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Phyllis McGuire, Last of a Singing Sisters Act, Dies at 89


#Phyllis #McGuire, the lead singer and last surviving member of the #McGuire #Sisters, who bewitched teenage #America in the 1950s with chart-topping renditions of “Sincerely” and “Sugartime” in a sweet, innocent harmony that went with car fins, charm bracelets and duck-tail haircuts, died on #Tuesday at her home in #Las #Vegas. #She was 89.

The #Palm #Eastern #Mortuary in #Las #Vegas confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.

#Ms. #McGuire, with her older sisters #Christine and #Dorothy, shot to success overnight after winning the televised “Arthur #Godfrey #Talent #Scouts” contest in 1952. #Over the next 15 years, they were one of the nation’s most popular vocal groups, singing on the television variety shows of #Ed #Sullivan, #Milton #Berle, #Andy #Williams and #Red #Skelton, on nightclub circuits across the country and on records that sold millions.

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The sisters epitomized a 1950s sensibility that held up a standard of unreal perfection, wearing identical coifs, dresses and smiles, moving with synchronized precision and blending voices in wholesome songs for simpler times. Their music, like that of #Perry #Como, #Patti #Page and other stars who appealed to white, middle-class audiences, contrasted starkly with the rock ’n’ roll craze that was taking the world by storm in the mid-to-late ’50s.

#In 1965, as the trio’s popularity began to fade, #Phyllis #McGuire’s image as the honey-blonde girl next door was shattered by published reports linking her romantically with #Sam #Giancana, a #Chicago mobster with reputed ties to the #Kennedy administration and a #Central #Intelligence #Agency plot to enlist the #Mafia in what proved to be unsuccessful attempts to assassinate the #Cuban dictator #Fidel #Castro.

#Mr. #Giancana and #Ms. #McGuire, who had been followed by federal agents for several years, appeared before a grand jury in #Chicago. #He refused to answer questions and was jailed for contempt. #She testified that she had met him in #Las #Vegas in 1961, traveled with him to #Europe, the #Caribbean and elsewhere and accepted his gifts in a continuing relationship. #She was aware that he was a reputed gangster, she said, but insisted that she knew nothing of his underworld activities.

“It makes me look terrible,” she told reporters afterward. “It would be different if I were on my own, but I’m not a single — I’m part of a trio. #My sisters and my parents — they’re brokenhearted about this.”

The #McGuire #Sisters retired from public appearances in 1968, #Christine and #Dorothy to raise families, #Phyllis to continue as a soloist. #She appeared regularly in #Las #Vegas, where she lived for the rest of her life in a mansion with a swan moat and a replica of the #Eiffel #Tower rising through the roof.

#After serving a year for contempt, #Mr. #Giancana was released, and he fled to #Mexico, where he lived in exile until arrested by the #Mexican authorities in 1974. #Deported to the #United #States, he agreed to testify in a prosecution of organized crime in #Chicago but was killed by an unknown assailant at his home in 1975.

#Ms. #McGuire remained unapologetic about her relationship with #Mr. #Giancana. “Sam was the greatest teacher I ever could have had,” she told #Dominick #Dunne of #Vanity #Fair in 1989. “He was so wise about so many things. #Sam is always depicted as unattractive. #He wasn’t. #He was a very nice-looking man. #He wasn’t flashy. #He didn’t drive a pink #Cadillac, like they used to say.”

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#In 1985, the sisters reunited for a comeback and performed for almost two decades at casinos and clubs in #Las #Vegas, #Atlantic #City and elsewhere. They sang their own hits, 1950s pop hits and #Broadway show tunes, and #Phyllis did impersonations of #Peggy #Lee, #Judy #Garland, #Pearl #Bailey and #Ethel #Merman.

“They take me back to the olden times, the beautiful times,” #Barbara #Pattison, a fan in #Toronto, told #People magazine as the comeback began. “They are not loud and they are not distant. They bring back the beauty in music.”

#Phyllis #McGuire was born in #Middletown, #Ohio, on #Feb. 14, 1931, the youngest of three daughters of #Asa and #Lillie (#Fultz) #McGuire. #Her mother was a minister of the #First #Church of #God in #Miamisburg, #Ohio., and her father was a steelworker. The sisters began singing in church when #Phyllis was 4. They performed at weddings and other services, then at veterans’ hospitals and military bases.

#Phyllis’s 1952 marriage to #Neal #Van #Ells, a broadcaster, ended in divorce in 1956. They had no children. #Dorothy #McGuire died in 2012, and #Christine died in 2019. #She is survived by nieces and nephews and her longtime companion, #Edward #Michael #Davis.

#While making #Las #Vegas her home, for years she kept a #Park #Avenue apartment and then a townhouse on #Manhattan’s #Upper #East #Side.

#After winning “Arthur #Godfrey’s #Talent #Scouts,” the sisters were regulars on #Mr. #Godfrey’s morning radio and television shows for six years. They made the covers of #Life and #Look magazines and signed with #Coral #Records, a #Decca subsidiary. Their first #Top 10 hit was “Goodnight, #Sweetheart, #Goodnight” in 1954. “Sincerely” (1955) and “Sugartime” (1958) were #No. 1 hits; they and “Picnic” (1956) each sold over a million copies.

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The #McGuire #Sisters were one of the many white groups that covered 1950s R&B hits, many by #Black artists, in what critics called blander versions though better-selling ones. They also sang for #Presidents #Richard M. #Nixon, #Gerald R. #Ford, #Jimmy #Carter, #Ronald #Reagan and #George H.W. #Bush and for #Queen #Elizabeth II.

#In 1995, an HBO movie, “Sugartime,” focused on the #Giancana-McGuire affair, with #John #Turturro as the mobster and #Mary-Louise #Parker as #Phyllis. The sisters gave their last big performance on a 2004 PBS special, “Magic #Moments: The #Best of ’50s #Pop.” They were inducted into the #National #Broadcasting #Hall of #Fame in 1994, the #Vocal #Group #Hall of #Fame in 2001 and the #Hit #Parade #Hall of #Fame in 2009.

#Long past the customary retirement years for a singer, #Ms. #McGuire remained passionate about her career.

“I don’t fear living, and I don’t fear dying,” she told #Vanity #Fair in 1989. “You only live once, and I’m going to live it to the fullest, until away I go. #And I’m going to continue singing as long as somebody wants me.”



[ source link ]
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/arts/music/phyllis-mcguire-dead.html

##Phyllis ##McGuire ##Singing ##Sisters ##Act ##Dies

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