Connie Francis has a voice that has been described as sounding like melting honey. And she released some of the most sugary and anodyne songs in the American songbook, pop-rockers like Lipstick on Your Collar and Stupid Cupid were big hits. They were released during the strange period in music between Elvis going to war (1956) and the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Francis sang about young love and going on v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n. By 1962 she had amassed enough hit songs to fill two sides of a Greatest Hits Record. Her albums continued to pour out, covers of songs written by Les Reed and Bert Bacharach. She recorded two excellent country albums, though they weren’t massive hits. Connie became more successful in European countries, recording albums in Spanish, Greek and German.
She even starred in a few films, as most singers were sometimes ill-advised to do. Where the Boys Are is worth a mentiion, if only to see how inoffensively American teenagers were depicted in films of this era. The film even tries to incorporate some of the surf mania that was becoming a feature of American culture at this time.
After the sixties Connie Francis’ life took an unexpectedly tragic turn.
While appearing at the Westbury Music Fair in New York, on November 8, 1974, Francis was raped at the Jericho Turnpike Howard Johnson’s Lodge and nearly suffocated to death under the weight of a heavy mattress the culprit had thrown upon her. She subsequently sued the motel chain for failing to provide adequate security and reportedly won a $2.5 million judgment, at the time one of the largest such judgments in history, leading to a reform in hotel security. Her rapist was never found.
In 1977, Francis underwent nasal surgery and completely lost her voice. She went through several more operations and even when she got her voice back, she was forced to take vocal lessons, something she had never done before.
In 1981 her brother George Franconero was killed by mafia hitmen. Franconero was a lawyer co-operating with authoirties against organised crime figures. Further sadness followed when her father had her admitted to a psyciatric hospital in Dallas, claiming she was a danger to herself. Connie got out four days later but her father had her commited to a mental hospital in Florida. Once more Connie got herself released. Then one night in February, while at her home in Essex Falls, N.J., she decided to end her life. Alone in the master bedroom of her sprawling pink ranch house, Connie reached for a bottle of sleeping pills and swallowed a handful of tablets. The following morning a housekeeper found her lying across the bed, unconscious but alive. “I was really in bad shape until April of this year,” admits Connie. “It’s very unusual to get the kind of second chance I got. But a third chance is almost unheard of.”
In a sense her whole life has been a series of chances won or lost. There is no doubt that she owes most of her success to her father’s controlling management of her. She won a talent contest aged 4, 15 years later her woeful Who’s sorrry Now sold a million copies.
|As of 2011 Connie Francis continues to perform, bathed in white light, the words to the hit Among My Souvenirs sounding out:
There’s nothing left for me
Of days that used to be
They’re just a memory
Among my souvenirs
her memories forgotten in her fans’ rapturous applause.