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Out & About / Ventura County | pop scene

More Than a Beauty

Susan Anton brings her passion for vocal standards to Thousand Oaks.

March 16, 2001|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Singer Susan Anton will headline a nostalgic slice of musical Americana on Sunday afternoon at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks. Anton will sing some of her favorites originally recorded by a variety of artists, including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Marc Cohn, all backed by her band of 20 years.

Anton, a beauty queen who became a blond bombshell actress in the 1970s, has had a successful singing career, mostly in Las Vegas.

Also on Sunday's bill are the Crew Cuts, who will sing some doo-wop, including their biggie "Sh-Boom." John Mills, the son of Donald Mills from the original group, will lead the newest generation of the legendary Mills Brothers, which has a history that stretches back to 1922. Also performing are the De Marche Sisters and the Bill Tole Big Band.

Anton was raised in a small farming community near San Bernardino, and on a dare, she entered a beauty contest, winning the Miss California title. After discovering a fondness for the stage, she decided on a career in show business.

Anton became well-known in the mid-1970s as the Muriel Cigar Girl, then made several feature films such as "Goldengirl" and "Making Mr. Right." She has appeared in numerous television shows, including a three-year stint on "Baywatch." Anton is also known for her charity work with the Special Olympics, the American Cancer Society and Pediatric AIDS.

Anton has toured with stars from Sinatra to Kenny Rogers. She is also about to release a new live recording, "One Night." This will be her first appearance in Thousand Oaks.

What can people expect from this show?

Well, I think it's going to be fun. It's music I've enjoyed doing for a long time in different venues through the years, so it's kind of like "going home" in a funny sort of way. I've dug out all the charts I have. I toured with Sinatra for a summer, so I have a lot of Sinatra-esque material like "Come Fly With Me," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Come Rain Or Come Shine," "Someone To Watch Over Me"--just a lot of stuff like that.

How would you account for the continuing popularity of Big Band music?

I think good music is always good music. Even if you look at the classics; you know, Beethoven's been around for a pretty long time, too. I think when you come upon something that's just good, there's always a place for that. It's like the Beatles still being around after all these years. I know the music from the Big Band era has a special place in my heart. It's the music my mom and dad met and fell in love to, and it was the music that was on in the house when I was a young girl growing up, so it evokes a lot of really treasured memories for me. When I sing it, I feel their youth.

What's "One Night" going to be like?

"One Night" is altogether different. I did a show for Radio City Productions for the last 7 1/2 years. We were on the road, then we were in Vegas, and for all those years I pretty much didn't get to do my stuff, because I was doing what was right for the show. So when the Radio City show finally closed, I called all the guys in my band, which I've had for about 20 years, and asked them to just get together, reconnect and do some simple, low-profile, no big deal music that we love to do. Let's do a little unplugged, some of the acoustic stuff and not worry about anybody's opinion. We got an eight-night run at the Cinegrill in L.A., and it was great. We had the best time, and the audiences were loving it and we got a great review in the L.A. Times. So the last night, the last show--one take--we did a live recording of it and it will be released March 27.

How is your preparation different for acting as opposed to music?

It's altogether different, because in a movie you're playing a character and so your work is spent investigating that character and how it fits into the show. In Vegas, it's just selecting the material because it's just you up there, so I always try to find material that I can relate to in a personal way. I can sing a song, but I can also share a story as to why that music is in the show. So it's more personal, it's more me than a character.

How did winning Miss California in 1969 change things for you?

It's hard to know, because I'd have to go back and replay my life. . . . I don't know if I would've had the nerve to go into show business. It's what I always wanted to do, but I'm from a very small town. The whole Miss California thing was all on a dare from my high school boyfriend. I loved to sing, so I decided that I would go ahead and do this. I won and I went on to the Miss America pageant where I was second runner-up, and by that time, I really loved being onstage and I realized that instead of going to college to become a nursery school teacher, I wanted to try show business. It provided me the opportunity to decide that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

How did you end up as the Muriel Cigar Girl?

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