for their parts in a ballad originally entitled “Fern Hill“. As evidenced by the cross-outs on the page, the name was in the end changed to the pleasanter-sounding “Cloud Hill”, and the song was recorded with a superb lead vocal by Francie Mendenhall.
On an episode of their weekly half-hour program Chevrolet Presents The Golddiggers, telecast during the 1971-72 season, as Francie sang “Cloud Hill”, her colleague Janice Whitby (below) drew upon her ballet training to limn an elegant physical realization of the song.
So, would the fragrance of this beautiful rose have been just as sweet had Lee Hale and Geoff Clarkson retained their original title “Fern Hill”, instead of adopting the more ethereal-sounding “Cloud Hill”? Would Francie’s voice have been any less pretty? Would Janice’s terpsichore have been any less delicate? Would the tune have lost any of its melodic luster? Probably not.
Yet in terms of poetic imagery, it’s hard not to think of “Cloud Hill”, in place of “Fern Hill”, as a more enticing destination to which one would long to return.
We wish the full audiovisual experience of “Cloud Hill”, as it was originally presented on The Golddiggers’ show, were available on DVD. But as the next best thing, in honor of Francie’s birthday today, we’ve appended below the LP version of the song, containing every note of her beautiful vocals in stereo; and thanks to Jan Whitby, we’re able to display a still picture of her majestic ballet accompaniment.
In closing, we want to wish Francie Mendenhall a very Happy, Healthy Birthday, and Many, Many More.
And hopefully, one day somewhere, still waiting there, will be those Golddiggers shows that we all loved so…And then back to Cloud Hill we all will go.
Listen to Francie Mendenhall and The Golddiggers sing “Cloud Hill”:
To increase the volume, drag the bars to the left of the audio player (they appear after you click the play button) all the way to the right.
(above) The two members of The Golddiggers who collaborated to make “Cloud Hill“ come alive on TV — Francie Mendenhall (right) and Janice Whitby left) — flank Bob Hope during one of their ensemble’s performances as part of the comedian’s 1970 USO Tour, entertaining American military personnel around the world. Also pictured over Hope’s shoulder is Golddigger Jackie Chidsey.
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(above) Michelle’s solo pose during The Golddiggers’ Railroad Car photo shoot, 1970
Over the years, The Dean Martin Show has given rise to several different groups of lovely female singers and dancers. But one of those wonderful, talented ladies has the distinction of having served in more of those groups than any other.
In addition to her stints as one of the most outstanding, recognizable, and best-remembered members of both The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters, Michelle DellaFave was also frequently tapped to harmonize with the Jack Halloran-led choir that provided background vocals for Dean’s series; she was recruited by Dean’s longtime Producer/Director, Greg Garrison, to join Lonette McKee in the Soul Sisters duo that performed weekly during the first season of the syndicated Wacky World of Jonathan Winters; and she even teamed with another colleague and friend from The Dingaling Sisters, Lindsay Bloom, to entertain American veterans, active-duty service members, and civilians in the first new group to be spun off from The Golds or Dings in over three decades, Blue Eyed Soul.
(above) portrait shot for the initial Dingaling Sisters group, 1970
(above) Michelle (center) stands shoulder-to-shoulder with 1971-72 Dingaling Sisters colleagues, and still close friends, Taffy Jones (left) and Tara Leigh (right)
(above) Michelle in s still from The Dingaling’s performance of “On The Good Ship Lollipop” on the 3/16/72 episode of The Dean Martin Show.
(above) Michelle (second from left) in 1972 with her sister Dingalings, and still very good friends, Helen Funai (left), Lindsay Bloom (third from left), and Jayne Kennedy (right)
(above) longtime friend and colleague Lonette McKee (left), with whom Michelle (right) performed as duo The Soul Sisters on The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters, 1972.
(above) Michelle (right) backstage with fellow performer and close pal Lindsay Bloom (left), before one of their Blue Eyed Soul concerts for Vets in 2008.
Beyond singing and dancing, Michelle has appeared in numerous theatrical productions, and thanks to her 5’9″ frame and sleek, high-fashion beauty, she’s also enjoyed an active second career in modeling.
With the latter aspect of her work not as familiar to her friends and fans as her musical endeavors, we thought we’d use the occasion of Michelle’s birthday today to honor her by presenting a tableau of rarely- or never-before-seen images that showcase some of the multiple facets of her craft.
(above) That fresh-faced, clean, Cover Girl look (circa mid-1970s)
(above) The Parisian look (circa late 1970s)
(above) The Meredith MacRae look (circa early ’70s)
(above) The Vogue look (circa mid-’70s)
(above) The Olivia Newton-John “Let’s Get Physical” look! (circa late ’70s-early ’80s)
(above) The classic beauty look (timeless)
As is evident from the shots on display, Michelle has a quality that photographers covet in a model — the ability to affect a variety of looks. Yet no matter her style or expression, what consistently comes through is a warmth and an accessibility that her friends and fans alike know are matched by an inner core of goodness, decency, kindheartedness and love. And, you can be sure, that’s no pose.
