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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- February 13, 1995
- Vol. 43
- No. 6
They're Playing My Song
Maybellene Was a Makeup Line, Mandy a Dog and Michelle Simply Rhymed with "Ma Belle." But When Singers Pined for Donna or Summoned Barbara Ann, They Were Inspired by a Flesh-and-Blood Love
Sure, it was her brother who wrote it for her. That doesn't mean it wasn't an expression of love. "I was 13, Fred was 23, and I think he was trying to get closer to me," says Barbara Ann Rizzo (née Fassert), the woman behind the 1961 Regents hit.
She was sitting with her mother in the kitchen of their home in The Bronx one day in 1960 when she heard her brother Charles and his group burst into Fred's infectious song. "When they said my name, I was so excited," she says. "I thought, 'I'm a movie star!' "
Well, at least a household tune. The Regents' recording of "Barbara Ann" spent seven weeks on Billboard's singles chart; in 1966, the Beach Boys made it famous all over again. Not everyone believed Rizzo when she took credit. "I wasn't totally convinced at first," says Pat Rizzo, her husband of 29 years. "I thought, she must really care for me if she's trying to impress me with this story."
The original Regents disbanded in 1975. Charles Fassert now owns a recording company, Fred is a New York City building inspector and Barbara Ann, a high school grad and mother of three, owns a Bronx supermarket with her husband. She has the original "Barbara Ann" 45 at home, and whenever the son£ plays in public, "I blush," she says. "I feel the same way I did the first time I heard it—amazed."
"Whenever I introduce myself to someone," says Sharona Alperin, 34, "they say, 'As in My?' I've even talked about it with operators at Victoria's Secret."
It's no wonder. Just 13 days after "My Sharona" was released in 1979, the Knack's first album went gold. The song was revived last year in the film Reality Bites. And to think it all started when the group's lead singer, Doug Fieger, "fell in love with my odor," as Alperin puts it. The year was 78 and Alperin, a 17-year-old senior at L.A.'s Fairfax High, was introduced to Fieger, then 26, by a mutual friend. "It was chemical," confirms Fieger, who wrote his ode (with bandmate Berton Averre) after Alperin rebuffed his advances. "I hoped she'd be flattered."
She was, but it wasn't until Fieger invited her on tour that Alperin dumped her steady beau for the man who wrote, I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind.... M-m-m-my Sharona. She says that she had her parents' blessing: "We were a close family. It seemed like the natural progression of my life."
Alperin graduated from high school and spent the next three years as a rock star's girlfriend, hanging out with the likes of Cher and Debbie Harry. But by 21, she had "expired on my life with Doug," she says. "I decided to go back to being my Sharona." Still single, Alperin now sells houses to Hollywood bigwigs. She keeps in touch with Fieger—who knew an original when he saw one. "It shouldn't take a song to make you feel special," Alperin says. "I felt special before 'My Sharona,' and I feel special today."
Like a fool, I fell in love with you/ You turned my whole world upside down.
Truer lyrics were never written. When Eric Clapton composed "Layla" in 1970, he was passionately but chastely in love with his friend George Harrison's wife, model Patti Boyd. Boyd was no stranger to playing muse—Harrison had written "Something" for her just two years before. "But 'Something' was a gentle love song," says Clapton biographer Ray Coleman, while "Layla," which took its title from a Persian tale of unrequited love, "was about desperation."
The message got through. Boyd started, and then stopped, a clandestine affair with Clapton, who plunged into heroin addiction for three years after their breakup. But the Harrison marriage was troubled, and in 1974, when Clapton confronted George with the news that he loved Patti, the Beatle reportedly replied, "Do whatever you like, man." Boyd and Clapton married in 1979, then divorced in 1988.
Remarkably, the principals in this folic à trois remain friends. Harrison and Clapton have toured together—although "Layla" was a bit of a sticking point. ("Every time I play it...I've wondered what the hell goes through his mind," Clapton has said.) Boyd, now 50 and a photographer, lives in London. She dates real estate developer Rod Weston and is still close to both exes. "Being an inspiration to musicians was a great tribute," Boyd said recently. "But it's not enough."
THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA
Tall and tan and young and lovely, the real "Girl from Ipanema," Helô de Menezes, also proved to be nobody's fool. She was 14 when her after-school strolls past a Rio bar inspired the 1964 bossa nova hit; 17 when composers Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes pointed her out to a mutual friend, revealing that she had been their inspiration. "I couldn't believe it, "says Helô, an army general's daughter who lived in Rio's fashionable Ipanema beach section. "I thought, 'This song is about me? It can't be—I'm so average, even thin.' "
But Helô, now 47, knew how to take the compliment. She parlayed her fame into a modeling and acting career—after sensibly finishing school and receiving a teaching certificate. Married to her high school sweetheart, Fernando Pinheiro, for 29 years, she has four children and anchors a women's talk show on Brazilian TV She was thrilled when, in 1986, her then 19-year-old daughter Kiki won the 12th annual Girl from Ipanema beauty contest. But in some ways, that role will always be Helô's. "I'll be walking down the street and somebody will come up behind me and start whistling the song," she says. "Even after all these years, I still get a kick out of it."
SONG FOR DAVID
She was tempting fate, writing a song for her imprisoned husband that promised the love in my heart will keep. In 1971, a year after Joan Baez recorded "Song for David," David Harris's 20-month incarceration for draft-resisting came to an end. The couple split three months later. "We had problems before I got out," says Harris, 48, a writer now living outside San Francisco. "Our relationship was defined by a larger situation—the Vietnam War."
They met in 1967, when Baez's business manager—who owned the Menlo Park bookstore where Harris worked—suggested David "hit Joanie up for money" for his cause, Harris says. Harris, an antiwar organizer, ran into Baez at a rally soon afterward. They wed in 1968, and their son Gabriel was born five months after Harris went to jail. He didn't hear "Song for David" right away: "We didn't get the latest music in prison."
Harris, who remains friendly with Baez, later wed writer Lacey Fosburgh, who died of cancer in 1993. He lives with their daughter Sophie, 11, and Gabriel, now 25 and a carpenter. He doesn't own "Song for David." "I don't know the lyrics," he says. "I never identified with it."
They're hardly tunes to warm a lover's heart. The 1970 hit "Wild World," written when Cat Stevens and Patti D'Arbanville were newly an item, foretells the end of their relationship (If you want to leave/ Take good care...); "Lady D'Arbanville " pictures her dead (Though in your grave you lie/ I'll always be with you...). "I cried when he played it for me," says D'Arbanville, who met Stevens (né Steven Georgiou) in 1968, when she was an 18-year-old model in London. "I know I must have done something to hurt him."
But their on-and-off relationship was fun while it lasted. The couple had their first date the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, D'Arbanville remembers, and "Lady D'Arbanville" soared up the British charts while they were together. When they split in 1974, Patti wrote in her diary, "I still love him..."
She went on to make movies and become a mother—first to Jesse, 12, her son with Don Johnson, and then to three children with her current husband, New York City firefighter Terry Quinn. Now 43 and living on Long Island, she has a major role on Fox's New York Undercover. Last year, quite by chance, she ran into Stevens—who had become a Muslim fundamentalist. "Because of his religion, he communicated to me through my husband," D'Arbanville says. "But he looked happy. That's all you can wish for anyone you've loved."
She isn't sure why he did it. In 1973, when Mick Jagger wailed Angie, I still love you, baby for all the world to hear, the Angle in question was the stylishly androgynous wife of his best friend David Bowie. "I think my name fit the melody," says Angie Bowie, who was divorced from David 1980. "That's usually the way it works."
There may have been more to it. Before he wrote the lyrics, Jagger, according to Angie, propositioned her in a Manhattan hotel room. He was still married to his first wife, Bianca, but Angie wasn't shocked—such things were hardly rare in rock circles, and she and Bowie had an open marriage. She also wasn't thrilled, she has claimed: When Jagger kissed her, she realized he reminded her of a goat.
