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Subject: Other Singers Who Smoked
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Thu, 7 Sep 2017 10:31:15 -0400

text/plain (72 lines)

There’s photo evidence of many singers smoking, including Callas and Sills 
too. I’ve been called out that Sills never smoked, but she admits as much 
in her second autobiography (though it was post singing career, not during 
it).  In the Zeffirelli documentary on Callas, De Hidalgo smokes through her 
entire interview, using her cigarettes to make punctuation marks, stabbing 
the air with dots and commas.

Singers are probably the smallest group of performing artists who smoke.
There are high percentages of smokers who work in dance, acting, 
orchestral and pit musicians, conductors.  As a kid I remember my Mom 
getting upset upon seeing Kenneth Schermerhorn, literally seconds after 
conducting a Chicago Symphony concert, lighting up and puffing away.

A season or so ago, I was smoking outside the Empire and had a brief but
pleasant conversation with another smoker, who goes by the name Rene 
Pape. I mentioned my being a big fan and how I was looking forward to his 
Gurnemanz the next evening.  It's one of the most beautiful roles ever 
written and that night Pape gave one of the finest performances of it I will ever
ever hear.  I can still hear his elegant, moving phrasing in "Nun freut sich 
alle Kreatur" in my head and get the gooseflesh.  

Back when I joined this list (21 years ago!) it was populated by folk I 
became friends with who’ve left of their own volition, or passed on.  One 
sorely missed was Tom Savage, who regularly used to crack me up. I 
remember an email exchange we had, joking back and forth how 
eventually everything becomes a Broadway musical . . . I quipped how I 
was working on “Salesman!” when Tom brought up the classic Simpson’s 
episode with Marge starring in "O Streetcar!"  

To the topic at hand, I recall Tom mentioning how he’d gone to a post 
performance nightcap at O’Neals following a “Queen of Spades” and ran 
into Olga Borodina, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Elisabeth Soederstrom, all 
smoking at the bar.

Then there were:  Jess Thomas,Jan Peerce, Norman Triegle, Justino Diaz, 
James Morris, Regine Crespin, Mario Sereni, Siegfried Jerusalem, Giuseppe 
Di Stefano, Franco Corelli, Benjamino Gigli, Monserrat Caballe, Ettore 
Bastianini, Victoria de los Angeles, all smokers.  Jon Vickers reformed, 
stating in several interviews he’d quit in the 70’s.  Robert Merrill proudly 
smoked Camels.

I’ve known a number of singers who didn’t smoke cigarettes, but were 
happy hittin’ da ganja.  Speaking of which, I recall some singers at City 
Opera complaining about Ashley Putnam smoking weed.

Not a singer, but as a teenager seeing the now famous promo photo of the 
young Martha Argerich smoking was the hottest non-nude photo of anyone 
I’d ever seen and put me on a lifelong crush for that woman.  A televised 
interview with Argerich and Charles Dutoit, shows her striking a match and 
lighting up before continuing in French so natural sounding you’d never 
know she was from “down Argentine way.”

We all know smoking is not good for us, but “back then” it was nowhere 
near the scourge it’s now become and those who imbibed weren’t treated 
like social pariahs.  

Ah, the glories of yesteryear.


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