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Authors: Randy L. Schmidt

Little Girl Blue

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LITTLE GIRL BLUE

LITTLE GIRL BLUE

The Life of

KAREN CARPENTER

RANDY L. SCHMIDT

Foreword by Dionne Warwick

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Schmidt, Randy (Randy L.)

Little girl blue : the life of Karen Carpenter / Randy L. Schmidt ; foreword by Dionne Warwick. — 1st ed.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-1-55652-976-4 (hardcover)

1. Carpenter, Karen, 1950-1983. 2. Singers—United States—Biography. I. Title.

ML420.C2564S36 2010

782.42164092—dc22

[B]

2009049044

INTERIOR DESIGN
: Monica Baziuk

INTERIOR ILLUSTRATION
: © 2010 by Chris Tassin

© 2010 by Randy L. Schmidt

All rights reserved

Foreword © 2010 by Dionne Warwick

All rights reserved

First edition

Published by Chicago Review Press, Incorporated

814 North Franklin Street

Chicago, Illinois 60610

ISBN 978-1-55652-976-4

Printed in the United States of America

5    4    3    2    1

For Camryn and Kaylee

In loving memory

Lindeigh Scotte (1956–2001)

&

Cynthia G. Ward (1975–2005)

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful;

for beauty is God's handwriting—a wayside sacrament.

Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower

and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.

— RALPH WALDO EMERSON

CONTENTS

F
OREWORD BY
D
IONNE
W
ARWICK

A
UTHOR
'
S
N
OTE

PROLOGUE:
Rainy Days and
Rain Man

1. California Dreamin'

2. Chopsticks on Barstools

3. Stand in Line, Try to Climb

4. Sprinkled Moondust

5. You Put Us on the Road

6. Nothing to Hide Behind

7. America at Its Very Best?

8. Moving Out

9. The Collapse

10. I Need to Be in Love

11. Just Let Us Know What the Problem Is!

12. The Bird Has Finally Flown the Coop

13. Pockets Full of Good Intentions

14. White Lace and Promises Broken

15. Beginning of the End

16. Dancing in the Dark

17. Too Little, Too Late, Too Soon

EPILOGUE:
A Song for You

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

S
ELECTED
D
ISCOGRAPHY

S
ELECTED
T
ELEVISION
A
PPEARANCES

N
OTES

B
IBLIOGRAPHY

S
UGGESTED
R
EADING

I
NDEX

FOREWORD

K
AREN
C
ARPENTER
was and still is the voice that I listen to with a smile on my face. Her clarity, her approach to the lyric being sung, and the smile I could hear in her voice just fascinated me.

We all are familiar with the hits and the performances, but I was privy to the person. She was a sweet, innocent young lady who had a so much to give—and she wanted to give. She and her brother gave us
music—
music that reached the innermost parts of our being; and that music is truly missed.

When I first heard her sing a song that I had recorded some years ago (“Knowing When to Leave” from the Broadway show
Promises, Promises
), I felt quite surprised that anyone would attempt this song, simply because of the complex time signature and range required to sing it. She seemed to have no trouble riding the notes as they were supposed to be ridden, and I was impressed!

I felt a need to get to know this young lady, and fortunately it appeared she desired to meet me. I first met her at A&M just after their recording of “Close to You.” Years later I happened to be staying in the same hotel as Karen in New York when I ran into her; she was there going through therapy for anorexia nervosa. Since I had not seen her in quite a while, I must say it was shocking to see how very thin she was.

I invited her to my suite the following day for lunch, not knowing that eating was the last thing on her mind, but she graciously accepted the invitation and showed up not really ready to eat but to talk. Little did I know that I succeeded in doing something no one else had been able to do. I was able to get her to eat a cup of soup with a few saltine crackers. We spent the afternoon talking about many things, and she finally told me why she was in New York. It was apparent that anorexia was something she was at odds with and trying to combat, and I felt compelled to let her know I was in her corner and gave her as much encouragement as I could for her to continue her fight. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

The last time I saw her was at a Grammy photo shoot in January 1983. It was a joyous reunion, and the first thing out of her mouth when she saw me was, “Look at me, I've got an ass!” We laughed so hard and loud that the rest of the group took great notice, to say the least. We both agreed that she had a lot of living to do.

To hear of her untimely transition hurt me as if I had lost a family member. She had so much to live for. Being at her funeral was as difficult for me as it was for her immediate family and host of friends. Yes, I will always remember the day we met and that day in New York, and I cherish the continuing friendship I have with her brother, Richard.

