One of the most surprising and touching remembrances of singer Lesley Gore comes from longtime Southern California roots music singer and songwriter Jann Browne, who posted this loving anecdote on her Facebook page shortly after news surfaced of the “It’s My Party” singer’s death on Monday at age 68 from lung cancer.
“A few years back, some of my friends signed me up for a talent contest in Palm Springs,” wrote Browne, who has lived in the desert community for several years but continues to perform periodically in her former stomping ground of Orange County, as well as elsewhere in the region.
“It was an outdoor street affair. I kept telling them I’d rather watch than participate, but the next thing ya know, ol’ Jed’s a millionaire and my name was on the list,” Browne wrote. “The catch was you could only perform Lesley Gore songs.
“There were a lot of guys in drag that were pretty good, although they didn’t know they could actually change the key with karaoke, so a lot of them were singing higher than a giraffe’s crotch in Lesley’s key. There were also some female power singers that sounded more like Lesley goes Chaka Khan.
“Well, it was my turn. I was wearing a Rat Pack T shirt, raggedy jeans and flip flops so those creatures in drag made me look like a girl named Sooner. (A favorite movie of mine.) Everybody seemed to be choosing ‘Judy’s Turn to Cry’ and ‘It’s My Party,’ so I opted for ‘You Don’t Own Me.’
“I had no idea where or who the judges were in this sea of people, so there was no one I could suck up to. I ended up winning the whole shebang, which shocked me because the crowd was screaming for the gorgeous guys in drag.
“After the win, I was escorted over to meet the judges. One was Lesley Gore in the flesh. It honestly took my breath away, thinking about all the times as a young girl standing in front of a mirror, trying to get my flip-do like hers and singing into a hairbrush that I had taped onto a baton so it felt like a mic and stand. There she was, my teen idol!
“I met her longtime companion, Lois, as well, and we sat and chatted for a good long while after Lesley went on and on about my Rat Pack T shirt. She autographed it for me. Haven’t washed it since. What a great memory for me!
“You were the TEEN QUEEN, Miss Gore, and I thank you for all of those singing lessons back in my youth and all the love you showed for me one fine sunny day,” Browne wrote. “Rest In Peace, dear lady.”
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