Before I continue with part four of my story about my first meeting with Frankie Laine, I would like to relate another Frankie Laine association.

A Perplexity Deciphered

There had been a conundrum within the Frankie Laine circle for years. Thanks to my friend Tony Cooper from England, that puzzle has now been resolved. Tony, who is the best at locating lost Frankie Laine gems—both audio and video—is the Treasurer and Membership Secretary for the Frankie Laine International Appreciation Society in England. The quandary was this: What ever happened to Jerri Thorne, the little girl singer with the beautiful big voice?

Jerri Thorne has been listed in the worldwide Frankie Laine libraries as being the little girl who sang duets with Frankie on the original filmed television show The Frankie Laine Show—1954-55. Why couldn’t anyone locate her today? Well, thanks to Tony, here’s how the problem was solved:

Tony and I are constantly in touch regarding Frankie Laine items. A few weeks ago, Tony relayed to me that he had recently viewed the 1959 movie Hound-Dog Man, starring Fabian and Dodie Stevens. He told me that Dodie resembled child singer Jerri Thorne, whom we all had been searching for over the years. Dodie was a young teenager in the movie. Jerri Thorne was only eight years old when she appeared on The Frankie Laine Show.

Tony researched further and was able to make contact with Dodie Stevens. When Tony mentioned Jerri Thorne to Dodie, she told Tony that she did briefly adopt the stage name Geri Thorr when she was a little girl (notice the spelling changes for both first and last names and the surname pronunciation change). Unfortunately, people can sometimes get “lost” by changing names—especially when they later become known by another name, as it appeared in Dodie’s case. At first, Dodie didn’t recall being on Frankie’s show. Tony sent her pictures of her from the show, and Dodie confirmed that it was, indeed, her, while her memories came flooding back! As Geri, Dodie performed the following duets on The Frankie Laine Show: “Tell Me a Story,” “The Magic of Believing,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and Frankie sang a lullaby to Geri, “Out of Nowhere,” in a sweet bedtime scene.

Now we know that Jerri Thorne was actually Geri Thorr—and Geri Thorr is Dodie Stevens! Dodie had the 1959 hit “Pink Shoelaces.” Over the years, she has recorded several songs and was always in beautiful voice. She still sings today, and she still has that amazing voice. Dodie is also a very nice person. I have since been in touch with her, too.

(Continued from December blog)

Frankie drove us to his new house. At that time, Frankie and his wife, Nan, were still in the process of moving. This modest mansion had been designed by Nan and was built to her specifications. I was hoping to meet Nan during my visit, but on that day, she was at their prior residence.

Frankie gave me a brief tour. The first thing I saw was the beautiful Laine kitchen with its restaurant-size refrigerator. Everything was new. There were copper cooking pans hanging above a thick glass top island. In was enthralled! He showed me his music room. There were bookshelves with albums. Some of the albums were duplicates of earlier Frankie Laine albums. He actually took one of his old albums off the shelf and gave it to me. It was still in the original shrink-wrap! I declined his offer because I already had a copy of it at home. What was I thinking? I would have treasured that album today, knowing that Frankie actually offered it to me from his own collection at his house!

I noticed that he had a stack of his 45 rpm records on a shelf. Just thumbing through them, I realized that I didn’t have most of them, and, at that time, I hadn’t even heard of most of the titles before.

Next, we went upstairs. Frankie led me into the maid’s quarters, before stopping off to view what was to be Nan’s private bathroom! He showed me his closet. The closet was the size of a full room! I’d never seen a closet that large. When I entered it, I noticed all of his shoes placed next to the walls around the entire room.

Frankie directed me into his and Nan’s bedroom. He immediately sat on the bed and pushed a remote that opened and closed the blinds in the room. He seemed pleased at my open-mouthed amazement. Like a big kid, Frankie played with them a few times—opening and closing them.

When the interior tour was finished, Frankie showed me his patio overlooking the San Diego harbor area below. I snapped a photo of Frankie next to his patio fence. He surprised me by then asking me to let him take a picture of me by the same fence!

When we were back in his main living room, Frankie asked me whether I’d like a beer. I acknowledged in the affirmative, and we sat at his bar and enjoyed our cans of Olympia. We had a nice conversation. Frankie then suggested that I call the bus depot to ascertain what time my bus was to leave for Iowa. He handed his telephone directory to me, I located the number of the Greyhound depot, and I called. The man at the depot desk related devastating news. There would be no more busses leaving for Iowa until the next morning!

In shock, I slowly placed the phone receiver back in its cradle. I had no money left. I couldn’t afford to stay another night. I was stranded in San Diego! When Frankie asked me about the phone call, I related what the man had told me. I must have sounded pitiful to Frankie when I said I was broke and couldn’t afford to stay in San Diego another night. Without a pause, Frankie reached into his pocket and handed me the cash he had there. “Here ya go,” he said. It was $30. I was flabbergasted! I tried to thank him and babbled that I’d pay him back, but Frankie just said, “Don’t worry about it.” (Note: I did later pay Frankie back. I sent him a check and was delighted to get his signature on the back of it. It is still in my Laine collection today.) 

Frankie had informed me earlier that, later that afternoon, he was to be videotaped during a Christmas public service announcement at the St. Vincent de Paul Center (now called Village) for Father Joe Carroll. We had some time before we had to leave his house; therefore, Frankie announced that he was going to take a nap on his couch. He informed me that I could take pictures, look through records, or do whatever I wanted—as long as I awakened him in 20 minutes.

I knew what I wanted to do. I quickly retrieved my briefcase and from it grabbed my pencil and pad. I went into Frankie’s music room and began writing down the song titles from that stack of 45s. Every so often, I turned around and looked at Frankie asleep on his couch. I was astonished. I was actually observing my idol while he slept!

I had almost made it through the entire pile of records, when, to my relief, Frankie awoke and sauntered over to where I was. “Havin’ fun?” he asked. I was relieved because I couldn’t envision myself waking Frankie.

Once again, we were soon in Frankie’s car, heading for the videotaping. We chatted while Frankie’s car radio played music in the background. The station on Frankie’s radio was tuned to soft rock music. All of a sudden, the song “Babe” by Styx came on over the airwaves. I had been watching downtown San Diego roll by through the car windows while we were chatting. I suddenly noticed that Frankie had unexpectedly stopped talking. I looked over at Frankie driving and tears were streaming down his cheeks. “Just listen to those beautiful lyrics,” he said. For the hundredth time that day, I was astonished. I was actually witnessing Frankie Laine cry. 

(Continued next month)