They've been Steve & Eydie for so long that it's hard to believe there was once a Steve. And an Eydie. Theirs was a romance out of a 1950s Broadway musical like "Guys and Dolls" or "Bye Bye Birdie"—long, tempestuous and, finally, successful, always with a song in the air.
Stevie Liebowitz's father was a cantor in Brooklyn's Brownsville section, a bit disappointed that his son was cutting classes at Thomas Jefferson High School to hang out at the Brill Building on Broadway in Manhattan in hopes of cadging a job singing.
"I think in the recesses of his mind, he thought I would go on like 'The Jazz Singer,' " said Lawrence, referring to the Al Jolson movie in which a cantor's son becomes a stage star over the objections of his family. "After I started singing and knew this is really what I wanted to do, he was among my strongest supporters."
When Lawrence met Gorme in the early 1950s at Hanson's Drug Store, where the Brill Building regulars had nickel cups of coffee while waiting for their next break, she was already a moderate success. At 21, she was three years older than he and had come off a gig as the singer for the Tex Beneke Band.
Eydie Gormezano came from the other end of the world — the Bronx, East 168th Street, to be exact. Her parents were Sephardic Jews and tailors; her father, a Sicilian, and her mother, a Turk.
"My mother only wanted to know why I wasn't singing in Spanish, Turkish, Greek and some other language," Gorme said with the sincere, hearty laugh she gives to Lawrence onstage when he tells jokes she has no doubt heard a thousand times before. "Nine of them she spoke. I actually did a song in Turkish once. I did a couple of things like that and some cute little hits because they were like novelties."
Gorme died August 10, 2013, at a hospital in Las Vegas. She was 84.