Since around early Dec. 2006, Vikki Carr's 1967 smash hit, "It Must Be Him," has been one of this website's #1 most clicked-on songs. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview the highly acclaimed Vikki Carr - 1960s pop icon, Latin music superstar, and philanthropist. Below is a partial transcript of a telephone interview of Ms. Carr by webmaster Amy Gold from Feb. 16, 2007.
Although oldies fans and those who grew up during the 1960s probably know Vikki Carr best for "It Must Be Him" (1967), "The Lesson" (1968), and "With Pen In Hand" (1969), these songs just barely scratch the surface of her long and distinguished career which spans over 45 years.
Born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona in El Paso, TX, she made her public debut at age 4 singing "Adeste Fideles" in Latin at a Christmas concert. In 1962, she signed up with Liberty Records and had her first hit with "He's a Rebel" which reached #5 in Australia. Other hits include "I'll be Home" (1971), "The Big Hurt" (1972), and "Wind Me Up" (1975). Vikki Carr appeared and performed on countless TV variety shows throughout the 1960s and early 1970s and was the first female to guest host for "The Tonight Show."
Over the years, she has achieved phenomenal success in the Latin music world and has amassed a huge international fan base in the US, Latin America, Asia and Europe. She has a string of Billboard Latin chart hits (listed here by year released) that include "Mala Suerte" (1988), "Hay Otro En Tu Lugar" (1989), "Esta Noche Vendras" (1986), "Sombras" (1995), and the chart-topping "Total" (1981) and "Cosas Del Amor" (1991). Of her 59 albums to date, 17 went Gold and three won Grammys. She has also performed in a number of movies and musicals, and in 1999 she hosted her own TV special for PBS, "Memories Memorias." Carr also heads the Vikki Carr Scholarship Foundation which she founded in 1971.
In this interview, Vikki Carr reflects on her career, both past and present, and touches on related topics such as her early musical and family influences, her love of performing and for her audiences, her artistic goals, some of her current projects, and her plans for the future.
- Frank Sinatra: "[Vikki Carr] possesses my kind of voice."
- Dean Martin: "[Vikki Carr is] the best girl singer in the business."
For more information, please visit:
Vikki Carr: The Ultimate Collection: Meticulously compiled by Steven Woof (EMI-UK), Vito Cifaldi, and Vikki Carr, "The Ultimate Collection" includes over 40 years worth of songs covering every aspect of Ms. Carr's stellar career. Also included are detailed liner notes by Vito Cifaldi and Randy Cordova and a special message from Vikki herself. This collection is a top seller and it has received many rave reviews since its release in late 2006.
Richard Jessen (Robert Farnon Society): "The title explains itself more than adequately. What we get are 3 CDs full of songs exploring every facet by the well loved and honored lady of song, Miss Vikki Carr. And what a collection!" ... (more)
- Amy Gold: So ...
- Vikki Carr: Let's rock and roll. What is it that the announcers did? (imitating an announcer with a booming, jovial voice) Let's get ready to rumble!!
- AG: There! What you just said is a great way to kick off this interview. I like it.
- AG: Well ... I've got a million questions. I don't think it's going to be possible to touch on every aspect of your life but I hope at least to get a good sampling.
- VC: That's fine.
- AG: You have done so much, not just in entertainment but also in philanthropy. I guess the most logical thing would be ... let's start with some of your recent projects, if I may.
- VC: Well, on some of my recent things that I've been doing - which is very, very exciting - let me go back a little bit and say that in June it will be 14 years that I married my husband and that's why I now live in San Antonio, Texas. He's a wonderful doctor, and when we got married I was working pretty much, but more in like the Latin market with my Spanish music. I married into a family that was already there, so I had like two little grandkids. And I really wanted to be a grandma, I wanted to stay home and I loved being at home but I was kind of working sporadically and I was just getting to the point of where, "OK, now it's time to get back." I was listening to music and I was listening to performers on television and I started saying, "My gosh, where's the beautiful music? Where are the singers?" and I was getting very frustrated. And, you know, whether it was going to the market or being seen in the malls here or whatever, everybody was asking "Oh my gosh, have you retired? We don't hear you anymore." And I hadn't retired, I was just kind of taking ... I don't want to say a sabbatical for myself, but after over 45 years of being in the business, I thought it was time to do something for myself.
