Camp discloses innocence, but also, when it can, corrupts it.
- Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp"
Admit it - you're surprised she can sing, aren't you? I kind of am, every time I hear her. We're so used to thinking of her only as a B-list sex kitten-trainwreck that anything else throws off the narrative. Even here, in what passed for her prime, she's still sort of a joke, the spectre of Zero Mostel mugging around the edges of what is otherwise an entirely creditable number. How does this happen? It is just drugs and bad choices, or is there something in some performers that makes them inherently, for no reason directly associated with their actual talent, risible?
Of course, Heatherton is part of a larger cadre of ladies - versatile but not-quite-unique actor/singer/dancers - who were more or less left high and dry in Hollywood by the final collapse of the studio system in the early '60s. They'd been trained up, at Universal or Columbia or wherever, given elocution lessons and taught to be "stars," whatever that meant by 1962 or so, and then thrown out into a market that didn't need them, really, anymore, at least as anything but décor in Elvis pictures or as arm-candy for Bob Hope on his USO tours. Some of them found their niches - Barbara Eden lucked into a sitcom the afterlife of which still carries her through a kind of career; Stella Stevens had a good run as a hard-boiled leading or supporting lady (a kind of vulgar successor to Claire Trevor); Ann-Margret (in some ways, the ne plus ultra of the type) as a Vegas superstar - but for whatever reason, Joey - although at least as talented as they and more than most - never did.
Here she is, though, in what might have been (sans Mostel) a moment from a better, more fitting career, for once seemingly fully in control, flatteringly dressed and filmed, singing Gershwin as if she were born to do so. Sing your song, Joey, for what comes after isn't very nice. Camp corrupted only takes you so far - into Happy Hooker movies, court appearances, and increasingly piteous self-parodies. After that, slow fade to black. She's 69 today.