Nancy LaMott


Remembering Nancy LaMott

Multi-award winning singer Nancy LaMott died on Wednesday, December 13, 1995 at 11:40 p.m. at Roosevelt-St. Luke's Hospital, NYC. She was 43. The cause of death was complications arising from uterine and liver cancer.

Just two hours before her passing, she asked her boyfriend, actor Peter Zapp, to marry her. Rapidly, a bedside ceremony was held in her room. Her close friend Kathie Lee Gifford, who had stayed by her side throughout her illness, visited her in the hospital and spoke lovingly about her on her "Live" show with Regis Philbin. Margaret Whiting was also a regular visitor. And President and Mrs. Clinton called her the day before she died.

She had suffered with Crohn's disease, with bad arthritic effects since she was 17. In 1993, she had an ileostomy that reversed many of the symptoms, allowing her recording and singing career to soar. Her newly released fifth album, "Listen To My Heart", produced and orchestrated by Peter Matz, is currently listed in the top-lO sellers in its class at Tower Records.

Despite many health problems over the years, Nancy LaMott became a regular on the cabaret scene in NYC. Having begun in The Duplex, she went on to perform at small clubs for years, including Don't Tell Mama and Eighty Eight's, before moving on to the Russian Tea Room, the Oak Room at The Algonquin and Tavern on the Green. Her musical collaborator for eleven years was Christopher Marlowe.

No funeral plans were announced. A memorial service was held in February in NYC. Nancy requested that donations be made to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Association to Benefit Children and the Crohn's-Colitis Foundation.

- John Hoglund, CABARET HOTLINE - Copyright December 1995.

The addresses of the causes that Nancy wished donations be made to in lieu of flowers are:

165 WEST 46TH STREET - #1300
NEW YORK, NY 10036-3821

NEW YORK, NY 10016

NEW YORK, NY 10128

(This last is the organization through which Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford are building CODY HOUSE & CASSIDY'S PLACE to help "Crack Babies" with AIDS. They will be naming a wing after Nancy).

You may want to get more information from:

The Nancy LaMott Fan Club
P.O. Box 138 - Old Chelsea Station
New York, NY 10113-0138


They said in the invitation that the service would begin at 7:30 pm sharp, and I arrived at St. Paul's Apostle Church around 7:05 to discover every seat nearly taken. This is not a small church - it is one of the largest in NYC, and at that point, figuring 80 rows of pews seating 30 across (I will try to confirm this - it was a rough count as I walked down the side) already over 2500 people were waiting for things to begin. They set out about 10 rows of folding chairs, and these quickly filled as well - I managed to get one in the very last row.

All the program books were already taken, and people were still arriving. The lady in front of me had a program which she loaned me for a few minutes, so I quickly noted the order of the program and waited in silence with the rest. A few custodians arrived with another 6 rows of folding chairs, and they too were quickly snatched up. My estimate, counting the hundreds that remained standing at the sides and rear, was between 2,500 and 3,000 people were there, but it could easily have been more.

Father Steven Harris opened the service (at 7:31 on my very accurate TIMEX) with a quotation from one of David Friedman's songs. He called us to celebrate the life of Nancy LaMott, and pointed out that Nancy had four outstanding qualities: she was honest, direct, passionate and brief. This, he hoped, would be the guide for the speakers that followed.

We were immediately thrust into darkness, and on the giant TV screen set up in the front of the church was a tape from 1991 of Nancy singing "Listen to My Heart."

Nancy's director and manager for the past 5 years, Scott Barnes, took the podium and introduced us to the Nancy he knew, "lamottski" as she liked to call herself. He called their relationship "short, intense, and gratifying." As the evening progressed we would hear that theme again and again, since it seems that Nancy's life was partitioned in phases, each with very special people playing a very special part.

The next speaker was R. Kennard Baker (Bob), to whose country home in Connecticut Nancy would retreat when the busy city life, and the pain of her many physical afflictions became too great to handle. He was followed by Nancy's former boyfriend, Bill McGrath. He spoke of her beauty and determination, and another of her mottos: "Be nice, stay sweet, and recognize the worth of every person you meet."

The room once again darkened, and on the screen we were shown still photos and video and movie clips of Nancy's life - from childhood to the White House performances to the hospital bed. The tune "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" serenaded the photos as they flashed on the screen.

Songwriter David Zippel shared his memories with us next. His impression was that Nancy would "eat just about anything, but was very particular about the songs she sang." Nancy suffered from an intestinal disorder early in life (Crohn's Syndrome) which restricted the foods she could eat and when an operation gave her relief from this, she set about making up for all the times she missed the fun foods in her youth. She one time told David that "Cabaret is the World's most expensive hobby."