- AG: Right.
- VC: I did silly things like ... they weren't silly to me, but I took dancing lessons, and it's so funny because I entered a dance competition. (laughing) I'll tell you, before "Dancing With the Stars," I wound up winning like 12 first places in all the Latin categories and I loved it. It was something I'd always wanted to do as a little girl and I said, well, it wasn't my tap shoes like I had wanted, but I did dance classes and then, I started getting very, very restless and in 2001 I went to Cerritos, California, to do a concert.
- AG: Uh huh.
- VC: And it was going to be ... I had a wonderful accompanist-conductor, and she came to meet with me and we planned out the show, and I had always been doing tributes to performers that I admired and I respected so much, plus there was a personal attachment somehow, like to Nat King Cole, who played an important part in my career, and then Frank Sinatra.
- AG: Um hm.
- VC: And so she started looking at my work - all of my albums - and she says, "Vikki, look at this recording history that you have of your own material." And I said "Yes?" And she said "Why are you paying tribute to everybody else?" And she says "Why don't we do something novel and pay tribute to Vikki Carr?" and I said "Oh, that's unique."
- VC: So we started putting together songs that were from the '60s and the '70s that I had recorded.
- AG: Right.
- VC: And they kind of brought them more into, let's say, the 20th Century, you know, a little more contemporary. And when I did this concert - it was a retro show - and oh, Amy, I mean, I was scared to death, not knowing how the audience was going to accept it, how they were gonna respond to it! Everybody was singing and everybody was applauding, and I'm saying "Oh my gosh!" and I looked out there because these were the people that had bought my albums, you know, like the mid '60s through the '70s and the '80s, and I'm saying "Wow!" and the comments afterwards, "Well, where have you been?" and "Thank you" and that's is the reason why I sing.
- AG: Because you have a beautiful voice.
- VC: Yes, but it's not my voice. I mean, I have long ago, since the beginning of my career, I always thank God for it. I mean, I know that this is a gift from God and a gift never means anything until you have a chance to share it.
- AG: Right.
- VC: And to those of us that much is given, much is expected, and that also crosses over into all the work I've done in philanthropy, so I have found that, whatever you do - be it performing, do with all your heart and because you love it or with the work of helping others - when you do it, can you imagine what you yourself get back? You get it back like a hundred percent more.
- AG: Um hm.
- VC: You do a concert and you're singing with your heart and with the love that God has given you and this voice, and then the people receive it - and you've got upwards of 2000 people and a beautiful theater - and what they're doing is: they're sending you back all of this love. It's like a ping-pong match, and you definitely come out the winner, you know, and hopefully, I succeed in doing what I have wanted to do and that is have people feel a little better after they leave than when they came in. To bring joy and hope and happiness into their lives, into their hearts, to awaken great memories that they had, and I feel that in my career I've accomplished this.
- AG: Well that's just beautiful, Vikki. It really is.
- VC: Oh, well thank you. But it's true. I'm not here to make any "great musical statement" other than I'm telling you a story with my music. And a lot of people - men and women - may identify with the songs, whether it be "It Must Be Him" or "With Pen in Hand" or "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You." I mean, I cannot even begin to tell you what it feels like when you see people just start to smile and just kind of move in their seats in the theater. And then when it's couples and you're singing a beautiful love song, and you see them wrap their arms around each other or hold hands, it's great. And when you wind up looking out and you see three generations - and that's the grandparents, the parents and the kids that have also been brought up with my music - that is the greatest. I mean, that to me in a way says "Alright, you're doing what God wanted you to do."
- AG: And three-generation audiences, by the way, are rare, I mean, you've got a longevity that very few other performers have had. This connecting that you described sounds like a really beautiful thing.
- VC: Um hm.
- AG: You know you've connected with the audience when you can see the look on their faces or, you know, that you've touched them somewhere.
- VC: Right, the smiles you get, the comments from them. Or you get the opportunity to meet them after a show if you're not too wiped out afterwards, but it's great. And I've got to tell you and your audience that, my gosh, I am on such a natural high after a show. I'm like (imitating a Chiquita Banana commercial jingle) Chiquita banana going arrrrrriba!! arrrrrriba!! you know, until three o'clock in the morning.
