A few days ago (May 13th), Doris Day shuffled off this mortal coil at the ripe old age of 97. I remember her well from movies like “Pillow Talk,” with Rock Hudson (one of her best) and—when I was a young college girl, working as a waitress at Armstrong’s Department Store Cafe in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and at the Cherry Blossom Dining Room in Marion (Iowa)—if I had a dollar for every customer who said to me, “You look like Doris Day!”, I wouldn’t have been rich, but I probably would have made more money than I did working as a waitress that summer.
And if I’d had Doris’ job, I wouldn’t have had such sore feet from waitressing. It was a brutal job for minimum wage (a U-shaped breakfast island with a straight part to the left that people could also sit at; you’d wait on the interior part of the “U” and, behind you, people would be seated at the straight bar part that you were not at all aware had come in). All-in-all, both were demanding jobs for paltry salaries. [It was especially brutal the night the Cherry Blossom Dining Room booked a high school reunion (small class) and failed to notify me (the hostess) in advance that several tables of reunion-goers would be sweeping in, en masse, at the peak of the dinner hour). It’s never fun to have to go around and ask 4 to 5 tables of 8 if they’d mind relocating across the room. (!)] However, while fantasizing over Doris’ money made, I have to realize that she was thoroughly fleeced by her “business advisor” (Jerome Rosenthal) who managed her since the forties and by her third husband. It took her until 1979 to recover some of the millions he took in a colossal case of malpractice, which the courts recognized as such, although it took 5 years for Doris to get any of her money back.
Doris remained beautiful for many, many years—well into her sixties—and outlived her record producer son, Terry Melcher (who was probably the real target of Charles Manson’s murders, as it was Terry Melcher‘s Hollywood Hills home that Manson sent his acolytes to, where they brutally murdered Sharon Tate and others.) She more-or-less faded into oblivion because the times changed. During 1960 and the 1962 to 1964 period, she ranked number one at the box office, the second woman to be number one four times. She set a record that has yet to be equaled, receiving seven consecutive Laurel Awards as the top female box office star.According to the Hollywood Reporter in 2015, the Academy offered her the Honorary Oscar multiple times, but she declined as she saw the film industry as a part of her past life. Day received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in Music in 2008, albeit again in absentia.
One of the roles Doris Day turned down was Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate” (she found it “vulgar” and “offensive”). Anne Bancroft cashed in. Although scheduled to sing at one of the Oscar ceremonies, while strolling the hotel grounds she received a bad cut on her leg from a sprinkler system that required stitches; she had to cancel. She also was in talks with Clint Eastwood, her Carmel (California) neighbor to star in a Clint Eastwood project, but that never panned out.
She received three Grammy Hall of Fame Awards, in 1998, 1999 and 2012, for her recordings of “Sentimental Journey”, “Secret Love”, and “Que Sera, Sera”, respectively. Day was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007, and in 2010 received the first Legend Award ever presented by the Society of Singers.
Day was a great animal rights activist (much like Brigitte Bardot, post career) and there are some wonderful photos of Doris with Clint Eastwood, receiving Golden Globe awards in the sixties. Day became one of the biggest film stars in the early 1960s, and as of 2012 was one of eight performers to have been the top box-office earner in the United States four times. Doris Day’s began with Pillow Talk (1959), co-starring Rock Hudson who became a lifelong friend, and Tony Randall. Day received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. It was the only Oscar nomination she received in her career.[55
Doris’ personal life was not so successful. Doris Mary Koppelhoff of Cincinnati, Ohio married three times and basically dumped little Terry (her only child) in Ohio with her mother (also a divorcee) to continue touring as a vocalist with Les Brown (and his Band of Renown). Between 1949 and 1959, she recorded First husband Al Jorden was supposed to have been physically abusive, with a violent temper; she intended to divorce him before even while pregnant with her only child. Second husband was saxophonist, George Weidler. Third husband Martin Melcher adopted Terry and gave him his surname, but Melcher was abusive to both mother and son and managed to embezzle $20 million dollars of Doris’ money. Doris’ last husband (1976-1982) was Barry Comden, a maitre de, who later complained that she liked her canine friends more than him. Doris did NOT want to do “The Doris Day Show” (1968-1973) but found out after Melcher’s death that he had signed her to do one.
Day learned to her displeasure that Melcher had committed her to a television series, which became The Doris Day Show:.
It was awful. I was really, really not very well when Marty [Melcher] passed away, and the thought of going into TV was overpowering. But he’d signed me up for a series. And then my son Terry [Melcher] took me walking in Beverly Hills and explained that it wasn’t nearly the end of it. I had also been signed up for a bunch of TV specials, all without anyone ever asking me.— Doris Day, OK! magazine, 1996[
Nobody has told me “You look like Doris Day” in quite some time, which may be because Doris remained slim, trim and out-of-sight as much as possible after 1968. When “All in the Family” was popular (I mention it because of the recent “live” recreation of that Norman Lear hit, produced by Jimmy Kimmel) there was the occasional mention of “Gloria” on “All in the Family,” but I always thought it was the long blonde hair and the lack of height. Gloria (Sally Struthers) has not retained her youthful appearance, post television, like Doris Day did but, thankfully, I’ve not heard the Sally Struthers comparison since the seventies.
I just thought I’d send out a prayer for Doris’ happiness in heaven. It didn’t seem as though all her stardom and fame translated to a gloriously happy personal life, for her. A contentious divorce (her son’s) kept her from ever becoming close to her only grandson, who regrets the manipulation and maneuvering that kept him from ever knowing his grandmother. By contrast, I (we) just got a call from the grounds outside the Eiffel Tower in France from my married son and wonderful daughter-in-law, with the 10-year-old twins (Ava & Elise) posing in pictures that made it seem like they were balancing each other AND the Eiffel Tower on their palms.
Day died on May 13, 2019, at the age of 97, after having contracted pneumonia. One day after she turned 97, she told an interviewer her All Time Favorite Film role was “Calamity Jane.”Her death was announced by her charity, the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Per Day’s requests, the Foundation announced that there would be no funeral services, gravesites, or other public memorials.
Doris supposedly thought she was only 95, as her birth certificate confirming she was really 97, was only ferreted out a few years ago.
Au revoir, Doris. May you live on in happy memories. “Que sera, sera.”