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“Oh, Kate, Kate, Kate...”
“Seriously, you DON'T want to see what Katey did next”
Pixyish as well as buoyant, Kathryn Elizabeth "Kate" Smith (May 1, 1907 – June 17, 1986) was America's (adult) sweetheart during the dark days of the Great Depression. Smith's voice, resonating from deep within her "big girl" body, was said to be heard in more homes in the 1930s than Franklin Roosevelt's while he humped Lucy Mercer.
Jolly and effervescent, Kate Smith was voted the number one choice by the Cattle Breeders Association of North America as "the girl that they most enjoyed seeing walk into a steak house for a good, hearty meal."
Smith is best known for her stealing the song God Bless America (At the Expense of Everyone Else) from Irving Berlin and making it her own.
edit Fat people are jolly people
As a young child, young Kate developed a healthy appetite for second helpings and attention. Her keen interest in puddings led to the family nicknaming her "Oi Lard Girl", a name that many would still refer to her as in later life. Her folksy ways, and "every woman" appearance made her look as simple as she was dumpy.
Still, she managed to keep a stiff upper stomach and persevere in the only career that was open to her, that of competitive eating. Problem was, as a one-person sport there wasn't much she could brag about, so she started singing cheery tunes.
edit Still jolly as millions lose everything
While she lived through the Great Depression, Kate never got down in the dumps. Golly gee, gosh no! Instead she put on her stiff upper lip, let a smile be her guide and went looking for a song that she knew would just cheer everybody up. She found that song in Darkies Make the Best Sweet Potato Pie, which she called "a tribute to the good cooks who stand behind their employers at dinner."
After riding that mule as far as it would go, Kate was offered a contract to sing on the DuMont Television Network in 1935. Kate started each nightly program with a hearty greeting of "Hello everybody! What's for supper?" So popular was Smith that her program was the number one program aired on DuMont during the 1930s.
edit God Bless America
During World War II, Smith discovered Irving Berlin and asked the President to firebomb the song writer "for the goodness and purity of the American People." She then took Berlin's World War I era song "God Bless America" and reworked it into "God Bless America, At the Expense of Everyone Else." Almost immediately she trampled Shirley Temple (the young star had positioned herself between Smith and the buffet table) and became the biggest thing to hit the American airwaves.
edit Unlucky in love
Smith never married in real life. That did not prevent the popular press from linking her to a number of eligible bachelors from the social elite of that era. She was frequently seen night clubbing with the likes of Vincent Price and Rip Taylor, but the relationships went nowhere, except to heartbreak.
edit Stops the show at Woodstock
Kate's final public appearance was at Woodstock. As she took the stage she burst forth with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra and cut loose with medley of her all time favorites of acid rock and worker rights songs. In the midst of her set, Kate Smith stopped the music and proclaimed her love of rain and the Dali Lama. The crowd chanted her name, and the two became one. It was a totally beautify moment, Dude.
She was later found passed out with Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin after partaking in a bad bowl of hash.
Smith also did a turn as a cage dancer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. As it turns out, she ended up injuring the set and was released when found making out with Dean Martin behind a peek-a-boo door during the broadcast.
edit Into the Sunset
As the 1970s dawned, Smith found herself out of step with the coming of the "Hip" generation and found that she was most popular with the "Broken Hip" generation instead.
To reintroduce herself to broader age range she embarked in several duet albums in hopes of reaching the record buying public. Material that emerged from the collaboratives included YMCA with the Village People, Trippin on Your Love with what was left of the Beach Boys and That's Why This Lady is a Tramp with Cyndy Lauper.
Her last album, It Must Be Jelly 'Cause Jam Don't Shake Like Dat was released in October 1984.
Eventually, Kate Smith died (as we all will) and was disposed of (as we all will be). Her albums, cavalcades of cacophony and erudite elucidations, are found in finer Salvation Army stores around the world.
edit Post script
In 2007 Lifetime Movies for Women premiered Large and in Charge: The Kate Smith Story to great acclaim. In August of that year, John Travolta was awarded the Remote d'Oro from the Television Academy for his portrayal of Smith during the struggle she fought against licking the frosting off of every sweetroll she encountered. In his acceptance speech, Travolta fought back tears as he thanked the voting members for the honor and then looked heavenward, blew a kiss and proclaimed to the world "Kate, if you're up there, pour some sugar on me!"
- ↑ DuMont didn't begin to broadcast television programming until 1946, still Miss Smith loved to get in front of some electrical equipment and just sing herself silly.