- AG: Wow.
- VC: And then finally start winding down. But you know that is the greatest high that an artist can have. The love that fills you from your audience. The happiness you get from knowing that you have put together a show that they've accepted, that they loved.
- AG: Well that's wonderful. That really is. So when is your next concert coming up?
- VC: My next show is on May 6th at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in Cerritos, California. There are a lot of things that are happening and I'm sure Vito has kept you in the loop with some of the great things. The reason I mentioned the retro show is because the shows last summer and some shows prior to that, were all sell outs.
- AG: Wow, that's impressive.
- VC: California is pretty much where we have been working. And of course, I was raised in California though I was born in Texas. I have a great following in California, and be it my retro show at a casino in California or a Mariachi show that I did at the Hollywood Bowl that was a sellout with 17,000 people, it's been amazing to me.
- AG: 17,000 people? Wow! That's huge. That's a small town.
- VC: But the thing is that, as great as the 17,000 place was, I'm not the kind of artist that would work great big places. I need to really see faces and I want people to feel that they are close, so I believe that theaters are really my fort? to be able to accomplish that, you know?
- AG: Do you mean dinner theater?
- VC: Well, not a dinner theater, just a regular theater.
- AG: Right.
- VC: And I think that is vitally important, and sometimes in those great theaters you can really share my gift, which at times - I haven't done it lately but - I would be able to sit on the edge of the stage and sing a song with no microphone. If the acoustics in the theater are really good and you just, let's say, have a piano accompaniment and as a performer that's been in this business for over now (glossing over the number of years) blah-blah years ...
- VC: ... and I stop and I wonder, well how can I be in the business that long when I'm only 39?
- AG: That's a good age to stay frozen at, I think, 39.
- VC: I would think, yes, because people will look at you and they'll say, "How old are you?" and I said, "You know, that's a number. It's the way, that's the way that you look." And someone once told me also, "Never tell people how old you are because if it's older than what they thought, they're gonna answer "Oh, but you don't look it." So then the brain does not have a sense of humor and all of a sudden you think to yourself, "Well, what am I supposed to look like if I don't look it?" So then you don't walk as straight and you start bending over a little bit, whereas if you let your actions speak for what you feel is your true age, that's what's important.
- AG: That's an interesting outlook. Yes.
- VC: I'll be working more and I feel that a lot of other things are going to be happening as a result. I think the seeds that I've planted over all these years have really started to give me the fruition of what I've planted. And be it my first all-Spanish album that I did in '70 and '71, and it was not just because I am Mexican-American, it was because it was something my audience asked of me - and I'm including my Anglo audience - because always in my career I would sing a song or two in Spanish, I would explain about my heritage, I would tell people what my real name was, which, in a way, it was an educational tool that I wanted people throughout the world to know that there was so much more to Latin music than "Besamaye Smoochie" - as I used to tell my audience ...
- AG: (laughing)
- VC: ... "Guadalajara," "Jalisco," and "Cu-Cu-Rru-Cu-Cupaloma," which is not to say that those were not beautiful songs, but there was so much more. And, of course, it was a fight with the president of the company but it has come to pass, although it took many years. Now, you hear many more artists singing that have come from Latin America or Mexico and they're being heard more. And when I did record in Spanish, it was amazing to me because when disco music came in, that was when Vikki Carr kind of faded out of the picture in the states, and I would say that was like '74, '75.
- AG: Um hm.
- VC: And I had already recorded the first Spanish album in '70 or '71.
- AG: Right.
- VC: And I had no idea of the incredible success that I had gained in Mexico and all of Latin America. And whereas other artists of my group, you know, kind of were dropped, or didn't have any business, ... my gosh! Columbia Records came to me and they said "We want Vikki Carr because we know she can sell records." And when I signed with them, that was when my career took off like I couldn't believe it.
- AG: Like gangbusters.
- VC: Oh my gosh! I had my band and we went down to Mexico and my drummer looked at me one time and he says "Oh my gosh! We're working for King Kong." I mean, I was like the Beatles down there. And I recorded Mariachi music, which was something my father had wanted me to do. And that's what garnered me my first Grammy.
- AG: "Simplemente Mujer" (1985).
