You Almost Missed Her

Margaret Whiting passed away this week in a New Jersey nursing home at the age of 86.

Frankly, until this morning, I had never heard of her before.  But while going through my morning routine of scouring the Internet for radio show prep, I came across her obit that was titled, “Big Band Singer Dies”.  Reading the story, she was a fairly big deal in her day.  She toured with several bands, including Bob Crosby. She was even in a four women musical review that included herself, Helen O’Connell, Rose Marie (eventually, part of the Dick Van Dyke Show) and Rosemary Clooney.  That’s pretty big time.

OK, that’s interesting to a point.  But the gold had to do with when she was growing up and her dad, Richard Whiting.  He was a songwriter and came to Hollywood back in the 1930s.  He gets credit for writing the iconic “Hooray for Hollywood” song.  That’s impressive.

But one day, Margaret came home after school, all sticky from the sucker she’d been working on.  Her dad had run into a mental block, but when his little girl came up and started giving him sticky kisses, the light went on. The song, “On the Good Ship Lollipop” was born and given to Shirley Temple to sing in her next movie.

Margaret had a remarkable life.  The fact none of us knew about her or were aware of her accomplishments didn’t make it any less remarkable.  I’ve always felt that everyone’s life could be turned into a movie. We’ve all encountered heartache, victories, defeats, adventures…but when spread out over a lifetime, we tend to downplay them.

In time, the people who were aware of Margaret will be gone and she’ll quickly become just another old person in a nursing home whose story came to an end in 2011.  I’m glad I got to meet her before she headed off into obscurity and I thought you would, too.

Tim Hunter

2 thoughts on “You Almost Missed Her

  1. Tim,first of all, Happy New Year. You and your comedy are the best.

    Very nice tribute to Ms. Whiting. However, I guess something that was in the published obituary in the LA Times struck me as also interesting. I’m assuming the Times fact-checked the occupation of her last husband.

    Whiting married four times. Her first husband was Hubbell Robinson, a CBS TV executive. Her second husband, Lou Busch, used the name Joe “Fingers” Carr in his persona as a ragtime pianist, and was the father of Whiting’s daughter, Deborah, who survives her. In 1958, Whiting married John Richard Moore, a founder of Panavision. She married her last husband, gay porn star Jack Wrangler in 1994, after years of living together. Wrangler died in 2009.

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  2. Tim,

    My husband and I were fortunate enough to see Margaret Whiting perform live 24 years ago at Disneyland of all places! She was absolutely wonderful. Her interpretation of old swing numbers was spot on. We were transported back to the 40’s as she sang and watched a group of swing dancers. Those of us who were in are our 30s and younger swayed along with the music. When she was done the crowd went nuts clapping and yelling for her to come back to sing to us again. It was one of the best musical experiences of my life along. We found her schedule and went back to see her 3 more times before we had to fly back to Seattle. My husband and I still talk about that magical night. You really missed something by not “knowing” her.

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