May 12, 2011

We Raise Our Glass To the World's Champagne Lady: Norma Zimmer

My grandma Mohney and I would belly up to the TV every Sunday night to watch Lawrence Welk!  If she liked a song she would make me hum it over and over as we ran into her music room and plopped on the bench of her baby grand piano.  I didn't have to hum very long because Grandma could play just about anything by ear.  We'd be singing that song the rest of the week for sure.  We'd never run in if Welk's Champagne Lady was about the perform because both of us thought her voice was like warm, clear syrup.  I raise my glass to Grandma Mohney and Norma Zimmer.  Norma, hum some stuff for Grandma...

Norma Zimmer, the "Champagne Lady" of TV's "The Lawrence Welk Show" and a studio singer who worked with Frank Sinatra and other pop stars, has died. She was 87.  Zimmer died peacefully Tuesday at her Brea, Calif., home, Welk's son, Larry, said Wednesday. Larry Welk didn't know the cause of death but said Zimmer had been living an active life in recent years.

"She was one of the most gracious, likable people that anyone could ever meet. The other people on the show, to this day, just respect and love her," Larry Welk said.

Zimmer performed on Welk's network and later syndicated show from 1960 to 1982 as the "Champagne Lady," the title Welk traditionally gave to his orchestra's lead female singer. Zimmer sang solos, duets with Jimmy Roberts and waltzed with Welk to the strains of his effervescent dance tunes tagged "champagne music."
She appeared on the orchestra's public TV specials that have aired (along with repeats of the series) since 1987. Zimmer took part in a tribute to Welk and his show held earlier this year at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. Welk, who stopped performing in 1989, died in 1992.

Zimmer, born in July 1923 in Larson, Idaho, grew up in Seattle. The petite blonde sang with The Girlfriends, a quartet that performed with Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, including on Crosby's famed recording of "White Christmas. Zimmer made several film and TV appearances, including one with Crosby in the 1950 film "Mr. Music" and in an episode of "I Love Lucy," and was the voice of the White Rose in the 1951 Disney film, "Alice in Wonderland." Her survivors include her sons, Ron and Mark. Her husband, businessman Randy Zimmer, died in 2008. Funeral services for Zimmer were pending.