- VC: And it was so ironic. I had been nominated for "It Must Be Him" and "With Pen in Hand" and never won. I've gotten six nominations - three in English for those songs and three in Spanish. And I've won all the ones in Spanish.
- AG: Yes.
- VC: So I said, "Son of a gun, who'da thunk."
- VC: But now EMI in England has released a box of the "Ultimate Collection" of three CDs and it's all of that great music, and through Vito Cifaldi, my webmaster - who I love and thank so much for what he's done - he contacted them and then got me involved in the choosing of songs. In the liner notes I added a special note to them, and in that note, to paraphrase, I just said "Well, this is really good but I really feel the best is yet to come."
- AG: About the "Ultimate Collection," I understand that - well, first off, it's just wonderful.
- VC: Oh, thank you.
- AG: I just want to let you know that. What's always intriguing to oldies music collectors, or any music collector, ... I understand there were some 20 songs on that collection that have never been released. I think they were found in the vaults at the Abby Road Studios in England?
- VC: Uh huh, right.
- AG: Do you know which ones they were and about when they were recorded originally? I know that's a lot of material ...
- VC: I don't have the collection here in front of me, but the thing that was interesting about it ... there were songs that I recalled, and then there were some that I said "Oh my gosh! Well why are they putting this in? And why are they putting this?" because to me, in the states, those songs were not big.
- AG: But they were big abroad.
- VC: Right. They were big hits in Europe. And Vito says "Oh but Vikki, these were very big in Europe" and I said "Oh!" and that's when you realize that, even though they may have - when I say they, collectively different countries may have your material - the original recording, say, of the album, they will chose for themselves what songs they feel would really fit their market.
- AG: Right.
- VC: And it planted seeds in my mind that said "Golly, well maybe I should go and visit Europe then, because the fan mail that I get is from France, it's from Germany, we've had it from Japan, Australia, Indonesia, ...
- AG: Oh wow.
- VC: And it's incredible to read this email and know you have fans all over.
- AG: You have quite an international following, that's for sure.
- VC: Right. My recording in Spanish and in English has been such a blessing but in a way it has also been a curse because ...
- AG: A curse?
- VC: Yes. Now I'm trying to open up everybody's eyes to: why can't you accept an artist that can do all kinds of different music? You know, why do you have to pigeonhole that artist and, is she just doing her Spanish, or is she going to do just her English? When I went to Mexico and started recording in Spanish, and I was out of the loop here in the states for awhile, all of a sudden agents and producers were saying, "Well, is she going to do her Spanish show or is she going to do her English show?" And Amy, what difference does it make? They're coming to see Vikki Carr. Here I am in my own way trying to unite two countries, because I am Mexican-American. To introduce Spanish music to people in Europe was great 'cause I'll never forget when I was in England and - I think you may know already - that I first made it in Australia.
- AG: Right, with "He's a Rebel."
- VC: And there they thought I was Australian.
- AG: Oh!
- VC: And then I went to England and also made it there. I mean, they were wonderful. And one of the things in particular, in both Australia and England, was that it wasn't about what you looked like on the outside. It was your talent.
- AG: They appreciate substance over there, I think.
- VC: Oh yes. And here we are ...
- AG: Image conscious.
- VC: Arghh ...
- AG: Yeah, that's for sure.
- VC: Who you are inside is what shines across to the world.
- AG: Yeah, I don't know why it's not appreciated as much in this country but elsewhere, though, it seems to be, I think.
- VC: Well, I think it all goes back to ... remember I was telling you the mentality of agents that wanted to book you? They can't accept that you can be multi-faceted.
- AG: They want to pigeonhole you.
- VC: Yes, they want to just say, "Well, we want to do this. And we want to do that. And we want just the English stuff." That's not who I am. I've even recorded in Italian. And I even recorded in Japanese, you know. And wouldn't you applaud somebody for their diversity? That they can now attract not only the Anglo, but the Hispanic audience? And, of course, now corporate America is really jumping on board because they're realizing the importance of the Hispanic buying power.
- AG: Oh yeah. The demographics.
- VC: Yeah, everybody wants it. And I was trying to tell a company in 1970 and '71, I said, "You know, you don't understand how important this is going to be."
- AG: You foresaw something that they didn't.
- VC: Right.
