RIGHT BACK WHERE THEY STARTED FROM: Michelle DellaFave (above right), whose first big break in show business came when she was selected to be one of The Golddiggers, and Lindsay Bloom (above left), who achieved her start in the industry when she was picked to join Michelle in The Dingaling Sisters, made a return pilgrimage this past December to the dream factory where it all began — sunny Southern California — for both an historic retrospective on their time with The Dean Martin Show and some fresh performances in connection with their current act, Blue-Eyed Soul. For a pair that many believe have discovered The Fountain of Youth, the backdrop above would seem to be as natural a place as any to commence the journey.
It was in the midst of a particularly brutal New York City winter in 1963 that a young singer-songwriter by the name of John Phillips, inspired by the longing of his new young bride Michelle for the warmer climes of her native Golden State, managed to distill his wife’s melancholy yearning into words and music that would in time reverberate throughout every hamlet in America and in virtually every corner of the world.
Two years after conceiving it, John and Michelle Phillips — joined by fellow musicians Dennis Doherty and Cass Elliot — recorded “California Dreamin’”, launching it as the debut release of their newly-formed act The Mamas and The Papas; and by early 1966, the single had vaulted to Number 4 on the Billboard Pop Chart, cementing both the group’s success and their maiden hit’s status as an instant pop classic.
Over four decades later, many of us find ourselves enduring a winter of discontent owing not just to the elements, but more pointedly, to the economy. So, on such a winter’s day, we thought it might help warm things up a bit to take a walk in the sunshine with those two balls of fire who could brighten almost any environs: Michelle DellaFave and Lindsay Bloom. This past December, they did more than just dream of California — they retraced some of their earliest roots there, and planted new ones along the way.
Before they Hit The Road To Dreamland (L.A., that is) on a stopover prior to their next concert for military veterans, the blonde, blue-eyed Dean Martin Show vets Had The Craziest Dream — fulfilling their long-held dream of a reunion with their other two “Sisters” from the valedictory class of Dingalings, Jayne Kennedy and Helen Funai. But would the logistics of such a get-together render this The Impossible Dream? Not with all four of them determined to make it happen.
REUNITED, AND IT FEELS SO GOOD: For the first time since 1973, all four members of the final group of Dingaling Sisters, who joined Dean Martin and other cast members each week during the 8th season of Dean’s series, got back together in one place, at one time, after each had gone on to flourish in successful solo careers. Pictured above at their December 2008 reunion: (left to right) Michelle DellaFave, Helen Funai, Jayne Kennedy, and Lindsay Bloom.
BELOW: The young quartet cuddles up with the old pro for their weekly medley during the 1972-73 season of The Dean Martin Show: (clockwise from left) Jayne, Lindsay, Helen, Michelle, and Mr. Cool himself.
And so, in a hotel suite in Los Angeles on a balmy Sunday in early December, four women who shared a very special sisterhood and a unique place in show business history came together for the first time in over 35 years. That fact alone would have made the occasion newsworthy, but adding to the significance of the gathering was that it assembled not only the final four Dings, but also, four of the all-time most famous alumnae of Dean’s series:
Michelle, one of the longest-serving, best-remembered and most-recognized members of both The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters; Lindsay and Jayne, each of whom went on to headline dozens of feature films, guest-star on numerous TV programs, and become familiar faces as regulars on two widely-viewed CBS series — in Lindsay’s case, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, and in Jayne’s, The NFL Today; and Helen, who had already graced a slew of hit movies and television series before joining the Dings, and who continued to amass a long list of additional credits following her tenure on Dean’s show.
Yet from the moment when they first saw each other again that Sunday in December, all such notions of celebrity fell by the wayside, and what was left were just four longtime girlfriends reminiscing about the good old days and catching up on each other’s lives.
