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I Am the One
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When I think back on those individuals (apart from family) who figured most prominently in Charles' life, I, first, think of Earl Janson.
Earl was a talented commercial artist and director. He and Charles met in 1954 and remained devoted to one another, romantically and artistically for 8 years. It was Earl who directed Charles' film "City by Dawn" in 1969. He also produced the album "Charles DeForest Sings Joan Crawford and Eleanor Powell" in 1972. They remained life-long friends.
George Shearing, the consummate English jazz pianist, was another ardent admirer of Charles' music (as Charles was of George's). They met soon after Charles had moved to NYC. George recorded, as well as published, a number of Charles' songs.
I remember George's piano accompaniment of Charles' singing "You Look Like Someone," one night, while Charles was appearing at "Diva." This was thrilling for me, as I'd never heard George Shearing in person, nor had I ever before observed Charles in the context of "stand-up" singer. (There had been a video of this performance circulating on YouTube for years; however, I am no longer able to locate it.)
Ms. Judy Garland and Charles became friends during the early 1960's. At that time, Charles was working at "The Apartment" on 56th and Second where Ms. Garland would often drop by for the last set, sit behind the piano bar, and sing duets with Charles.
Charles used to say Ms. Garland's ears were so remarkable that on those occasions when he might sing a song she didn't know but happened to like, she would have the song (music and lyrics) committed to her memory in just one play-through. How I wish we had a movie of the two of them together so you could see just how perfectly their souls and performing styles were matched.
One of the joys in going to hear Charles (apart from the sublime music, of course) was that of watching how his face would light up when certain individuals would stop by.
First, there was George Shearing. Both George and Charles had elegant manners, and their presentations were understated--evocative of class. Both took great care in choosing only the very best songs (when left to their own devices, that is). And their friendship went way back to Charles' beginnings in New York.
Then, there was pianist and songwriter, Murray Grand. (You may recall he wrote the music for "Guess Who I Saw, Today.") Murray was one of the funniest men alive and had a treasure trove of "funny" songs ("I'm Too Old to Die Young," "I Was Beautiful," etc.) which Charles loved to promote.
After Murray had opened at "Jack Delaney's Steakhouse," Charles called him the next day to ask "How'd it go?" Murray said: "It was like Noah's Ark." Charles said: "Meaning?" Murray answered: "Two of everything."
Another dear friend whose absurd sense of humor would always lift Charles' spirits was the clever singer-pianist-songwriter, Danny Apolinar (He wrote the first rock musical "Your Own Thing.") Danny was always very supportive of Charles, as was his partner, John Britton. (We will always lovingly remember John Britton for the outpouring of love and kindness he so graciously extended to our family at the time of Charles' passing.)
We would also be remiss if we failed to acknowlege Charles' protege, Christopher Gines, the extraordinarily talented young singer with whom Charles collaborated in the production of Christopher's first album, "Christopher Gines Sings Charles DeForest." Their friendship and Christopher's enthusiasm for Charles' music went a long way toward brightening up Charles' last days.
One particular source of great joy for Charles was his friendship with the eminent film critic, Rex Reed. I never knew Charles to appear happier than when Mr. Reed would appear. The two shared so much in common--eloquence; sharp-often ascerbic quick-wittedness; and the encyclopedic knowledge, understanding, and boundless enthusiasm for any and all things to do with music, movies, the theater, and art (as well as a penchant for "telling it like it is").
Many who knew Charles would often make remarks to the effect that I was "like the son he never had." Of course, I would be greatly flattered and would just love to hear this, and although Charles never gave any of us three nephews (Craig, Joe, and Vaughn) any reason to believe that he did not love us, in reality, if Charles could have had his pick of a son, I believe he would have chosen Rex.
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