In her 1993 tell-all, Backstage Passes, Angie reflected upon the song. Did that encounter "mean more to him than I'd ever imagined," she wrote, or was using her name merely a publicity stunt?
Now a poet and singer, Angie, 45, lives in Atlanta with Stasha, 14, her daughter by rocker Andrew Lipka (Bowie was awarded custody of their son Zowie, now 22 and called Joe). Angie hasn't seen Jagger in years, but she still loves hearing her song. "I have to be honest," she says. "It's the most flattering thing in the world."
SUITE: JUDY BLUE EYES
Creating a song for someone, Judy Collins believes, "is a good way to say something that you can't say any other way." So what exactly did Stephen Stills have in mind when he wrote, I am yours/ You are mine/ You are what you are...(the refrain to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes") in 1969? "I have no idea," says Collins, 55, who lives in Manhattan with her companion of 16 years, designer Louis Nelson. "It means everything to everyone."
Well, communication may not have been their strong suit. Collins met Stills in 1968 when he played backup on her album Who Knows Where the Time Goes. Their yearlong affair was "stressed," she says. "We lived on opposite coasts; I was in therapy, he hated that modern approach. But difficult relationships often stimulate art."
"Judy Blue Eyes" was released when "we were sort of over," says Collins. Still, she relates, "Graham Nash once wrote me that they sing 'Judy Blue Eyes' all over the world, so I'm always with them onstage," she says. "I thought that was adorable."
Their paths first crossed in a hallway at Lubbock High in Lubbock, Texas, when recent grad Buddy Holly swept sophomore Peggy Sue Gerron off her feet—and didn't even stop to pickher up. "He said, 'I'm really sorry, I just don't have time,' " remembers Peggy Sue, the daughter of an engineer. They met again when she began dating Holly's best pal and bandmate, Crickets drummer Jerry Allison. "Buddy and I laughed when we saw each other," says Peggy Sue, 54. "He told Jerry, 'I've already overwhelmed your girl.' "
It was the beginning of a friendship that would inspire two classic songs, "Peggy Sue" and "Peggy Sue Got Married," and last until Holly's fatal plane crash in 1959. Like that first meeting, Peggy Sue's rock and roll immortality came about by accident. Rising star Holly—who, for the record, "was not a nerd; he was very attractive," she says—had planned to call his latest tune "Cindy Lou," after his sister and a niece. But when they got to the studio in 1957, "it didn't work," Peggy Sue relates. "So Jerry said, 'Let's put my girl's name on it.' "
The song shot up the charts, and when she and Allison married the following summer, Holly took the opportunity to write a sequel. He would not survive to see it released. Since then, Peggy Sue hasn't capitalized much on her association with a legend. Divorced from Allison in 1965, she married plumbing contractor Lynn Rackham and divorced again. With two children and twin grandsons, she recently retired from her Sacramento plumbing business. A few years back she attended a meeting of the national Buddy Holly Society. And last year she helped with the research for an as-yet-unpublished biography of Holly's former managers. "The best part of those days was being part of something we all believed in," she says. "The establishment didn't want to hear about it, but we knew rock and roll would never die."
Thirty-six years after Ritchie Valens's death, Donna Ludwig Fox still remembers him vividly: "He always looked you in the eye And he was immaculate. His shoes were so shiny you could see your face in them, and he smelled fresh, like soap and water." To recall his voice calling her name, of course, Fox, 52, need only listen to "Donna," the 1958 hit Valens recorded in her honor.
She got to know Ritchie Valenzuela (his surname was later changed by his manager) the year before, at San Fernando High School. They dated secretly, since Donna's father, a car dealer, would not let her associate with Mexican-Americans. After Valens left school to pursue music, they agreed to see other people, but when Donna brought a male friend to one of his concerts, Ritchie was rattled. Donna first heard Donna, where can you be? on her car radio and "started crying," she says. Four months later, Valens died in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. "It was my first love," she says, "and my first taste of death." Now a manager at a Sacramento mortgage company and a grandmother, the divorced Fox reminisces: "Ritchie used to say, 'When I'm famous, we can get married and have a house with a cabinet full of my gold records.'...We'll never know what could have been."
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