April 25, 1917 - June 15, 1996
me if I don't have the words. Maybe I can sing it and you'll understand."
This lady is one of the most famous voices in the history of Jazz, so why is
the only thing I know about her history, that Memorex commercial where she
breaks the glass? I don't like Jazz, so I guess that's it. I do know one
great anecdote though. Once Ella said in an interview, "I owe Marilyn
Monroe a real debt. It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very
popular nightclub in the 50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo
(who had refused to book Fitzgerald because she was black), and told him she
wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front
table every night. She told him - and it was true, due to Marilyn's superstar
status - that the press would go wild. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was
there, front table, every night. The press went overboard... After that, I never
had to play a small jazz club again. She was an unusual woman - a little ahead
of her times. And she didn't know it."
During her career, which spanned 6 decades, Ella won 13 Grammy awards.
She was hospitalized in Niagra Falls New York in 1986, where she was
diagnosed with heart failure, and her health continued to fail her.
In 1993, she had both of her legs amputated, below the knee. This poor girl
was being taken away, piece by piece. Her eyesight was going, and she had heart
disease as well.
In 1996, she was sick of being in the hospital, and went home to spend her
last days at home. Confined to a wheelchair since the loss of her legs, Ella
loved to sit in her backyard of her Beverly Hills mansion on Whittier,
with her son Ray and 12 year old granddaughter Alice. "I just want to smell
the air, listen to the birds and hear Alice laugh," she reportedly said.
On the last day, she was wheeled outside one last time, and sat there for
about an hour. She was taken back in, she looked up with a soft smile on her
face and said, "I'm ready to go now." She passed away in her home on
June 15th, 1996. She was 78 years old.
Just a few hours after her death, the Playboy Jazz Festival was launched at
the Hollywood Bowl. In tribute, they put up
this sign on the marquee.
Her funeral was private, and she is buried at Inglewood Cemetery. I passed by
her house the day of her funeral. It was jammed with limos and people milling
about, so it wasn't that private.
On a lighter note, when my bud Larry and I went to visit
grave last week, Laer pointed out this
clinic across the street. I had to chuckle. Shameful, I know, but still.