HAPPY TOGETHER: (above) Michelle and Lindsay welcome Helen…
…Lindsay greets Jayne…
…Jayne hugs Michelle…
…Helen hugs Jayne…
…Michelle poses with Helen…
…and now that they’re all reacquainted…
GOOD VIBRATIONS: A group huddle enables each of the “Sisters” the opportunity to reconnect with her Inner Ding (or something to that effect).
For nine hours straight — from 1:00 in the afternoon until 10 o’clock that night — they gabbed and gossiped, laughed and cried. Indeed, as they watched a DVD of some of their performances on The Dean Martin Show, both as a quartet and in harmony with Dean, Lindsay at one point glanced over at Jayne and saw her wiping away tears. Add in the fact that three of the gals were fighting off colds that day, and you can bet that between the sobs and the sniffles, the four of them gave the Kleenex box quite a workout.
But given the common bond that these gals shared at such a formative time in their lives, such an emotional outpouring all of these years later isn’t hard to comprehend, and plainly, the tears shed at this conclave were ones not of sorrow, but of joy, gratitude and mutual affection. For not only the ladies, but fans of The Dingalings and The Dean Martin Show, too, this celebration was a dream come true.
REELIN’ IN THE YEARS: Emotions run high as the gals take a trip down memory lane, watching a compilation of Dingaling Sisters numbers arranged by Lee Hale and choreographed by the late Ed Kerrigan, as well as an assortment of medleys with Dean, also, of course, arranged by Lee.
After it was over, Jayne and Helen returned home, and the two Blue Eyed Soulstresses proceeded to the next phase of their California trip — a visit to Bakersfield for two days of rehearsal and a couple of radio talk show appearances. Then, along with Manager Wes Guidry, they headed North to Sacramento to take part in events marking the 20th Anniversary of The California Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: The ladies in rehearsal.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Michelle and Lindsay met with California Assemblywoman Jean Fuller to exchange notes about their respective efforts on behalf of Veterans.
DRIVING HOME THEIR POINT: The Blue Eyed Soul team makes rush hour traffic a little easier to bear for listeners of KNZR talk radio, as the duo enlivens the station’s airwaves during the afternoon/early evening commute.
Over the course of the Dec. 12-13 weekend, the girls toured the California State Military Museum, rode in a parade, and then on the grounds of the Memorial itself, attended ceremonies honoring those who had served their country in Vietnam. The interaction with the Vets and their families even extended to Michelle and Lindsay’s concert at the Friday night awards banquet, when the ladies brought a few “volunteers” from the audience on stage with them, as they made all of their earlier rehearsal time, plus years of performing experience, pay off in putting on the show of a lifetime for one and all present.
PUTTING COUNTRY, DUTY AND HONOR FIRST: The ladies draw notice wherever they go, but channel that energy right back into their cause, whether waving to spectators from the back of a restored Mustang convertible during the parade to the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial…
…Stopping by the California Military Museum in the state capitol…
…Exchanging bon mots with the Museum’s Chairman, retired Marine Lt. Col. Thomas Richards (left) and Thomas Johnson, Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (third from left)…
…Flanking Col. David Griffith, Commander of Army’s Freedom Team salute program…
…Paying their respects at one of the Memorial’s monuments…
…Conversing with a Vet, who related how much it meant to him to see Michelle and other members of The Golddiggers perform while he was stationed in Vietnam…
…Or signing an Instamatic photograph of a USO performance that one Veteran preserved since he snapped the shot in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.
SPARKLE AND SHINE: Blue Eyed Soul brought a heaping helping of glitz and glamour to the Friday night awards dinner that kicked off the ceremonies commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
LEAVING ON A JET PLANE: During the course of their stage shows, Michelle and Lindsay not only transport their audiences back to an earlier era, but indeed sometimes appear to be taking flight themselves. Perhaps not so coincidentally, they recently added the 1969 Peter, Paul and Mary ode to air travel (in truth, of course, really a bittersweet lament about leaving a relationship and moving on, penned by John Denver and Ken Browder) to their catalog of ’60s songs.