- AG: And now you can tell them "I told you so."
- VC: Naw, what for? As long as it's happening. It's like having a friend of mine, Linda Rondstadt, that did her album in Spanish, "Canciones de Mi Padre," and because she was with a bigger record company, she had much more success than I did. But for those die-in-the-wool Carr fans, they want to say, "Well, you were the first one. How come you're not being acknowledged? How come everybody says this?" I said, "What difference does it make?" You know, Linda was able to attract - God bless her - her fans to this music.
- AG: Right.
- VC: And I had my fans. Why does everybody have to compete? Why can't we all be happy for everybody else's success? But I guess not ...
- AG: There's more than enough to go around.
- VC: Right, exactly, exactly.
- AG: Well, one of my questions ... I'm always interested in firsts, like the first time you knew you were gonna be a singer, your very first recording. I know your first all-Spanish album came out in 1970 or '71.
- VC: Right.
- AG: Did you have some singles before then that were recorded in Spanish, 'cause I seem to remember something?
- VC: No, not really. I think I had Spanish songs in my shows. Actually, a very dear friend who I love very much, from doing "Quando Caliente El Sol," which I believe was maybe my very first album I recorded, I did it on so many TV shows. In the '60s and early '70s I was doing as much variety television as performers that really had the major hits because disc jockeys, at that time, didn't have to ... they're the ones that chose the hits.
- AG: Yes.
- VC: They're the ones that listened to the material and they would tell the company in essence, "Look, this is the song that I think my listeners are gonna love."
- AG: Right. They sure had a lot of influence in those days.
- VC: Yeah. And now, everything, ladies and gentlemen, is pre-recorded. There is one company that makes all these pre-recorded blocks and they just sell them to every radio station. The idea of disc jockeys having the great talent that they should have - and some of them do - to be able to select the songs is great. It is no more. And then, of course, on the other side of the coin is they also could sabotage a song that the majority of disc jockeys in the country said was good. One disc jockey would start playing something else out of the same album and then all of a sudden you're getting not enough of the play throughout the entire country of the song that should be the hit. And then what happened is your whole album sold, instead of just the single.
- AG: Right. And that's kind of what happened to you, I think, isn't it?
- VC: Well, I was the great turntable hit. To all the DJs: "God, (throwing a kiss) love you guys, love you, love you, love you wherever you are!" They liked Vikki Carr and they liked my material and they played it. But remember that I was on the charts and being played at the same time as the Beatles.
- AG: Oh yes.
- VC: And I'll never be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but I was on the charts at the same time.
- AG: Yes.
- VC: My music was not, shall we say, revolutionary in starting certain trends in music, but it was something that, like the great singers of yesterday - you know, the Nat King Coles, and the Sinatras, and the Doris Days, and the Patti Pages, the Ella Fitzgeralds, Sarah Vaughns, ...
- AG: and Judy Garland?
- VC: Yeah. My music and the songs that I have done I think will live forever.
- AG: Yours is the more classic material, I think.
- VC: Yes. We don't have a Hall of Fame for classics. But that's a good idea to have, isn't it?
- AG: Yes, it is, but ... at least there is a Jazz Hall of Fame.
- VC: Well, it's funny because I was very into the big band music and I loved jazz. I was raised with Mariachi music and all of that, and my father was very, very restrictive, and he would never allow any rock music in our house, but I could listen to all of his old 78s and his and my mother's singers, but the singers that they had were singers of beautiful ballads like the "Sinatra of Mexico" who was Don Pedro Vargas and also Jos? Jos? (but prior to Jos? Jos?). Sinatra admired him, and so did Sammy Davis, and it's just ... I am very happy that I feel I was brought up with the best of both worlds.
- AG: Uh huh. There's a song title in there ...
- VC: Yeah, "Best of Both Worlds," right.
- AG: You sang that, didn't you, "Best of Both Worlds"?
- VC: Could have.
- AG: Yes, I think, oh gosh, you have so many albums ...
- VC: (laughing)
- AG: "Set Me Free" had a song called "Best of Both Worlds" on there. Yes, OK, that's why it rang a bell just now.
- VC: "Set Me Free" was the English version of the album called "Esos Hombres." Now we kind of are coming full circle. I had the success first in English, but included Spanish, OK?
