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Friday, June 12, 2009

Groovy Gal: Mama Cass on DVD

Was there anyone more groovier than Mama Cass? She was the epitome of grooviness during her brief but fabulous life, which sadly ended in 1974 at age 32. And, no, she did not choke on a ham sandwich as was reported at the time of her death. Cass actually died in her sleep from a heart attack. But I'm not writing this post to dwell upon her tragic passing. I'd rather celebrate her wonderful music--and the new DVD of The Mama Cass Television Program, a 1969 ABC special that was originally filmed as a pilot for a TV variety series. The DVD, which will be released on August 25, features performances by Cass Elliot and her guest stars, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian (of The Lovin' Spoonful) and Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul & Mary), as well as appearances by Buddy Hackett, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Bonus features on the DVD will include a duet of "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" by Cass and Sammy Davis, Jr., and a brand new interview with John Sebastian. The folks behind this DVD--Infinity Entertainment and the Falcon Picture Group--are also planning to release all 26 episodes of The Judy Garland Show (1963-64), which is great news as well.

But back to Mama Cass. Here are 10 Groovy Facts about her:

1) She was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941, in Baltimore, Maryland. She became "Cass" in high school, borrowing the name from actress Peggy Cass (according to "Papa" Denny Doherty), and "Elliot" was added later in memory of a friend who had died.

2) Cass decided that a show business career was for her after her first acting role as the French maid in a summer stock production of The Boyfriend in 1959.

3) In 1962, Cass came close to getting the part of Miss Marmelstein in the Broadway musical, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, the role which launched Barbra Streisand's career.

4) On May 3, 1973, she appeared in the Saga of Sonora, a TV music-comedy-western special, with Jill St. John, Zero Mostel, Frankie Avalon, Lesley Ann Warren, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

5) Cass sang radio jingles for Hardee's fast-food chain. The ads were pulled after her death (you can listen to them below).

6) She had a featured role as Witch Hazel in the 1970 film, Pufnstuf (produced by her next-door neighbor, Sid Krofft), and guest-starred as herself on TV's The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

7) Cass posed nude for the first edition of Cheetah, a rock magazine that lasted eight issues.

8) In 1969, she talked to London’s Record Mirror about her "upcoming project" as a lead in a stage musical called The Yellow Drum, based on Truman Capote's short story, The Grass Harp: "I’ll be playing Babylove, who has six illegitimate children by six different fathers, and she’s a traveling evangelist, trying to earn just enough to keep her children alive." The play made it to Broadway in 1971 as The Grass Harp with Karen Morrow as Babylove. It closed after only seven performances.

9) Cass helped form the band, Crosby, Stills & Nash, by introducing Nash to Crosby.

10) She preferred classical music, jazz and Broadway show tunes to rock.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I loved her so much when I was growing up. What a lovely post.
I think that Adele brings a real nod to MaMa Cass.