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ANN CONWAY

Frankie Laine Keeps to the Sunny Side : Despite a recent personal loss, the singer promotes his auto-biography and croons a tune to swoon for.

September 01, 1993|ANN CONWAY

Eighty? No way.

Singer Frankie Laine took the stage at the Balboa Bay Club last week during a monthly meeting of Round Table West and proved he could still make 'em swoon.

In fact, the hundreds who turned out to hear the singer tout his autobiography, "Lucky Old Son," (Pathfinder) began to

applaud at the mention he might sing. (Laine's 21 gold records include "That's My Desire," "I Believe," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Shine," "Mule Train" "High Noon," "Jezebel" and "Rawhide.")

"When I appeared at Round Table West in Beverly Hills recently, the girls (Round Table founders Marylin Hudson and Margaret Burke) asked me if I'd consider doing some songs," said Laine, who turned 80 on March 30. "I said I would and I did. And I'd like to do some here."

The audience went wild. Whispered Donna Crean: "He was the singer my husband and I romanced to when we were newlyweds. We loved 'That's My Desire.' "

Laine sang to one of the orchestral backup tapes he uses to practice. "I continually try to keep the voice up," he explained. "You know what they say: 'If you don't use it, you lose it.' "

Laine is a long way from losing it. The man who rose from a boyhood in the Chicago of Al Capone to a Royal Command Performance before the Queen of England sang "I'm Old Enough to Be Your Father" with a heart-melting tenderness.

"I'm old enough to be your father, young enough to be your lover, but most important, I want to be your friend," he sang, " . . . why keep chasing rainbows or wishing on a star? Why not just accept the way we are?"

During lunch, Laine, who lives in San Diego (and annually stars in a music festival there), confessed that these were not the easiest of times. He had lost his wife of 43 years--beautiful blond actress Nan Grey--only one month before. "She died on her birthday," Laine confided.

(In his book, he recounts how he met Nan at the Cocoanut Grove on her birthday in 1948. "Someone sent a note to my dressing room saying there was a certain lady who wanted to meet me . . . for her present, she'd asked to be taken to our show.")

Of his 225-page book--an account of his rise from poverty to international stardom-- Laine said: "I'm so grateful I finished it before I lost her."

*

Armanied to the nines: Male models sporting heavy tweeds and sleek leathers took the runway for charity Sunday when Emporio Armani of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa staged a fall preview to benefit the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach.

Billed as one of the museum's annual Perspectives dinner series, the $35-per-person event raised $3,200. Greg Escalante was chairman.

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