After more calls to Peggy Lee’s press agent Terrence than 550-TOOL gets on a Saturday night, I found the legendary chanteuse in her hotel room at the Hilton, home of Club 53, where she performed all last month to an eclectic group of worshipers, including elderly singalong types who drink green cocktails and stick the umbrellas in their hair, lots of those handsome single men with stars in their eyes and, of course, Liza Minnelli. The show was “like heroin,” as one observer noted. I spoke with the true heroine later.
Nora Burns: Liza was at your show last night; that was exciting.
Peggy Lee: It’s been so interesting. Last night with Liza, my suite was so crowded, I don’t know who they all were. The interpreter for the Dali Lama was there. I met the Dali Lama when I was chairman of the Dooley Foundation. He gave me my first little Lhasa Apso.
NB: Who else has been to see you?
PL: Al Pacino was there, and Madonna. I met Madonna – she was absolutely charming and looked so pretty. She sent me some wonderful roses. I love roses. I’m a huge fan of Al Pacino and I guess he’s a fan of mine, so he said.
NB: Of course, you’re legendary.
PL: Well, thank you.
NB: Who were your favorite people to work with?
PL: Victor Young, Johnny Mandel and Sonny Burke when we worked on the score for Lady and the Tramp. (Miss Lee is currently suing Disney for royalties from that movie.)
NB: How does Sonny feel about your court case with Disney?
PL: He’s deceased.
NB: Oops! I’m sorry.
PL: He died ten years ago but the court case has been going on for over four years.
NB: I love the update on the Disney case that you do at all of your shows.
PL: You like that? (Mischievous giggle.) I hope it makes them squirm a little. Michael Eisner’s yearly salary is $50 million, as is Jeffrey Katzenberg’s, and I don’t think that they should miss $2 or $3 million for someone who had a contract and worked for it.
NB: Well, it would hardly be the same movie without you.
PL: I wish you’d put that in print. I think the chemistry that was working in that picture was what made it such a success.
NB: Your show is so romantic. I noticed a lot of snuggly couples, a lot of gay couples. You have a huge gay following.
PL: Gay men have good taste. I think they’re a lot more appreciative.
NB: You say in your autobiography that you lost a close friend to AIDS.
PL: I’ve lost quite a few friends to AIDS. It’s the saddest thing… There’s no way to complete that sentence. I did one of the first AIDS benefits in ’82 or ’83. We raised $350,000. I contribute to a lot of charities and auctions. Since I’ve broken so many bones and can’t really walk, I’ve donated most of my shoes, Charles Jourdain four-inch heels, to AIDS auctions.
NB: Would you change anything if you could live your life over?
PL: I’ve made hundreds of mistakes, but I’m happy with my life, honey.