- AG: Uh huh.
- VC: Now, I had this humongous success in Spanish and I wanted to include English. And now in Mexico I was fighting the same demons that I was in New York, because they didn't know how to market to the Spanish-speaking audience. And I was trying to tell them, "Don't worry about it. I have fans that know who Vikki Carr is who speak English."
- AG: It's like history is repeating itself.
- VC: I don't like it, honest. And as a matter of fact, one of them in Mexico believed in me so much that he took an album that I basically produced called "Live At The Greek" - which is an absolutely incredible album - and I talked about this so much in Mexico that one of the gentlemen there, he brought the masters from Colombia and it turned out that they released it. I was so happy but I was upset that they put it on in a CD form but out of order.
- AG: They had the songs out of sequence? That's a real bummer.
- VC: Yes. Out of sequence. And it doesn't make any sense. And because I produced it, I get very upset about it. And now that they've put it out - and they're probably doing it in a DVD package also, they've got to - I would love if the record company would just correct it, and just put side 1 where it's supposed to be, side 2, 3 and 4.
- AG: Yeah, it's frustrating when they scramble up the songs like that.
- VC: Oh yes! Maybe that was their way of trying to make it different from the original album. But when you make it original by making a mistake, it doesn't make it right. Oh, but getting back to why I started singing, I've got to explain to you that it was ... my father had a beautiful voice and he wanted to be a singer. And he never took the opportunity. So when he saw that I, the oldest of his children - the oldest of seven - took an interest in music, he really did encourage me. So I was around all of this music - big band and music in Spanish - all of my life, and as strict as he was with me, where he wouldn't let me go out, anything that had to do with music I could do. So I took every music class in school and sang with the school band, and then the opportunity arose for me to go to audition for a job - they were looking for a girl that could sing in Spanish and English. And I went to this audition, not with the idea that I was gonna get it, just to go because my dad wanted me to go. So I got it and then I said "Oh my gosh, now what do I do?" Jiminy Christmas! And so I got the job and then was sent to Nevada and there I was for this little, very sheltered girl of 18 years old and it was even my dad who falsified my birth certificate so I could work. And it was like so weird because everybody in the hotels, everybody knew that I was underage and everybody took care of me. I was like Shemple Turley in Gulliver's Travels on the road. I was wide-eyed, I believed everybody was nice and everybody was good, but ...
- AG: And were they, for the most part?
- VC: For the most part I can really say yes. And I could really, really, which is not to say that I didn't make my mistakes in my life and I've never liked anybody putting anybody on, or people putting somebody else up on a pedestal, because when you put people on a pedestal, it's too far to fall.
- AG: Yeah. It's a lot to live up to.
- VC: Right. And not only that, but sometimes in life, the way that you learn is by making mistakes.
- AG: That's true. I wish more people had that attitude.
- VC: The problem arises when you keep making the same mistake over and over and over again and then you say to yourself, "Oh my gosh! It hurts to hit my head up against the wall."
- AG: And in the same spot.
- VC: So God says, "So why are you doing it?" Oh, good answer!
- AG: Somebody once made a quip about what's the definition of insanity. And that was it. Making the same mistake over and over, or doing the same thing that you know doesn't work over and over again.
- VC: Right. You say, "Ok, I should have learned by now."
- AG: Well, sometimes it just takes awhile for things to sink in.
- VC: Right. So in essence what's happening now is a realization of what I have done has been good. Musically, I am happy with my life. I've done well with the success that I have had, at least I hope I have.
- AG: Oh, you've done marvelously!
- VC: And I've done it in the things that I believe in. I've not prostituted my name or my reputation just to make money.
- AG: Right.
- VC: And I have tried not to step on anybody on my way to where I am in my career. And I believe, as a result, a lot of people within the industry that have heard that I'm performing again and I'm coming back stronger are very supportive. And my manager - I have a very wonderful manager in Orlando, John Regna - it was so funny, he checked me out. It's like, "Yes I want to manage you" and he said "You are a gold mine that hasn't shown what you can do." And he says "Anybody that I talk to within the industry said 'Boy, I'm glad she's coming back. She has one of the greatest voices.'" And it's good to be respected.
