By DR. LARRY MYERS **** Editor’s Note: Here is the first in a series of pieces wherein Dr. M. takes a moment or two—or more— to tell us about some performers age 60+ who are still basking in the spotlight on stage. First up is Carol Shedlin.
Sylvia Syms sang a set onstage directly before her transition. She exited stage left and died happy. I attended her memorial service at St. Paul’s, where Tony Bennett and a boisterous belter, Nell Potts (daughter of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward), saluted her. Angie Dickinson arrived late, carrying a grandchild. I don’t know whether Carol Shedlin will get such a sendoff but she’ll certainly die trying. You see, Carol is a cabaret survivalist. When I ran into survivor Valerie Harper in Hollywood and described the 60th West Side Story reunion with 11 original cast members present, she said, “Yes! Keep dancing!” Carol has kept singing for several decades.
Carol is an acolyte of artistic genius. She implements her voice to summon up lingering song thrushes’ spirits. She sings “Birth of the Blues” and one speculates her soul in a past life was actually there. Carol is one of these troopers who may have The Burning Bush as a Facebook friend. Carol is one of our “night worker” cabaret divas. She shares her joy of performing. As Bette Davis proved to us, one needn’t be afraid to be an amateur and just throw in the towel with an “everything goes,” daredevil-may-care attitude. Courageous and inventive, she despised Joan Crawford’s polished glossiness.
Carol gets up there and lets it rip.
She exemplifies Davis’s “Old age ain’t for sissies” attitude. Whether it be “Mood Indigo,” or “Kickin’ the Clouds Away,” Carol is in her element. Her perfect song section is facilitated by her top-league pianist Jon Delfin and bassist Boots Maleson. “You’ve Got the Right Key but the Wrong Keyhole” is the show’s high point. One can imagine Carol in the Dolores Gray role in the Destry Rides Again musical. When I mention to Carol that I met Marlene Dietrich, know her daughter and was a close friend of Marlene’s son-in-law, Dean Goodman, she is effusive. Of course, she was loquacious and effusive about just being present at Don’t Tell Mama for a very appreciative audience.