FEELIN’ THE FUNK: These days, when Michelle uncages The Funky Chicken — the number she first strutted out during the 1970 Bob Hope USO tour — she finds herself playing mother hen to a flock of volunteers from the audience whom she’s taken to calling the Funky Roosters. The latter brood may not always find their footing, but with Ms. DellaFave leading the way, the performance never lays an egg.
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF A LEGEND: Before leaving Southern California to participate in the 20th Anniversary of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the onetime Dingaling Sisters paid homage to another great American institution — one with whom they worked side-by-side, week in and week out, on what many regard as the finest variety show ever produced. Visiting the walkway at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in the heart of Hollywood, where Dean Martin placed his hand and footprints and signed his name in March 1964 — just three months before his smash hit “Everybody Loves Somebody” would dethrone The Beatles from the top of the pop charts — Michelle and Lindsay must have felt a special sense of pride, knowing that of the thousands of visitors to this site each year, they are among a select few lucky enough to have shared the stage with one of the most versatile and revered entertainers of the 20th Century.
Oklahoma — Where The Soul Comes Sweeping Down The Plain
It wasn’t long after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays that duty called once again, and Michelle, Lindsay and their Manager, Wes, were off to their next destination — this time, Oklahoma City, where they went with twin objectives in mind: entertaining and comforting patients at the local VA hospital, and outlining their mission to the individual State Council Presidents of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
The latter group was holding its annual conference in OKC, and part of Michelle and Lindsay’s job is to educate these state leaders about how their efforts benefit Vets, with any eye toward persuading the officials to bring the gals in to entertain at other local chapters.
Actions, of course, always speak louder than words — so after hearing the gals speak, the Presidents went to see them in action, joining the audience as Blue Eyed Soul pulled out all of the stops for a concert at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center. But this one came with a twist: The girls added to their already-substantial repertoire a brand new medley of songs from the ’70s that included “Downtown”, “Top of The World”, “Somebody To Love”, and “What The World Needs Now Is Love”.
OH, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNIN’: Well, okay, it was really more toward the evening when Blue Eyed Soul’s concert program got underway at Oklahoma City’s VA Medical Center, but you’d never know it from either the composure of the gals or the enthusiastic response that they received. Even after a full day of addressing VVA officials and signing autographs, Michelle and Lindsay were fresh as daisies, ready and rarin’ to go, and their audience couldn’t have given them a more eager and welcome reception.
THE SURREY WITH THE FRINGE ON TOP: Well, okay, we have to fess up again — there was no surrey, and we couldn’t even find any fringe. After all, while this may be Oklahoma, it’s also the year 2009. You just don’t see as many surreys as you used to. But riffing off the famed score of the Sooner State’s namesake musical proved hard to resist, so borrowing a page from the variety shows of yore that we all so adore, we composed some special lyrics to suit the occasion. With apologies to the estates of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II — and by extension, to Lee Hale, who does these adaptations better than anyone — here’s our admittedly pedestrian parody of “Surrey With The Fringe On Top”:
Vets get set for a treat from the kitchen
When Michelle takes the stage, pulses quicken
Then she serves them up The Funky Chicken — which they love…a lot!
Dancin’, prancin’, high-steppin’ kicks
Lindsay’s smooth moves have the crowd transfixed
Blue Eyed Soul are a pair of rockin’ chicks — that folks love…a lot!
(Okay, from now on, we’ll leave the special lyrics to the experts. We promise.)
As enthusiastically as Michelle and Lindsay’s performance was received, the State VVA Presidents — as well as the hospital patients themselves — had to be just as impressed that before the show started, the girls took the time to go around to the rooms of those patients too weak or ill to attend the concert, chatting with them and even singing a cappella for them. It’s a degree of dedication and personal involvement not only rare, but one of which Bob Hope, who brought The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters on his USO tours in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and who always took his traveling party with him to visit wounded military personnel, would undoubtedly be tremendously proud.
