Publicist Schatzi Hageman announced Wednesday her long-time client, legendary ballad songstress Patti Page, died at age 85 on New Year's Day at her home in Encinitas, Calif. near San Diego.
"Most recently, The Recording Academy announced that she was a recipient of their Special Merit Awards as a Lifetime Achievement Award honoree and she was looking forward to attending the invitation-only ceremony for the award on Feb. 9," Hageman said.
Page is survived by her son, Daniel O'Curran, daughter, Kathleen Ginn and sister, Peggy Layton.
The last time we had Page performing in our area, it was for one show in University Park at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts at Governor's State University in June 2004.
Page holds a special place in my heart.
She was one of the first entertainers I ever interviewed when I began as a cub reporter after graduating from Valparaiso University in 1992. It was that summer that I first interviewed Page at the Drury Lane Theatre that once stood as a proud landmark in Evergreen Park, Ill. in 1992, and again in 2003 before it was torn down.
I didn't know much about Page at the time, but my parents, Chester and Peggy, were certainly impressed with her and eager to see the show and meet her backstage. What I did know, was about her fame for her songs like "How Much is that Doggy in the Window?" and "Tennessee Waltz."
She even recorded the famous title song "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" for director Robert Aldrich's 1964 film starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland, which garnered seven Oscar nominations, including best song. Page was even featured at that year's Academy Awards telecast to sing the song.
When Page won a Grammy Award in 1999, she said she knew her career had come full circle.
"Music never changes," Page told me. "Only people change. Performing live is what I love. If you're a singer and you don't keep using your voice, you lose it."
Page ranked as one of the most popular singers of the postwar era, credited with selling 14 million records during the 1950s alone, with trademark songs like "Tennessee Waltz," "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?," "Confess," "I Went to Your Wedding," "Allegheny" and "Mockin' Bird Hill."
"I still get mothers who come up to me and say, 'Do you know how many times I had to listen to my children play, 'How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?' and then I had to go out and buy them a dog?'" Page told me during an interview in 2003.
More than 2 million copies of the song were sold during its release year, 1953.
Page also was one of the first female singers to hold her own against Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Garry Moore and Julias LaRosa with her own popular NBC variety show featuring her name in the early 1950s.
Her "early days of television" variety show was filmed live and sponsored by Scott Paper Towels and later Oldsmobile.
"At the time, many of the women viewers tuned in just to see me change clothes and fashions for each of my song numbers," Page told me when we chatted in 2004.
"I still like to change clothes during my live stage shows as a way to keep the performance fresh."
Glittering gowns and fame were far from the life Page knew as a child.
Born Clara Ann Fowler in Claremore, Okla., she was the 10th of 11 children, eight girls and three boys. Page's father was a railroad foreman and during the Depression, the family picked cotton to supplement its income.
Deciding not to pursue college, she took a job after high school at KTUL radio station in Tulsa, Okla. Her 15-minute song program was sponsored by The Page Co., a local dairy that insisted the program be called "Meet Patti Page," to plug its dairy products. The name stuck, as did Page's love of music and performing.
While performing on the nightclub circuit, during an appearance in New York at The Copocabana with comedian Joe E. Lewis, Page became known as "the Singing Rage" for her stage stamina and powerful voice.
Under the management finesse and industry guidance of Jack Rael, Page released more than 100 albums, three of them certified gold and 160 singles, 15 of which were certified gold.
"Tennessee Waltz" still ranks as one of the best-selling songs in the history of music sales.
In later years, she divided her time between her home on the West Coast and her farm (from the 1830s) in New Hampshire, where her third husband Jerry Filiciotto, who died in 2009, and she manufactured their own label of pure maple syrup and pancake mixes, which she would sell at her concerts and through catalog and online sales.
Page's two adopted children, Kathleen and Daniel, are from her first marriage to Thomas O'Curran, a dance director who formerly was married to Betty Hutton. She also has three stepchildren and numerous grandchildren from her third husband.
Funeral arrangements for Page are as follows:
• Private Viewing is Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 from 4 to 8 p.m. at El Camino Memorial - Sorrento Valley, 5600 Carroll Canyon Road, San Diego, Calif. 92121. Phone: (800) 352-2646 or sorrentovalleychapel.com
• Public Viewing is Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 10 a.m. at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, 120 Stevens Ave., Solana Beach, Calif. 92075 Phone: (858) 509-2580 or solanapres.org
• Burial will be private.
Flowers can be sent to El Camino Memorial - Sorrento Valley, 5600 Carroll Canyon Road, San Diego, Calif. 92121 and Memorial donations can be made to Society of Singers, Inc., 26500 W. Agoura Rd., 102-554 Calabasas, Calif. 91302 or (818) 995-7100 or singers.org OR GRAMMY Foundation, Attn: Annual Giving, 3030 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, Calif. 90404 or grammyfoundation.org