Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rashomon in Beverly Hills

In yesterday's L.A. Times, an article about the admittedly not-untalented lyric writing duo of Marilyn and Alan Bergman contains the following quote (quite possibly canard):

"A cash-starved Alan wrote 'That Face' as an engagement gift for

While just last month, in an obit for Lew in the Times, there is another version of the event in question:

"One night while dining at Frascasti's Restaurant in Beverly Hills with Bob Carroll (I Love Lucy'), Phyllis Kirk walked in and immediately, Lew fell in love. He went over to her and said, in
true Lew style, 'You are beautiful!' She patted the seat next to her and invited him to sit down. The very next morning he got up and wrote the entire melody and the main lyric to 'That Face' as a tribute to her beauty."

Yet. . .when the song was published, and subsequently recorded by Fred Astaire, Alan Bergman took full credit for the lyric. But Lew kept his own council, apparently (sweetheart that he was) not wanting to destroy the illusion of Alan's "engagement gift."

Perhaps he should have quit while still ahead. For just a few short years later, the same thing happened with the song "Nice 'n Easy." Only this time BOTH Bergmans took sole credit for the lyric, while---again---Lew was accorded only a "music" credit. Finally, that ripped it. Not long afterward, Lew severed ALL ties with the couple. Spence and the Bergmans became, in Winchell-ese, "don'tinvitems."

Of course, there are always three sides to every story---yours, mine and the truth. Don't ask me why, but somehow I tend to believe Spence's "side" in regard to both of these occurences.

The schism between Lew Spence and the Bergmans is well-known in the songwriting community. It's too bad that the L.A. Times sent a writer to profile the Bergmans who was so unfamiliar with the subject matter being written about that she could only traffic in the received wisdom of Marilyn and Alan Bergman. Lew's "side" of the story should have at least been alluded to. In the immortal words of Calvin Trillan, "I demand to speak with an adult." And while I'm at it, "Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!"

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