In 1953, singer India Adams was living with her first husband in New York when the beloved Vincente Minnelli musical "The Band Wagon" with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse opened at Radio City Music Hall.
" Dorothy Kilgallen had in her column, 'the biggest news around Radio City Music Hall is who is singing for Cyd Charisse in "The Band Wagon"?' I wanted to phone her and say, 'I did it.' But I was afraid. So I didn't."
Back in the day of the big movie musicals, ghost singers were hired to supply the singing voices of many of the top stars, especially musical comedy stars whose specialty was dancing (including Rita Hayworth, Eleanor Powell, Vera-Ellen, Leslie Caron and Charisse) or for non-musical performers cast in musicals, such as Deborah Kerr in "The King and I" or Natalie Wood in "West Side Story." Though Audrey Hepburn sang in 1957's "Funny Face," her voice wasn't right for 1964's "My Fair Lady," so she was dubbed in by Marni Nixon, who also sang for Kerr and Wood.
"The big difference between me and my group [of ghost singers] and Marni was that she was much later and it was not quite the deep, dark secret that it was when I did it," says Adams. "When we did it, you had to swear on a Bible you weren't going to tell anybody."
Besides singing "New Sun in the Sky" and "That's Entertainment" with Astaire, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan in "The Band Wagon," Adams also sang for Joan Crawford in the entirely forgettable 1953 camp musical "Torch Song." Ironically, she sang the song "Two-Faced Woman" for Charisse for a number that was filmed but cut from "The Band Wagon." Later, her recording was used for Crawford when the number was resurrected for "Torch Song." The two numbers can be seen side-by-side in "That's Entertainment III."
Adams is still performing nearly 60 years later in clubs and musicals such as "Can-Can." She also was a popular performer in radio, TV and theater in England, where she lived from 1965 to 1981. Adams has also cut three albums available on her website, http://www.indiaadams.com.
Saturday and Sunday, Adams will be singing standards at the Catalina Bar & Grill accompanied by her musical director, Paul Horner, on piano.
"I love singing," said Adams, sitting in the antique-filled living room of the ranch-style Encino house she shares with her husband, interior designer Quentin Rance. "My voice is still strong. Thank God I'm healthy and strong. If something comes up I'm happy to do it."
For a few years, she did a show with two other ghost singers, Betty Wand, who supplied the vocals for Leslie Caron in "Gigi," and Annette Warren, who dubbed in Ava Gardner in "Show Boat." "We were Hollywood's Secret Singing Stars. Betty Wand passed away, so that was the end of the show."
This weekend's show, she says, is "really" personal. "I'm talking about myself and telling things and stories I haven't ever done before. I am really having fun with it."
Adams, who grew up in L.A., has been singing her whole life. "It is the only thing I wanted to be," Adams says. "I started singing in clubs when I was in high school. I had a friend in school who had a little three-piece band and he said if I went out with him one night, he would let me sing. I sang and the boss offered me a job but he could only afford to have me for two nights. I said if I didn't charge him for the other two nights, could I work there. He said 'alright.' Then I just started working clubs in town."
She was auditioning to perform at a nightclub when the MGM offer came around. Though she didn't get the job in the club, it just so happened that an MGM producer was in the audience and asked if she would ghost sing for Charisse.
Adams says that almost every star who was dubbed in the movies wanted to do their own singing.
"Joan [Crawford] wanted to do her own singing. I actually have a record with a song that I did for her, where she also did it. She kept doing it over and over and she'd say, 'Is that any better?' "
India Adams at Catalina Bar & Grill
Where: Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 Sunset Blvd.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday