The staff for the Dean Martin Show went on a nationwide tour to find new talent for the Golddiggers and they came to Houston. The producer had chosen four of the girls to form another group called "The Ding-a-Ling Sisters" (boy, guess I wasn't thinking too much about my feminist side yet) and there were four open spots. I got one.
Before my life with the Golddiggers, I had literally been brought up in a trunk. My Dad ran a legitimate theatre in Houston and my brother and I began our careers at an early age. I was seven and my brother was ten when the bug bit us.
By the time we had reached our teen years we had written, acted, danced, sung, stage managed, run a theatre in Houston, and in summer stock in upstate New York, props, lights, been on local and national television, and sang in night clubs.
I never dreamed I'd give up theatre to giggle and wiggle on national television but I did for a while and I was scared to death. I auditioned in Houston at Patsy Swayzee's Dance Studio (Patrick's mom and my dance teacher and friend) for Jonathan Lucas–Director/Choreographer, Janet Tighe–Producer's Assistant, and Lee Hale–Music Director (Lee's published a book called Backstage at the Dean Martin Show).
They asked if I liked to travel and of course instantly I said yes. The thing was, I was to go to LA, film a few Dean Martin Shows, go to Vegas, learn the act and perform with the group and Tony Bennett, go to Vietnam with the Bob Hope Christmas Show, and then decide If they liked me and I liked them.
Well, I guess we liked each other, 'cause I stayed for over two years. I was flown first class (last time that ever happened!) from Houston to LAX. My Mom had sewn new outfits for me so I'd look my best. I was taken to the Starlight Motel on Olive Street down from NBC and my heart sank.
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Boy, Johnny Carson used to joke about Burbank but I never realized how ugly it really was. The motel was fine, safe, and had a little kitchen.
I shared the room with two other new girls, another from Houston, Marilyn and one from NYC, Janice. We had our call to be at NBC to rehearse in the morning. Don't think I slept much. We were all so excited and nervous. We called family and friends and lay awake trying to sleep.
The morning finally came and we were up and ready and going to "the studio," wow. We walked down the street to NBC and the doorman inside told us where to go. There they all were, the folks that hired me in Houston, the accompanist, and all the girls. They had an earlier starting time. I guess they were prepping the "old girls" to meet the "new girls." They had a few tricks up their sleeves, sort of a mini hazing (messing up the harmonies and making you think you did it!). Sort-of naughty on our first day, but we were all soon fast friends.
Everyone had their best best friend, which wasn't necessarily the roommate you had, and everyone was part of a family. After the morning rehearsal for music we broke for lunch, came back and worked on the movement. This was for a segment of the Dean Martin Show. As I recall, rehearsals began on Monday, by Thursday we blocked on the set and taped the next day with Mr. Martin. I do recall there wasn't a lot of time. The guest stars came in during the week and, as everyone knows by now, Mr. Martin came in the day of shooting. He liked to be fresh. What a great guy.
We were posed around him while he sat on the couch singing "Welcome to My World" and for my first big taping, they placed me right off his right shoulder. I was nervous but being the professional I'd been all of my life practically, I knew it would be swell.
We began the number and when it was time for me to chime in with harmony I gave it all I had (I have an alto voice you really can't miss).
Mr. Martin very nicely said, "Cut." When Dean spoke the earth moved around there. I just figured something had gone wrong in the sound booth or something. Mr. Martin asked the producer, pointing his thumb toward me, "New Girl?"
I died. My God. Was it me!?!
Jonathan, the director, very sweetly came up to me and said, "Don't sing out loud, just move your lips, Okay?" Well what did I know? We had already taped our parts in the studio (called a "voice over") but I thought to make it look "live" I should sing out. Unfortunately, I was singing right in Dean's mic so it sounded like an uneven duet. Boy, what a first day.
Of course, I found out how much money it costs when they "stop tape" and I never did that again (unless it was my solo of course). Enough! I am writing a novel. I'll give another installment sometime.
Bye - Francie Mendenhall
The caption for this picture: LOVELY AND TALENTED - A smashing young vocal group, "The Golddiggers", are at the Hotel Sahara on a Congo Room billing starring the cool Texan, Roger Miller. The new group, 13 beautiful girls, have just been signed to appear regularly on the Dean Martin Summer Show.
- Short History of the Golddiggers
- Franci Mendenhall - Golddigger Memories 1970 - 1973
- Linda (Alberici) Eichberg - Memories of The Golddiggers of 1973 - 1988
- Maria Lauren - The Golddiggers Today & Yesterday
- The Golddiggers at the 2009 Grammy Awards
- Dean Martin Roasts
- Short History of the Golddiggers
- Franci Mendenhall - Golddigger
Memories 1970 - 1973
If you know one of the Golddiggers, we'd love to hear from them - and continue our online Golddiggers reunion!
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