In my time at the Imperial Room, I had the great pleasure of working with Ginger Rogers. She was one of only a few true iconic movie stars who appeared with us. We usually think of Ginger as one half of the celebrated dance pair, Astaire and Rogers. The two danced together on screen for 16 years (from 1933 to 1949) and made 10 films during that time.
It was now February of 1976, and she could still sing and dance amazingly well (even though she was in her mid-60s). Ginger was performing solo by this time, because Fred – who was 12 years her senior – had stopped dancing professionally and was devoting his time to acting.
Her show was well produced, and I could tell she had a good choreographer. Backed by eight dancers, it was an absolute class act. Though I don’t know the reason, early in the run she decided to add a number. She asked me to write an arrangement of an Irving Berlin tune from one of her old movies. I did so quickly, and she liked it so much I gave it to her as a gift.
Her show ran for two weeks, and I was very moved by the way she closed the show each night. After the final chart and after her final bow, she stepped up to the microphone, gazed out – as if peering off to a far away place – and sweetly said, “Good night, Fred.”
A partnership as close as theirs, did not fade.