Monday, January 15, 2007

She's Not Still Here

I was so sad to learn of Yvonne DeCarlo's death. She was 84 and had enjoyed a long career, so I shouldn't have been surprised or considered it a tragedy, but it was one more significant figure passing on.

Many may know DeCarlo for her voluminous "B" movies or for her appearance in the epic "Ten Commandments." Most people, especially my age, probably remember her as Lilly Munster from the campy, silly, gothic sitcom, "The Munsters." Some may even remember how long she held on to her considerable beauty or how corpulent she became in later life. But whenever I hear Yvonne DeCarlo's name, I think of Carlotta from the Sondheim musical, "Follies."

Y.D. originated the role of Carlotta and her famous song (probably more famous than the musical that gave birth to it), "I'm Still Here." The song of a showbiz survivor who had seen political, economic, social, professional, and personal ups and downs includes a line about being first a "doe eyed vamp" only later to be reduced to "camp." It seemed like a personal testimony for the beautiful DeCarlo who went from film star to TV monster mom. Sadly, though "Follies" is one of the all time great musicals, it has always had difficulty acquiring the critical praise and financial success that I believe it deserves. It's dark and smart and grand, and maybe that's just too much to pull off in our culture. But it has tried several times, and the first time included Yvonne DeCarlo.

In later life, Y.D. made cameo appearances on episodic television, made for TV movies, even a STV flick or two, until her stroke a few years ago. Since then, she resided in a convolescent community for film actors. I hope those final years were happy for her.

Yvonne DeCarlo may no longer be with us, but then again, everytime I hear "I'm Still Here," perhaps she will be. She will at least be with me.

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