The Bible says it best. In the Garden Of Eden, Adam and Eve - the original swinging cat and kitten - hung out in the nude. Fine. Look what happened. The apple thing went down, and boom. Adam's career was vamoose. It didn't start to turn around until he got the fig leaf. That was the turning point - the fig leaf. With the leaf, Adam gained something. A sense of confidence, a sense of control, a sense of mystery. He could lay back a little, be understated, not blow it all up front. It drove Eve nuts. He started humming a little. She started paying him ... in kumquats, apples, whatever they had around. It was the dawn of lounge singing - all made possible by wardrobe. From these very crude beginnings, mankind has stretched the limits of lounge singing. And naturally, fashion has moved forward, developed, come to the very forefront and become a cornerstone of the entertainer's art. Lounge singers remember: Clothes make the man. It's all about threads, baby.

The Tan
I think George Hamilton said it best. We were poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel. My cabana. He's charging drinks to my bungalow like a bandit. We're sunning. I've got some nice color coming. Frankly, George was looking a little like a wallet. But he turned to me and said: "you know, Bud E., you can be too rich and you can be too happy, but you can never be too tan." I'll never forget those words, even as I jot a get-well card to George after face lift number three. The lounge singer has a place in the sun. What does the tan say? The tan says, "I have free time," "I get outside," "Join me me poolside." The tan suggests the fantasy of the singer with his (or her) shirt off, bronze muscles glowing in the sun. It suggests youth, athletic vigor. It brightens the teeth, enhances charisma. As a budding lounge singer, you must commit to your tan.

Jewelry is the lounge singer's Congressional Medal of Honor. Each ring, medallion, bracelet, watch, and pin signifies a battle fought and won at great cost and sacrifice. I wear a diamond ring given to me by Conrad Hilton, Sr., in recognition of a rainy evening in October of 1972, when I did three shows in one night at the Vegas Hilton. I didn't get paid for the third show. It was a special, added performance for Mr. Hilton's mother.

Choose your pants carefully. Pleated. Pegged. Baggy. Flaired. Full-cut. The add what you will. A belt. Rhinestones. A satin lining. But always make sure the pants flatter you. Ask yourself: How do they feel? Do they pinch, bite, ride? Do they cling? What do your pants say about you? Always remember the Second Rule of Show Business: Your pants should be so good they can do the show without you.

The Medallion
The medallion is a way of being. It suggests vulnerability. It implies that the singer is not all-powerful, that there is some greater force than him or herself, to which he or she pays homage. The medallion is a dangling participant in the delicate alchemy of the lounge. It's a beacon. A beacon for prayer. It's also a beacon for broads. The chicks go wild when they see a medallion sparkling beneath the folds of a 100-percent cotton dress shirt. They come closer. They must be near the medallion. The brilliance attracts them like moths. They have to touch it. And in doing so, they have almost no choice but to touch you, the lounge singer. Is this good news or what? You don't need a pick-up line with a medallion. You need protection, and lots of it. I gave Sammy his famous S medallion, emblazoned with diamonds. I gave Engelbert one with his last name on it: Humper on one side, dinck on the other. I gave Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill the gavel medallion, and Ralph Nader the one with the Corvair on it. It looked great with his Nehru jacket. Over the years, I've probably received as many medallions as I've give, if not more. I treasure them all. I have one that was a personal gift from Pope John XXIII that's my favorite. It's embossed with a lifelike portrait of St. Genesius.
  The Manicure
I can't stress enough the importance of a good cure. The entertainer's hands are an extension of his soul. Do you want your soul to have a hangnail, a ripped cuticle, or a subcutaneous infection? Do you want your bejeweled rings living next door to a mangled nails? No. Take care of your hands. Moisturize them. Polish them. I remember years ago, Liberace and I were going through his garage looking for parts to an old candelabra. He tore a nail. It happens. He's human. But he ignored my advice to make an emergency appointment for a manicure at my favorite salon in Vegas. He went onstage that night wearing the boa. In the middle of "Flight Of The Bumblebee," in an especially demanding passage, the boa got caught in the broken nail. The fingers were flying. Suddenly, there were feathers everywhere. One of them caught fire in the candelabra. Up went the boa. The smoke alarms went off, the sprinklers kicked in. The fire marshall was onstage like a shot, crawling over the red, white, and blue Rolls. The entire audience was evacuated soaking wet. Gross receipts of over $180,000 were refunded to irate customers. The car was a total loss. All because Lee failed to get a manicure. Need I say more?
Excerpted From: You Oughta Be Me: How To Be A Lounge Singer And Live Like One. St. Martins Press, 1993.

Steve Casner. Webmaster to the Stars.


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