Independent Star-News from Pasadena, California on December 13, 1964 · Page 98
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Independent Star-News from Pasadena, California · Page 98

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Pasadena, California
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Sunday, December 13, 1964
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Page 98
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absolutely nothing to do with money. When I sang for President Kennedy." Last year, at Kennedy's 45th birthdny party, Ann- Margret entertained the late President in New York's \V,aIdorf Astoria Hotel. "I sang," she pridefully recalls, 'Baby, Won't You Please Come Home,' and afterwards 1 was the only entertainer invited to go to a cocktail party at Ambassador Smith's apartment in New York. I think Smith usedtobcourambassadortoCuba. "President Kennedy was there. Cosh! lie was handsome and so nice. He spoke to me for 20 minutes. He was so gracious, so kind. Apparently he had taken the trouble to find out soinething about inc. He sure was hep. He knew where I was born, where ! had gone to school, at New Trier High in Winnelka. Wasn't that thoughtful of him? "I was so excited, so fascinated 1 just kept looking at him. 1 don't remember very much of what lie said. But I do remember sitting between Pierre Salinger and Bobby Kennedy, and then the hostess came uj to me and said, 'I know the President would love it if you would sing something for him.' So T got up and sang 'Bye, Bye, Blackbird.' There were about 50 people there. But what remains in my memory is President Kennedy sitting there, smiling at me. Then when I finished, he asked me if I could sing a certain Irish song. He said it was one of his favorites, 'Wearin' of the Green,' and I told him I couldn't. But I promised I'd learn the song for him the next time. He smiled and thanked me again. Just being there in the same room with the President of tin- United Stales, little old me who hadn't even been born in this country- -it made all the hard work seem so rewarding." S1N6IN6, DANCING I PIANO Ever since she learned to carry a tune as a 3-year- 'old in Valsjobyn, a small town in northern Sweden, Ann-Margret has worked industriously at her singing. Her mother used to teach her children's songs while her uncle Carl Aronsson played his accordion. "When we came to the United States in 1946," Ann recalls, "to join my father in Fox Lake--that's about 40 miles northwest of Chicago--my mom was determined to give me singing, dancing and piano lessons. She'd always wanted them herself as a little girl, but her folks were very poor and she had to work for other people from the time she was 8. "Anyway, Mom and Dad wanted nic to have the advantages they never had. So even before 1 could speak a word of English, Mom enrolled me in a dancing school run by Marjorie Young, and I learned rhythm before 1 learned anything. After that it was always dancing, piano and singing lessons. I can't think of a time when I. wasn't taking lessons of some sort. It wasn't until I was older that I realized my mom was working at odd jobs just to help my dad pay for all my lessons." Anna Olsson, the singer's mother, an attractive woman who still speaks with a soft Swedish accent and is 18 years her husband's junior, says, "Annie is our only child. My husband and I--we realized she had talent. We realized America is the land of op- George Burns and Ann-Margret in Las Vegas act in 1960. Burns gave her the first crack at the big time. S3S Ann has been dating Hollywood's leading bachelors, including Elvis Presley, her co-star in Viva Las Vegas. portunity. We encouraged Annie, we supported her in every way we could, and she has turned out to he a marvelous and grateful daughter. But she deserves her success. It just didn'l come to her. She worked. All through school--grade school, junior high, high school and her year at Northwestern--she sang and sang and sang. Outside she sang in church, at wedding receptions, at parties, anywhere, and she always kept up her lessons." To earn a few dollars, Annie as a teenager entered amateur contests. When she was 13, she appeared on The Morris K. Such Amateur Hour over a local Chicago station. She won first prize of $75 singing "Make Love to Me." A year later she appeared on the WGN fi/s Ten Party, won another first pri/c of $200. On The Rising Generation TV program, she won a Webcor record player. At 15 she sang on Don McNeill's Jireafe/nsl Club show. At 16 she sang on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour. "I've always had a lot of drive," she says, "a lot of energy and spunk. That's what I am--spunky. Also ambitious, but nowadays that word has an ugly connotation when applied to women." Ann-Margret has a vibrant, sultry alto voice which seems to galvanize her into torrid hand and body gestures. When she is not singing, she is a quiet, lovable, humorous, well-mannered young woman. Put her in front of a microphone, however, let the spotlight-focus on her curvaceous 5-foot-4-inch figure, or let the cameras roll and the music play, and suddenly she is transformed into the torchicst of torch singers, the moaning-lowcst of blues singers, the swingicsl of rock V rollers. She gyrates like some African whirling dervish, possessed by secret dancing rites. The music over, she reassumcs the personality of quiet Annie Olsson. It is a strange ambivalence, which prompted one of her directors, George Sidney, to say, "She makes you wonder whether to give her a slick of gum or a bracelet." George Burns, who gave her a first chance in Las Vegas, says, "When you first sec Ann-Margrct, she looks like a nice Scandinavian kid. When she starts to sing, however, she becomes an altogether different personality--a sex bomb. It's amazing." "She is a classic example," says Perry Licber of 20th Century-Fox, "of Pavlov's conditioned reflex. At the sound of her own voice, she becomes a young combination of Lena Home and Dinah Shore." Tour years ago, when Ann-Margret quit Northwestern University, she and three boys, a pianist, drummer and bass player, also from Northwestern, drove to Las Vegas for a job at the Nevada Club. It never materialized, so the combo drove further to Los Angeles, where they made the rounds of all ihc agencies looking for work. When they were down to their last $5, the Sultleones, as they were called, were booked into the Villa Marina in Newport Beach, Calif. Ann-Margret was paid $139 a week. That summer, accompanied by her parents, who drove out from Wilmette to be with her, Ann also worked Elko and Reno, then auditioned for George Burns in Los Angeles. Burns listened to the girl sing three numbers, signed her immediately for his night club act at the Sahara in Las Vegas. She proved an immediate hit whereupon Jack Benny signed her for his act. GOOD NEWS FOR THE TALENT-HUNGRY Word soon spread throughout the talent-hungry film colony that Ann-Margrct was a find. Twentieth Century-Fox was the first studio to sign her, and PARADE in 1960 asked its readers to suggest how she should be cast. They recommended she be costarred opposite Pat Boonc in a remake of Stnlc Fair, and the studio agreed. After that, other studios short of promising photogenic personalities, fought to get in line. Ann-Margret, as a result, will never again have to worry where her next dollar is coming from. Today she enjoys the best of all worlds. She lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment, rent: $320 a month, overlooking Sunset Boulevard. She visits her parents daily. She drives a motorcycle or her pink Cadillac. She has dated Eddie Fisher, Frarikic Avalon, Ty Hardin, Elvis Presley, Peler Mann, Vince Edwards and Bert Stigarman, to whom she was for a few weeks engaged--"I gave him back his ring," she admits. "There were too m a n y conflicts. To le honest, I realized that what I want more than anything in the world right now is a wonderful career. The way 1 feel about marriage, when I find somebody I can't live without, that's the man I'm going to marry. If he wants me to quit, then I'll give up my career. But until then I won't. I'm not a movie star yet, but I'm on my way and I know that there's room at the top for someone like me. I'm really the story of Cinderella come true."

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