I am turning 60 years old this month. This is a milestone for me, which initiated my pondering of important events that have occurred throughout my life. Certainly uppermost on my list was my wonderful fortune in meeting and becoming friends with the great Frankie Laine.
In past blogs, I have attempted to provide readers with some of my more intriguing firsthand experiences with Frankie. While it was certainly enough for me to be able to meet my idol, I didn’t realize that by getting to know Frankie, and sharing my Laine experiences with others, that I was also subject to other amazements. For example, I was able to correspond with people all over the world. I became friends with several of these people with whom I had first communicated. All of this started happening after I had begun writing about my friendship with Frankie.
Some of my most wonderful “Laine” experiences, outside of being with Frankie in person, were direct contacts with celebrities. I had met a few, had corresponded with some, and had even become friends with a couple of them.
While working on the Frankie Laine documentary with Jimmy Marino, I was able to chat on the phone more than once with actresses Lucy Marlow and Terry Moore as well as singer Connie Haines. Singer Jo Stafford left me a personal message during this time on my telephone answering machine! As I stated in a previous blog (Up Among the Stars), I had become friends with singer/actor Jerome Courtland, whom I had interviewed at his home for the documentary.
While working on my book, Reaching for a Star, which details my experiences with Frankie Laine, I was able to obtain personal quotes about Frankie for my book from Connie Haines, Jo Stafford, Teresa Brewer, and Gene Pitney.
None of these contacts would have been possible without my being associated with Frankie Laine. Furthermore, one contact that happened a few months ago, was, “I Believe,” a spiritual gift to me from Frankie.
Dodie Stevens achieved her first hit record, Pink Shoe Laces, in 1959. She was 13 years old when the song became a gold record. At the age of eight, she was the little girl with the big singing voice who sang on television with Frankie on The Frankie Laine Show in 1954. As a collector of Frankie Laine material, I first saw and heard her from archived footage as “Geri Thorr” on this show.
Several times, as part of my Frankie Laine collecting avocation, I would try to locate this little girl singer. It seemed there was no information on her anywhere. We Frankie Laine collectors later discovered that this little girl had been categorized incorrectly as “Jerri Thorne” in all references to Frankie’s show. She was, in fact, Geri Thorr, the name Dodie went by for a short time during her childhood singing career.
Tony Cooper of the Frankie Laine International Appreciation Society discovered that error at the same time he learned that Frankie’s little girl singer was later to become the famed Dodie Stevens. Tony recently happened to watch the movie Hound-Dog Man, with Fabian and Dodie Stevens. He thought the teenaged Dodie resembled our elusive little singer. After contacting Dodie, Tony was able to obtain confirmation that Geri and Dodie were one in the same. Soon thereafter, Tony gave me the news of this new Laine discovery. The mystery was solved! We had found our little singer.
I, too, contacted Dodie by e-mail. She replied quickly and was very polite. I informed her about my Frankie Laine association. I expressed how pleased I was that we were able to locate her after all of these years.
Dodie has a remarkable singing voice. Her vocals are full of luster and tone. One can tell by listening to her recordings that she had mastered her art. She has always possessed this amazingly rich singing voice. I especially love listening to the songs Dodie had recorded during 1959 and throughout the early 1960s.
Dodie sent me a follow-up e-mail shortly after she had recorded a song she had written. After the attacks in Paris last November, Dodie, with a deep sadness in her heart, became motivated to write a beautiful and enchanting song called “When?” —an anthem that asks important questions: “When will the killing stop? When will the terror end? When will we live in peace? When will it happen?”
In Dodie’s note, she asked whether I could help her forward her musical message of peace. Her song would not be used for financial purposes. With this project, she specifically used her singing and songwriting talents to create a beautiful piece of art that would inspire people. The message she applied her talents to create, would inspire listeners to ponder the senseless, abysmal killings happening in today’s world. It is a song dedicated to encouraging peace all over the world.
I used my connections, set up some meetings, and was able to arrange for Dodie’s song to be featured on both the “Iowa Peace Network” and the “Women Against War” websites. Since I am a videographer, I produced a pictorial video that accentuates the song. To my delight, Dodie loved the video production of her song.
If anyone is interested in watching the video and listening to Dodie’s inspirational song, please go to the “Iowa Peace Network” website: Iowapeacenetwork.org and scroll down to the heading “When?”- A Song of Peace by Dodie Stevens. There is an interesting biography of Dodie included, complete with photographs. Included is a picture of eight-year-old Dodie, as Geri Thorr, singing with Frankie from the 1954 show.
While we have yet to meet in person, Dodie and I keep in constant touch through electronic notes. We have built a special friendship through our work on Dodie’s project, our mutual admiration of Frankie, and our shared love of music. We both truly believe that our bond came about as a “gift” from our late friend Frankie Laine.