Madame Spivy

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Madame Spivy

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    • "MADAME SPIVY"
      Real name possibly Bertha LeVoe (This is not blues singer Victoria Spivey)

      Date of birth (location)
      30 September 1906
      Brooklyn, New York, USA

      Date of death (details)
      7 January 1971
      Woodland Hills, California, USA.

      Appeared at Tony's on 52nd St. in 1936.

      Madame Spivy is probably best remembered ( in the USA)-- for the period when she entertained nightly in her own club called Spivy's Roof-- @ 139 E. 57th St. from 1940 to 1951. .
      She had a large repertoire of songs, many of them poking fun at the blasé café society of New York, and they loved her for it.

      Following this-she ran clubs in in Rome, Paris and London.

      Returning to the USA-she -became a character actress with film roles in several well known movies:

      The Outsider (1967) (TV) .... Della

      The Manchurian Candidate (1962) .... -------Female Berezovo

      Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) .... aka Blood Money (UK)
      ... Ma Greeny

      All Fall Down (1962) .... Bouncer

      Studs Lonigan (1960) (as Mme. Spivy) .... Mother Josephine

      The Fugitive Kind (1959) .... Ruby Lightfoot

      She also did allot of TV work:

      Notable TV Guest Appearances

      "Daniel Boone" playing "Tatama" in episode: "A Matter of Blood" (episode # 4.14) 28 December 1967

      "The Wild Wild West" playing "The Axe Lady" in episode: "The Night of the Skulls" (episode # 2.13) 16 December 1966

      "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre" playing "Bartender" in episode: "Holloway's Daughters" (episode # 3.19) 11 May 1966

      "The Aquanauts" playing "Mrs. Greeley" (as Spivy) in episode: "The Defective Tank Adventure" (episode # 1.19) 22 February 1961

      "Peter Gunn" playing "Flo" (as Spivy) in episode: "Dream Big, Dream Deadly" (episode # 3.11) 12 December 1960

      "Adventures in Paradise" playing "Mother Hubbard" (as Spivy) in episode: "The Violent Journey" (episode # 1.24) 28 March 1960

      "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" playing "Spirro" in episode: "Specialty of the House" (episode # 5.12) 13 December 1959

      She retired in 1967 and died in 1971 at age 64.

      ON: http://hometown.aol.com/qmheritage
      ---An author of that era described her as follows:
      "This was Spivy. Her hair was combed and lacquered into a pointed pompadour with a white streak running through it, and she often wore a black dress with shoulder pads and sequined lapels. Spivy was squat and looked like a bulldog. We used to call her the bulldog bulldyke. "

      You can listen to songs of Madame Spivy at:

      http://mfdz.com/madamespivy

      and also here her music of the 30's on a special archived radio program at;
      http://hometown.aol.com/qmheritage

      The below recordings info is from:http://www.hensteeth.com/s_blue.html
      Reeves Sound Studios
      Exclusive issues below from unnumbered album "Seven Sophisticated Gay Songs by Spivy" released by General.

      (R2342) Why Don't You................EXCLUSIVE RECORDINGS S-102, COMMODORE 52
      (R2343) Alley Cat/Tarantella.........EXCLUSIVE RECORDINGS S-101, COMMODORE 51, SOUND 3/4
      (R2344) I Brought Culture To Buffalo in the 90's...EXCLUSIVE RECORDINGS S-101, COMMODORE 51
      (R2345) Last of the Fleur DeLevy...EXCLUSIVE RECORDINGS S-102, SOUND 1/2, COMMODORE 52
      (R2346) A Tropical Fish...EXCLUSIVE RECORDINGS S-103, COMMODORE 53B
      (R2347) I Love Town....EXCLUSIVE RECORDINGS S-103, COMMODORE 53A
      --1947, set titled An Evening with Spivy (Album 50)
      Surrealist...........................GALA 5001 V-1, V-3
      I Didn't Do a Thing Last Night.......GALA 5002 V-1, V-3
      Madam's Lament.......................GALA 5003 V-1
      Auntie Face..........................GALA 5004 V-1
      100% American Girls..................GALA 5005 V-1
      I Married an Acrobat.................GALA 5006 V-1

      Fool Moonlite........................SOUND ?

