Thursday, January 10, 2008

It Only Hurts When I Cry

Originally appeared on my old blog April 23, 2006. I'm currently without a home computer for, hopefully, just a few days.

I was listening to a few cuts from this Donna Loren compilation album recently, which got me thinking about why she never became a big star. Donna was a child star of sorts, acting and singing on television while still in grade school. As she grew into a teenager, she signed a recording contract with Capitol and began appearing in small roles in the BEACH PARTY movies cranked out in the 1960's by executive producers Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson and director William Asher at American International Pictures. Most of the time, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello played the leading roles, but Donna, along with several other cuties, could be seen in the background and occasionally got a song of her one to perform. She also did a series of Dr. Pepper commercials, so someone was definitely grooming her for stardom.

What's evident from seeing her on-screen and listening to her music is that she was a very good performer (and cute as a button). I suppose it's hard to judge her acting from the small roles I've seen, including a guest spot as a sheik's daughter infatuated with Davy Jones on THE MONKEES, but she absolutely was a terrific singer. It may not be immediately obvious from titles like "Muscle Bustle" and "Beach Blanket Bingo," but she had a wonderful voice, and she was still just a teenager when she recorded them. I particularly like "It Only Hurts When I Cry," which she performed in the 1965 film BEACH BLANKET BINGO. Not to slight Annette Funicello, who also had a career headstart working for Walt Disney for many years before, but it's clear from watching the film that Loren had star presence that Annette, I don't think, ever did (maybe boys will be boys, but I believe Annette's notoriously prominent bustline had a lot to do with her success).

After a few more TV guest shots and a busted pilot with Aaron Spelling at ABC, Donna Loren retired from show business to get married. Not an unusual move for a budding ingenue, but she was only 21 years old, and it's a pity to think about the wonderful work she didn't allow herself to give to us. Maybe if her stardom had risen more quickly, she would have thought differently about giving it all up. At any rate, if you find yourself coming across BINGO or BIKINI BEACH or PAJAMA PARTY on cable or on DVD, Donna had solo spots in all of them, so stick with them long enough to catch her number. I think you'll be happy you did.


Anonymous said...

Last night, the American Life channel aired Part One of the two-part "Batman" segment that Donna appeared in. She held her own in scenes with Cesar Romero as The Joker and was very funny.

Anonymous said...

Hey, came across this while Googling some stuff on Donna. Believe it or not, there are a few "fans" like me out here. Good symopsis of a great but "never really got it going" talent. I first saw her in one of those beachy movies, but I was struck with her voice. It was as if some unearthly talent was living within the small frame of this pretty pop icon. Much like Karen Carpenter, Loren possessed a voice that was just unbelievably powerful, natural, and way beyond a teenage vocal box.

Despite the less than stellar hookups with ho-hum producers, writers, and arrangers, Loren still manages to capture attention and maybe moreso garner a "what if" unlike all "what-if's". And even more than what you hear on the compilations, Loren was believe it or not better on "pre-live" (i.e. taped for movies or TV) recordings. Her Shindig! clips are I think the best stuff out there for her. You can hear her manipulate her remarkable instrument with breezy effortlessness; she's much more relaxed, natural, and confident in these clips. My favorite of these types of songs is her "Ten Good Reasons" on the Shindig! cut. Simply amazing blend of aural and visual fascination.

I believe Loren was simply too "late" to make a big dent in an already-saturated and by 1964 pretty road-worn girl group and singer genre (simply all the parking spaces are taken, hon!). I think she would have actually been a fabulous success as a Linda Rondstadt 70's rock/pop singer had she wanted to keep going. Oh well, our loss.

Anyway, good taste here with Donna, who by the way is living in Hawaii and dsigning clothes (NOT to be confused with the L'oren bunch). Still a beauty at 61, too.