— D
IONNE
W
ARWICK

AUTHOR'S NOTE


W
E START
out with the answers, and we end up with the questions.” Karen Carpenter treasured this quotation, which fellow singer Petula Clark first shared with her, and recited it to close friends in difficult times. Indeed, no matter how many ways Karen's story has been told, the “answers” always seem to prompt more questions.

On New Year's Day 1989, I sat spellbound as
The Karen Carpenter Story
unfolded. The CBS biopic, which opened with the disturbing reenactment of the events of February 4, 1983, the day of Karen's death, made an immediate and enduring impression on this teenage viewer. In the weeks following the airing, Karen Carpenter haunted me. There was something about the way that film presented the pathos of her story atop the soundtrack of her sometimes optimistic but often mournful voice that drew me in. Perhaps it had to do with the movie's slightly sensationalistic nature. More likely it was the depth and density of Karen's voice. Whatever the reason, I could not get her out of my mind. The filmmakers had provided many answers, but I still had questions—about Karen's life, about her death, and certainly about her music. I wanted to know more. And I have spent many years searching for those answers.

I look upon
Little Girl Blue
as a continuation of similar efforts. Barry Morrow's struggles to write a screenplay for
The Karen Carpenter Story
that would offend no one are detailed in this book's prologue. The baton was then passed to Ray Coleman, who had the arduous task of writing the family's authorized biography. It is my understanding that both men became frustrated (and even furious at times) with the unavoidable confines of their respective assignments. Both were strongly cautioned by several inside the Carpenters camp against taking on the assignments in the first place. According to Karen “Itchie” Ramone, wife of legendary record producer Phil Ramone, “Ray Coleman
really
had a rough time in terms of editing. And Barry Morrow,
forget it
! I felt so bad for him. After a while, Ray threw his arms up. As for Barry, he just had his arms tied.”

In the face of these admonitions I approached Richard Carpenter with some trepidation. I first met Richard and his wife, Mary, at their Downey home in August 1996 and since that time have been fortunate to visit with him on a number of occasions. Although he has always been genial and accommodating, Richard has rarely lent support to outside ventures without insisting upon editorial control. As expected, he declined to be interviewed for this project. David Alley (his manager at the time) explained that Richard has “said all he wishes to say” in regard to Karen's personal life. But Alley wished me the best with the project and even declared that he and Richard would not discourage others from contributing, which is as close to an endorsement as anyone could hope for.

I believe the lack of collaboration with the Carpenter family, however, has proved to open rather than close important avenues of information. In conducting interviews for this book, it became obvious to me that many details of Karen's life story had never been allowed to see the light of day. In fact, a number of those I interviewed expressed their frustration with the heavy-handed editing that has kept her story concealed this long. I have made every effort to keep this book, unlike the previous, authorized accounts, free of an agenda and the Carpenter family's editorial control. This lack of censorship has permitted me to dig deeper, explore the story beneath the surface, and give people outside
the family who were close to Karen ample opportunity to express themselves.

Terry Ellis, Karen's boyfriend and the cofounder of Chrysalis Records, had previously spoken only with biographer Ray Coleman, refusing all other requests to talk about his relationship with Karen. “I could never see the point in helping somebody do a book or a film or a TV show about Karen,” Ellis told me. “I always say to myself, ‘It's not going to do
her
any good.' That's all I care about. Her.” He agreed to speak with me but questioned me at length prior to our interview: “What story do you think you're going to tell?” he asked. How would I address the relationship between her and Richard? How did I plan to deal with her illness? Or her relationship with her mother? It was only after I answered these questions—with honesty and sincerity—that we were able to proceed.

Further important aspects of Karen's life—the ones that traditional means of research could never divulge—were revealed to me during an afternoon I spent in the Beverly Hills home of Frenda Franklin, Karen's longtime best friend and closest confidant. “I want you to know and understand the many layers of Karen,” Franklin told me. “She was such an
unusual
human being. . . . You were better for having known her. I don't know one person who knew her who doesn't feel that way. . . . She changed your life.”

Franklin, more than anyone, was vocal about wanting someone to finally do justice to her best friend's life story, and as our interview drew to a close, she gave me a quick hug and kiss, patted me on the back, and whispered, “Do good for Karen.” Needless to say, this was a very special commandment coming from someone who knew Karen so intimately and loved her so deeply. I hope that I have succeeded.

BOOK: Little Girl Blue
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