Sad news in the Gray Lady, and unexpected in that brings up a name not all that familiar in the last decade or four: Kitty Kallen, wartime sweetheart and big band stalwart, has headed off to Fabulon.
Among other things, I fear that may leave us with only one soldiers' delight here below, the formidable Dame Vera Lynn.
Kallen's was a career far more modest than the great dame's, but still it encompasses significant hits from the '40s through the early '60s, stints with the orchestras of Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James. "Besame Mucho," and enough fame that one nuisance of her long retirement, according to the Times obituary, was fending off imposters who tried to perform using her name - a problem that went so far as to include even a premature obituary, when one of them died.
Kallen was apparently always an anxious performer, and she went through a long spell in the '50s when she was unable to perform in public at all. She's a scarce presence on the Youtubes; this charming fragment from an RKO short, actually, is all I was able to unearth, and while the number itself is no "It's a Been a Long, Long Time" (the song that saw home a million returning soldiers) or "Little Things Mean a Lot" (her biggest postwar hit), it reveals a woman of uncommon charm - a kind of brunette Alice Faye, natural and warmly engaging.
They're getting few on the ground, kids, the old ones. I don't know that Kallen's name would appear in that sober vellum-covered book now resident with a certain distinguished lady in Paris; she was, for all her renown, mostly a voice rather than a starry presence. Even so I wonder if, there in her splendid house in the sixteenth, the book's current keeper hasn't, in the past day or so, found herself idly hearing in her head that insinuating tune... "Kiss me once, and kiss me twice / It's been a long, long time..."