Rick Jensen, who was Nancy's musical director in the early years reflected on that period of Nancy's career - the smaller cabarets, the passion with which she sang every song, and some of her favorite selections, including James Taylor's "The Secret of Life" - she sang it nearly every show then, and it appears on her last album.

Two of Nancy's favorite friend and singing partners, Nancy Timpanaro and Lina Koutrakos spoke of Nancy's way of always reaching out to give friends encouragement - of how they did a tour in Europe together, where Nancy would insist each day that they recite the mantra "I Am Worthy."

Three members of Nancy's immediate family, Ted McGee, along with two others from Michigan, were simply overwhelmed by the size of the gathering, and had some difficulty expressing all they wanted to say.

Finally, in this segment of the program, cabaret legend turned songwriter Portia Nelson took the microphone and told how Nancy insisted on singing great music from great songwriters, and how honored she was when Nancy chose to sing one of her songs on the final album. She told us about a brief motto that she had written and had hanging on her wall when Nancy came to visit one day. It went a bit like this:

Chapter 1

I was walking down the street - there was a big hole in the sidewalk - I fell in. It wasn't my fault, and it took me a long time to get out of it.

Chapter 2

I was walking down the street - there was a big hole in the sidewalk - I tried to avoid it but I fell in. It wasn't my fault. It took me a long time to get out of it.

Chapter 3

I was walking down the street - I saw the big hole in the sidewalk, but I fell in it anyway. It was my fault, but I knew how to get out of it quickly by now.

Chapter 4

I was walking down the street. I saw the big hole in the sidewalk. I carefully walked around it.

Chapter 5

I chose a different street.

Nancy read it and exclaimed: "That's the story of my life - I must have it!" Portia complied, adding "And I thought it was my life!"

A instrumental musical interlude followed, with just a single photo of Nancy looking at us from the TV screen. A sextet made up of Christopher Marlowe at piano, Jay Leonhart on bass, John Redsecker on drums, Glenn Drewes on trumpet and Mike Migliore on sax, played two songs from Nancy's repertoire - "It Might as Well Be Spring" and "How Deep Is the Ocean." This was followed by sustained applause.

WQEW's Jonathan Schwartz spoke next - sharing two humorous anecdotes of Nancy's sly and witty side.

Peter Matz, who directed Nancy's last recording, and who knew Nancy just a short while before her death, related how Nancy had been troubled by the Los Angeles air while staying at his home, preparing to appear in a benefit there. He called the malady "CADD - California Airborne Diva Disease" - and how later that night she stole the show.

Academy Award winning songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman recalled how hard Nancy worked on the show of their works at the 92nd Street Y some time ago, and said "every generation has someone who shines - and the next generation now has a great deal to live up to." Alan also told us that Nancy had three outstanding qualities - a great mind, great determination and a great heart.

The room darkened and Kathy Lee Gifford spoke via video tape for a few minutes of the happy times and sad times she and Nancy shared - of Nancy's love for animals and children. "I know I'll see her in Heaven," she said, "because she promised to teach me to sing."

A very shy Christopher Marlowe, who was Nancy's collaborator, arranger, musical director and close friend, took the microphone and told us of Nancy's unique ability to bring power to the high notes - a power she seemed to pull out of nowhere. He spoke of her compassion towards the underdog, and the line she always said at the start of the show, a line that he hears her say now every day: "I'll meet you at the end."

Songwriter and producer David Friedman gave us his reflections of the past 5 years with Nancy, and how he decided that this was a voice that had to be shared with the World and put up the money for Nancy's first album - and produced the four that followed. He told us that there is enough recorded material on hand to produce at least three more albums, and related his deathbed promise to her that he would continue his mission to give the whole World a chance to hear her voice.

A 10 minute video made up of clips from Nancy's appearances from 1978 through 1995 was shown. The effect of watching Nancy emerge as the beautiful singer she came to be was stunning. Most striking was a tape made on December 6, 1995 - just 7 days before she died - that Nancy made for the Charles Grodin show on CNBC. There is not a hint of pain, suffering; no clue to the events that would follow.

The final speaker was Nancy's husband, Peter Zapp - the actor from California that Nancy married just a few hours before she passed away. If one could count 3 dry eyes in the gathering of 3000, it would have been a miracle.

As with every cabaret performance, there was an encore - a video of Nancy singing "I'll Be Here With You."

I left the church rather quickly. I really didn't want to talk to anyone - gave a few nods to people I recognized, a handshake here and there, but I wanted some moments by myself. I walked slowly to the subway - to be greeted on the steps by the haunting sounds of a subway musician, mournfully playing "Bye Bye Blackbird" on a trumpet. I couldn't remember the words - just the part about "pack up all your cares and woes" - and then the silver clad #1 train arrived to take me to the Village - and as the doors swished shut I could hear the musical notes... "Black bird - bye...bye..."

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