(above) The contemporary look (2009)
Michelle, on behalf of everyone at Dean, Golds and Dings and The Golddiggers Super Site, we wish you a Happy, Healthy Birthday, and Many, Many More.
To see more of Michelle, check out her Facebook fan page:
And to keep up on a regular basis with Michelle and other alumnae of The Golddiggers and Dingaling Sisters, join them and their fans on our Dean, Golds and Dings Facebook page:
Might reruns of The Golddiggers‘ series ever come to cable TV’s SyFy channel? Ha! We should be so lucky!
But strange as it may seem, there are at least a couple of Golds graduates who’ve experienced first-hand some close encounters with the science fiction genre. One is Michelle DellaFave, whom followers of UFO phenomena have for years believed to be either the human incarnation, or perhaps the doppelgänger, of a beautiful alien named Asket. As for the plausibility of such speculation, Michelle refers all questions on the matter to Starfleet Command.
(above) Michelle or Asket?
And then there’s Janice Whitby, who initially entered our collective orbit as a lovely and vibrant member of The Golddiggers, and later earned a permanent place in the hearts of sci-fi fans for her role as Katy The Fembot on crossover episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.
(above) Jan or Katy?
It was a longtime fan of Janice’s, Mark Fornale, who first enlightened us about this otherworldly connection, which he subsequently expanded upon in his creation of a stellar website (JaniceWhitby.com) to celebrate Jan’s career.
Mark’s own personal alignment with the stars is as a Pisces, born on this day. And so, we wish this good friend and close ally of our Dean, Golds and Dings planet A Very Happy Birthday, and Many, Many More.
For more intergalactic goodies like the above, be sure to blast off to a happy landing on our Facebook page:
As a sidebar to The Golddiggers Super Site‘s feature story this Veterans Day Weekend, covering the most recent efforts on behalf of Vets by Dean Martin Show grads Michelle DellaFave and Lindsay Bloom, we at Dean, Golds and Dings herewith present a gallery of additional, related images — including:
• Historic photos from the 1971 USMA Yearbook documenting performances at West Point just before Christmas 1970 by The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters, as part of Bob Hope’s USO Tour
• Shots of Golddiggers and Dingaling Sisters alumnae appearing at a number of much more recent Veterans-related events…
The Golddiggers at West Point, Christmas 1970
(above, l. to r.) Janice Whitby, Paula Cinko, Francie Mendenhall; Rosetta Cox, Jackie Chidsey, Liz Kelley
(below, l. to r.) Janice Whitby, Paula Cinko, Francie Mendenhall
(above, l. to r.) Janice Whitby (background); Rosetta Cox, Jackie Chidsey, Liz Kelley (foreground)
(below) The Golds gather around host Bob Hope
The Dingaling Sisters at West Point, Christmas 1970
(above, l. to r.) Tara Leigh, Susan Lund, Wanda Bailey, Michelle DellaFave
Bob Hope Leads His Troupe in The Traditional “Silent Night” Close of His Christmas Show, at West Point, Christmas 1970
(above, l. to r.) Rosetta Cox, Janice Whitby, Patricia Mickey, Johnny Bench, Jackie Chidsey, Francie Mendenhall, Major General William A. Knowlton (Superintendent of West Point), Bobbi Martin, Bob Hope, Gloria Loring, Lola Falana, Susie Lund, Tara Leigh, Michelle DellaFave, Wanda Bailey
Springfield, Illinois — July 2007
(above, l. to r.) Susan Lund, Michelle DellaFave, and Wanda Bailey display the medals they received from the Vietnam Veterans of America after their concert for the organization’s 2007 national convention — the first performance by any set of Dingaling Sisters in over three decades.
Washington, DC — Veterans Day Weekend, 2007
In conjunction with ceremonies commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, Michelle DellaFave scores a hat trick, first performing with her alma mater ensemble, The Golddiggers, including Jackie Chidsey (above left) and Nancy Reichert (above right), in the largest on-stage gathering of the group since the early ’70s…
…then joining Dingaling Sisters Susie Lund (above left) and Wanda Bailey (above right) for an encore of “Do The Funky Chicken”…
…and finally, teaming with another onetime Dingaling Sister and good friend, Lindsay Bloom (above right), to unveil the premiere of the first new group to be spun off from either The Golddiggers or Dingaling Sisters in 37 years, Blue Eyed Soul.
Michelle DellaFave at The 40th Reunion of The West Point Class of ’71
At the invitation of the class’ Frank Durrum (above right), Michelle performed for an enthusiastic audience of over 400 USMA graduates and their families. And both before and after the concert, she was graciously escorted by another member of the ’71 class, Chris Clarke (below left).
Washington, DC — Veterans Day 2011
(above) Lindsay joins Marine Vets for a round of Veterans Day events.
