When Frank Sinatra died in May 1998, it was the same week married singing duo Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were booked for a string of shows at Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville.
The couple cancelled, since Lawrence joined comedians Tom Dreesen and Don Rickles, along with Frank Sinatra Jr. and others to serve as pallbearers at Sinatra's funeral.
Last Wednesday, Lawrence mourned Eydie, his wife of 55 years at her funeral, and burial at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, after Gorme, 84, died Saturday, Aug. 10 from an undisclosed illness at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas, according to her publicist Howard Bragman.
Lawrence and the Gorme's son David, along with other loved ones, were by her side when she died Bragman told Bob Thomas, the entertainment writer for The Associated Press.
Her 85th birthday would have been Friday.
"Eydie and Steve loved performing at Star Plaza Theatre and we loved them both too," said Charlie Blum, CEO and talent buyer for Star Plaza Theatre.
"They were always an audience favorite."
In 1995, they performed for sold-out audiences at the Morris Civic Auditorium in South Bend. And after missing their May 1998 booking at Star Plaza, six years later, Blum had them back to the Star Plaza in 2004 with a "select" tour they called "One More for the Road."
Their popular trademark opening number was always ''This Could Be The Start of Something Big,'' the theme song of their ''Tonight!'' show mentor Steve Allen.
It was the late, great Allen who first introduced the married performers to the national spotlight by featuring them on his popular show in 1956. They married Dec. 29, 1957, at the El Rancho Hotel, where Gorme was a popular opening act. And by 1958, they both had hit albums, and Allen gave them their first opportunity to host their own show as a summer replacement variety hour for his own popular show.
The last time the couple performed in our Chicagoland area was in October 2007 when they agreed to headline two shows at the beautiful, historic Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Ill.
I recall even when she played the Aurora date, Gorme was quite winded and relied on a stool to rest in between song sets. For part of the concert, she left the stage to rest and Lawrence showcased some of his favorite solo career numbers. By that time, they rarely performed and commanded between $30,000 and $50,000 for their concert dates. When I went backstage to visit with the couple, along with some of their other invited backstage guests, only Lawrence appeared, making apologies for Eydie, explaining she wasn't feeling well. In recent years, Lawrence would occasionally perform solo and for a time, talked about pairing up to tour with pal Tim Conway.
Gorme's huge solo hit was in 1963 with "Blame it on the Bossa Nova."
In Las Vegas, the two became favorite headliners of the Sin City famed strip of hotels and casinos, playing The Sands, The Desert Inn and headlining for 10 years at Caesar's Palace. She, like husband Lawrence, also showcased the comic timing and multiple talents as favorite guest stars on pal Carol Burnett's popular CBS variety show of the 1970s.
She is survived by Lawrence, her son David and a granddaughter. Her other son with Lawrence, Michael, died of heart failure in 1986 at age 23. At Hillside, Gorme is now along side son Michael and other greats like Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Cyd Charisse and Jack Benny.