Gloria Loring seemed to have it all--beauty, fame, riches, a handsome boyfriend, a flourishing nightclub singing career and a starring role on the NBC-TV soap "Days of Our Lives." But, for her, something was missing.
More than anything, she had always wanted to be a recording star. She had made three albums, dating to the late '60s, but never had a hit. She was nearing 40 and had trouble getting another record deal. Among the problems: her age (labels prefer to sign younger artists) and image (basically she's a supper-club singer, a category record companies have a tough time marketing).
So how did she manage to get an Atlantic Records contract, a recently released album-- and a hit single, "Friends and Lovers"?
Loring--glamorous, assured and candid--delights in telling how she wound up having three labels fighting to sign her.
"I like having the last laugh," she said recently during late-afternoon tea. "I'm not vindictive, but it really feels good to be one-up on those people who wouldn't give me a chance."
A year ago the harsh reality of her situation was gnawing at her. "I was facing the possibility of never having success as a recording artist," said Loring, who's been singing for 21 years. "No record company was going to seek me out. I had to make them take notice.
"I had an audience of 10 million people from the TV show. Why not take advantage of that and (introduce) a record on the show? I wanted a piece of music that I could tie into a story line and get audiences hooked on it. My character (Liz Curtis) is a singer, so it would be natural to have her sing it."
About a year ago she stumbled onto "Friends and Lovers," a relatively obscure love theme written by Jay Gruska and Paul Gordon for the romantic interludes between two characters on "Days of Our Lives."
"I wanted to make it my song," she said. "So I had a story line written into the show. The song was tied into that story, which involved my character."
Since "Friends and Lovers" is duet material, she had to find a singing partner. Her first choice, Al Jarreau, was busy. She eventually settled on Carl Anderson, a cabaret singer who'd been trying to break into the pop market for years.
"What we did on the show was to write in a story where my character records this song," she said. "They wrote Carl into the show. We even did a mock recording session."
The single was first aired last September and viewer response was strong. The duet was then played regularly on the show until late spring. Loring thought she would instantly get a record deal but only one label, Carrere/CBS, was interested.
A deal for a single was finally arranged and the record was released in late May on Carrere/CBS. It sold 94,000 copies immediately, mostly on the strength of the repeated play on the show.
Loring thought she was a shoo-in for an album deal. But Carrere/CBS still didn't want her as an album artist. Meanwhile, the single kept selling. Gradually, record companies started rethinking their positions.
Carrere/CBS finally offered her an album deal. So did tiny Amherst Records. But Atlantic Records made the winning bid.
Her solo album, "Gloria Loring," features the hit single. Mostly produced by Jerry Ragovoy, it's basically the kind of soft, dreamy pop that's aimed at fans in their 30s and 40s.
"What a jungle the record business is," she said. "I thought TV was bad, but it's nothing like the record business. I went through absolute hell to get this deal and I've got the scars to prove it."
Lately Loring's private life has been getting as much attention as her acting and singing careers. It's well known that she's the ex-wife of Alan Thicke, the former late-night talk-show host who stars in ABC-TV's "Growing Pains" series. He's the father of her sons--Brennan, 11, and Robin, 9. There's been running commentary in gossip columns about her romance with Don Diamont, an actor on "The Young and the Restless." She didn't say much about Diamont, but she did talk about the breakup of her marriage with Thicke in 1984. Her reaction to the divorce was both emotional and physical.
"I developed nodes on my vocal cords," she said. "I was losing my voice all the time. All the pain and trauma were focused in my throat. I had to go through speech therapy to cure the problem. That whole problem is as vivid to me as the divorce. What can be more scary for a singer than losing her voice?"
Loring, who grew up in New York and Minneapolis, has always considered herself more of a singer than an actress. She had considerable success in theaters, clubs and on TV variety shows before joining "Days of Our Lives" in 1980. Since then she's spent most of her time acting. But that will change in five weeks.
"I'm finally leaving the show," she said, indicating she'll focus on music but continue to do occasional acting. "I've been trying to get out for the past year. My contract is up and I don't want it renewed. I'm burned out on daytime TV, shaking all the time. I just don't want to be there anymore.
"I don't mean to sound highfalutin, like I'm too good for daytime TV. I'm not the greatest actress in the world, but for daytime TV, I don't have to be. The shows have to shoot so quickly that you can't do a great job. So you make artistic compromises. I'm tired of the compromises."