Somewhere There’s A Someone…
In some ways it was improbable, but perhaps in others, it was inevitable, that at some point during the course of their cross-country travels entertaining and doing other good works for both Veterans and active-duty U.S. military personnel, Michelle and Lindsay would run into a soldier named…You guessed it — DEAN MARTIN!! And indeed, there he is above, happily sandwiched between the two Dings. Add another pair and we’re ready for a medley.
For those who’d like to, but haven’t yet had a chance, to see the original Golddiggers Super Site article on Michelle and Lindsay’s latest efforts on behalf of America’s Veterans, here’s a link to the piece:
And to stay up-to-date on all that’s happening with Michelle, Lindsay, The Golds, The Dings, and of course, Dean Martin, why not click the LIKE button atop our Facebook page and then either take part in the conversation or just sit back and enjoy it:
To help kick off our new site, we wanted to put names to the faces of as many of the ladies as we could identify in the images displayed on our Home page. While that objective posed no problem with respect to the members of The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters depicted, the challenge loomed larger when it came to the women known as Dean’s Girls. But if any of our readers can assist in filling in some of the blanks, we would more than welcome their contributions.
Even before The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters became household names, The Dean Martin Show, from its very beginnings, had a sizable and salient on-screen distaff contingent — known among the show’s personnel as Dean’s Girls — to keep their debonair host company each week.
The only gal we can place in this scene from the episode of The Dean Martin Show that originally aired on April 21, 1966 is Larri Thomas, a staple of the series’ first three seasons, who’s just barely visible in the upper right-hand corner of the screen capture above. Because we hate to see such a pretty face obscured, we’ve posted another still from the same sequence below, portraying Larri from a more advantageous angle.
There are at least a few more readily recognizable faces in this group shot circa 1968, with Kate Kahn seen third from the left of the gals seated on the bench, and two longtime members of Jack Halloran’s choir, Melissa Stafford and Diana Lee, standing in the back row, second and third from the left, respectively.
As Dean savors a two-sided buss on the cheeks during this closing segment of his show from the 1969-70 season, we’re not certain who’s doing the smooching on the left, but on the right, that’s definitely Diane Davis.
Though mistakenly identified elsewhere on the Internet as members of The Golddiggers, the phalanx of mini-skirted females behind Dean in the picture above actually comprised a set of freelance performers hired to play faux orchestra members in two numbers with Dean — “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” and “There’s A Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder” — shown on different episodes of the ninth and final season of the series (1973-74), when it was retitled The Dean Martin Comedy Hour.
Moving now into much more familiar territory, we can provide definitive I.D.s for the remainder of our Home page homegirls, starting with the gals whose collective moniker became synonymous with youthful beauty and glamour from 1968 onward.
From the 1969-1970 Golddiggers, left to right: (front row) Nancy Bonetti, Patricia Mickey, Susan Lund, Debi McFarland; (second row) Suzy Cadham, Rosetta Cox, Peggy Hansen, Sheila Mann; (top row) Barbara Sanders, Sheryl Ullman, Paula Cinko, Michelle DellaFave, Jackie Chidsey.
The 1970 Golddiggers, who headlined the summer smash hit Dean Martin Presents The Golddiggers In London, and later returned to the States to become the regular singer-dancers on the 6th season (1970-71) of Dean’s series: left to right: (bottom row) Pat Mickey, Susie Lund, Wanda Bailey; (second row) Tara Leigh, Rosie Cox, Micki McGlone, Pauline Antony; (top row) Jackie Chidsey, Paula Cinko, Michelle DellaFave.
The 1971-72 Golddiggers, who had their own weekly half-hour showcase on the syndicated series Chevrolet Presents The Golddiggers: left to right: (front row) Liz Kelley, Susie Lund, Janice Whitby, Nancy Reichert; (back row) Jimmi Cannon, Jackie Chidsey, Lee Crawford, Francie Mendenhall, Tanya DellaFave.
The Dingaling Sisters
The first iteration of this quartet was spun off from the larger group of Golddiggers and debuted during the 1970-71 season of Dean’s series, appearing only on an occasional basis and performing more rock- and soul-driven songs than the bigger ensemble from which they were drawn. When The Golddiggers embarked on their own syndicated series in the fall of 1971, a revamped lineup of Dingalings succeeded them as Dean’s weekly song-and-dance partners for the next two years of his program.
The first set of Dinagling Sisters, from 1970-71: left to right: (bottom row) Susan Lund, Wanda Bailey; (top row) Michelle DellaFave, Tara Leigh.
The Dings who fronted the famous “Don’t Touch Your Dial” opening of The Dean Martin Show’s 7th year on the air, and appeared with the star week in and week out during that 1971-72 season: (clockwise from bottom) Tara Leigh, Taffy Jones, Michelle DellaFave, Lynne Latham.
The final four Dingaling Sisters, who made up the second set featured during the 1972-73 season of Dean’s series: (left to right) Lindsay Bloom, Jayne Kennedy, Michelle DellaFave, Helen Funai.
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