- AG: Well, you've gotten a lot of accolades over the years, and from people like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley ... the list goes on. I think it was Dean Martin that said "She has my kind of voice"? No wait, no, no, no, that was Frank Sinatra. You have so many accolades it's hard to keep track. "The best girl singer in the business" was what Dean Martin said, right?
- VC: Um hm.
- AG: You've got so many compliments it's hard to keep track of who said what.
- VC: The thing is that as a performer it's ... you know, I don't know how to explain it, you never think that other people that you admire or your peers - and I'm talking about peers not only in the entertainment industry, but in the sports world or anything. I mean, I remember when years ago, I was singing in San Francisco at the Fairmont Hotel and the Los Angeles Rams had been playing there and they, the front four - which were Merlin and Marlin Olsen and oh gosh, the other two, they escape me - but they came to see my show. Don Meredith was also a fan. You don't think that they know that you're alive, and they come in and I say "My gosh, what are you doing here?" and they love your show and you stand up and you look up to these guys and he puts one hand and his thumb goes around your hand and the rest of the hand goes around your elbow, these guys are big.
- VC: It's been an honor and I mean oh golly! And also to have sung not only for one or two or three or four, but five presidents of the United States and I think about it and I said, "Son of a gun. This little kid came from a poor Mexican-American family, and she was born in El Paso and gets to go to the White House, too."
- AG: So you've performed for five presidents so far, right?
- VC: Yes.
- AG: And the Queen of England?
- VC: Yes. I sang for her before I ever sang for any presidents of my own country. And it was interesting - and very frightening at the same time - because here I was representing the United States for the Queen of England.
- AG: That's a lot of pressure, I bet.
- VC: Oh yeah. And I'm going (imitating someone who is scared speechless) "dahhhh." Just being acknowledged over there before I was acknowledged in my own country was kind of wild. It was a great, incredible experience. Incredible experience. And it's so funny. I talk about these things and people say "Oh my gosh! The things that you've done" and they say "When is the book coming out? When is the book coming out?" and I say "Yeah, I've got to get around to that." I'm getting sooo much pressure to do this book and I say, "Yeah, but there's like no scandals in it," you know, my personal life is my personal life, that's not important. But some of the things that I've done, as a woman, a Mexican-American, a minority, a man versus a woman, ...
- AG: Yeah.
- VC: ... the prejudices that were there. A lot of people ask, "Was it because you were Mexican?" and at the beginning my career, no, it was because I was a woman at that time - or I am a woman - but then, say, if you had all this success with recordings, you really couldn't get your own TV show, because sponsorship and people at networks felt that the part should really go to a man.
- AG: Um hm.
- VC: So, on those summer shows when they would have varieties, they would opt to give it to a male because they thought that women would buy more convincingly ... that they would be more convinced by a man doing a show as opposed to a woman.
- AG: Yeah, a very sexist attitude.
- VC: Oh yeah, at that time. It was very difficult.
- AG: Well, now that you mention it, all the variety shows I remember from the '60s and '70s were male-hosted.
- VC: The only one, shall we say, that wasn't was Dinah Shore. Dinah came from another era. I was kind of stuck between that era and the baby boomers. I am between. I'm not baby boomers and I'm not the Dinah or the Doris Day generation. I have the best of both worlds. You know, by turning it around and making it the positive, I have the best of both worlds, which is not necessarily acknowledged, you know, but as time will tell, in its own way, will be.
- AG: It's good to take a negative and try to turn it into a ...
- VC: (laughing) One of my ex-husbands said "When you've got a lemon, you add sugar and make lemonade."
- AG: And maybe a little vodka, too.
- VC: Well, I've got a vocal lesson coming up and I didn't know if we had kind of summed this up, but suffice to say that the best is yet to come.
- AG: There! There's your tag line.
- VC: Right.
- AG: That could be the title of your book, too.
- VC: Yep.
- AG: Well, I thank you. I mean you've just been so wonderful.
- VC: Oh, thank you Amy, thanks.
- AG: And it's really been a wonderful interview, it's been an honor to interview you and you're so nice.
- VC: Okay, it was a pleasure.
- AG: Well, thank you so much. The pleasure was all mine.
- VC: Okay, hon.
- AG: You're so sweet.
- VC: Have a wonderful rest of the weekend.
- AG: You too, and thank you.