JUST TWO GIRLS WHO CAN’T SAY NO (TO MAKING HOUSE CALLS, THAT IS): The blue-eyed Florence Nightingales administer therapy to the soul, as they make their rounds, infusing patients with a heavy dose of TLC.
Two-and-a-half years after The Mamas and the Papas scored their first career breakthrough with “California Dreamin’”, “Mama Cass” Elliot kept the group’s fading dreams alive when she stepped into the spotlight with her dreamy, disarming rendition of the vintage pop ballad, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”. The song first gained prominence in 1931, when a version by the now barely-remembered Wayne King and His Orchestra spent four weeks atop the national pop charts.
Through the years, the tune was covered by artists ranging from Ozzie Nelson (also in 1931) to Bing Crosby in 1957, with recordings by Frankie Laine, Doris Day and the Nat King Cole Trio, among others, in-between. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald did it as a duet, and as Dean Martin aficionados know, the King of Cool delivered his own mellow take on the number in 1959 for his dream-themed Capitol Records LP, Sleep Warm (with the orchestra conducted by no less than the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra).
But it was in the heat of the turbulent, though in countless ways, exhilarating, summer of 1968 that Mama Cass’s tender, nostalgic interpretation of “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” bridged what was then a sizable generation gap to gently nestle its way into the hearts of music lovers of all ages.
In that same era, for many young women aspiring to make it Hollywood in the late 1960s and early ’70s, being chosen for one of the coveted spots in the lineups of The Golddiggers or The Dingaling Sisters was the stuff of which dreams were made. Likewise, for tens of millions of television viewers during this period, The Golddiggers and The Dingaling Sisters were the Dreamgirls of their day — and especially for all of the guys at home and serving their country abroad — they symbolized the girls of their dreams.
Those days are behind us now, but many continue to dream big — for instance, dreaming of the day when episodes of both The Dean Martin Show and The Golddiggers series will once again step out of our dreams and back onto our TV screens. And one should never lose hope on that score, for as another old song reminds us: “Things never are as bad as they seem…So dream…dream…dream.”
In the meantime, in other ways, the dream lives on, with happenings such as the recent Dingaling Sisters reunion, and as Michelle and Lindsay continue to follow their dream of bringing joy, hope, and comfort to audiences across the country.
And what fuels the dreams of those two dreamy lasses? Well, in an interview that they gave to Christian radio station KAXL during their swing through California back in December, the ladies spoke of their faith, their families, their fans…and of course, of their shared memories of working with Dean.
For anyone who might have wanted to catch that broadcast but didn’t have a chance, you needn’t merely dream of how it went, or count on only seeing the girls in your dreams. Because we captured it all, and This Time, The Dream’s On Us. So, for a few moments at least, just Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams, And Dream Your Troubles Away:
Michelle and Lindsay on KAXL:
SOUND VISION: Michelle and Lindsay (above) spread the word on KAXL Bakersfield, CA, where they were interviewed by the station’s morning deejay, Dan Schaffer (pictured with them below)
The photos on display in the article above — almost all of which were taken by Blue Eyed Soul Manager Wes Guidry — represent only a portion of the more than 100 images from Michelle and Lindsay’s California and Oklahoma trips that can be found over at the the GoldsAndDings Group, under whose roof are also housed hundreds of additional shots of The Golddiggers, The Dingaling Sisters, and Dean Martin, many of which can’t be seen anywhere else. How can you partake of this photographic feast? Just go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GoldsandDings and you’ll see. Best of all, what awaits you is absolutely free to access, free of spam, and comes with no strings attached.
To stay abreast of all of Michelle and Lindsay’s upcoming appearances, as well as read more about them and see more of their pictures, don’t forget to visit their very own website at http://www.MichelleAndLindsay.com.