      AND FINALLY--Below is an eloquent first-hand account of Mme. Spivy, (of Spivy's Roof, at 139 E. 57th. ) that can be found at: http://www.ralphmag.org/DJ/spivy1.html

      "We'd wait an hour or so, drinking expensive shots of Old Crow or Seven-and-Sevens. Then a bright spotlight would appear, Spivy would arrrive, sit down in front of her black piano, clear her throat, and start singing.
      She was a plump lady (one writer said that she was "squat like a bulldog.") She wore her hair in a tight pompadour with a white streak down the middle. She would place a tall glass of what was probably chilled gin on the piano before her. During her time on stage, she would drain a couple, but her singing --- her low, throaty voice --- would always be perfect and predictable, especially for those of us who bought her records and memorized the words of her repertoire, songs that she had written and recorded under the "Spivy" label.
      "I Brought Culture to Buffalo in the 90s," was a favorite. "The Tropical Fish" ("How would you like to sleep in the water you drank?") Two always in demand were "Doing the Tarantella (in a suit of real bright yellow):" She would fall into splits 'til the folks lost their wits.

      The one I remember best of all is "The Cat." I cannot for the life of me remember more than a couple of lines of Hamlet that I was taught in that Prussian military school. I still have trouble remembering which novels were written by the Bronte sisters and the ones that came from the pen of Jane Austen. But to this day I can recite most of the words of "The Cat," along with the intonations, the riffs (and the pauses for laughs) exactly as it has been tricked away in my memory-bag for the last fifty years. As I sit here, it comes out just so:

      On the 14th floor of a walkup flat,
      I used to keep an alley cat.
      Each night I'd take him down the stair,
      And waited while he took the air.
      He grew up fast and developed a yen
      No sooner was he in than he was out again.
      I hated to spoil his fun.
      But I knew what must be done.
      So I took him to the vet and had his profile bobbed
      And when he sat down he said, 'Hell, I've been robbed.'
      He went out that night but came right home to bed,
      And the look on his face was a scream as he said,
      'Well, you've done it,
      Now the operation's over
      No longer will I take chances with the maids...
      Now I pass them by
      And hear them cry
      There goes that pansy cat.'

      This all came up while I was researching another New York regular of those years, Isaac Bashevis Singer. His story, "The Beard" just happened to bring to mind another of Spivy's songs. Both concerned themselves with a lady with a beard. Singer's was a lady of some solemnity, a lady whose husband would never let her shave, a woman who took to wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar.
      Spivy's was more accepting: "She was only a bearded lady/In love with a surrealist." When they went about town, "She wore a rose in her beard/And he a lamb-chop in his boutonniere."

      Like so many Googles that wander off into the varied, colorful bits of our pasts and history, this one gave me not a few surprises. Mme. Spivy, as she called herself, was, I find out, a lesbian. She never hid it which, in those days, took some courage. She also took up acting in her later days, was friends with some of the surrealists of the day.

      I was sixteen when I first came into Spivy's Roof. In those supposedly less enlightened times in New York City, they figured that if you were old enough to get through the door alone you were old enough to drink, even to listen to "blue" songs --- not very provocative now; quite on the edge back then.

      I was probably much too innocent to think of Spivy's sexuality ... outside of her racy songs, as if that had any thing to do with it. I was certainly not thinking of what we now so correctly --- if not a little scientifically --- call "orientation." The concept of women loving women just didn't exist in the groupthink of that era, any more than the thought of our loving those we were so casually rooming with in our loco parentis schools. As, for instance, that pink-cheeked, blonde-haired James Downey who lived just down the echoing hall from me, with the perfect teeth and a devastating smile, who unknowingly won my heart entire. Although I never told him. Or myself.

      I probably just thought of it as a "friendship," as in "we were good friends." Although I suspect his nigh-about-perfect thighs and hairless, well-muscled chest entered into far too many of my dreams, especially during the near-incessant self-caresses that went on, so quietly, in my bed, some time after lights out.

      <> <> <>
      The second Spivy surprise was a result of her immense success in Manhattan --- probably due to a small, free weekly listing in the "About the Town" section of The New Yorker. Her club was always filled and was so prosperous that she tried to start other Spivy Clubs in England and France and Italy in the 1950s. She failed. Her humor was pure New York. It didn't travel.

      But Spivy didn't just fade away. She later appeared in the movies The Manchurian Candidate and Requiem for a Heavyweight. She starred in several episodes of Hitchcock Presents. And, eventually, she died, of cirrhosis, in Woodland Hills, California, in January of 1971.

      For me she didn't belong west of the Hudson. It was too far, I think, from that sophisticated, very sly, caged-in world of post-WWII New York ... where she brought culture to Buffalo, told of the adventures of "that pansy cat," and sang of the mysterious lady who

      Dressed up like a fellow,
      In a suit of real bright yellow
      And in her hat, she wore a quill.
      She would fall into splits
      'Til folks lost their wits
      And cried "Again, another refrain."
      Her footwork is delicious
      Though they say she shocked the bishop
      But the bishop said, "Oh, no."
      We will ... not ... leave ... this ... place ... until,
      Three ... times ... more ... at ... least ... she ... will,
      Do the tarantella
      In her suit of real bright yellow
      And in her hat
      That goddamn quill.

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