Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ginny Dee 1976

I wrote this in 1976, while attending Suffolk University in Boston for a journalism degree. I worked as a student aid for the VA where Virginia DeGeorge worked. This was an interview with her for one of my classes. Wherever you are Ginny, I hope you realized your dream.

Ginny Dee:1976

"Ginny, telephone call for you," someone yelled from across the Veterans Administration Services Office, located on the fourth floor of the John F. Kennedy building in Boston.
"Is that Chuck Berry?" Virginia DeGeorge pointed to a small portable radio on an adjoining desk and moved her shoulders slightly to the beat. She expected no answer. She knew. She reached for the telephone at her elbow.
"Hello, Virginia DeGeorge speaking," she chirped into the mouthpiece. "Sorry, but that isn't the correct number. But I might be able to trace it. I'll call you tomorrow morning one way or another." She hung up frowning and wrote a memorandum to herself on a yellow sheet of paper.
Someone else grabbed her attention.
"Ginny, look at these photographs of the rugs I designed." Before Virginia DeGeorge could answer the tall gray-haired man dressed in a light blue three-piece suit, the phone rang again. The man placed the pictures on the desk in front of her. Virginia picked up the Polaroids, nodded, smiled and the man disappeared behind a blue partition. She handled the caller promptly; then lit a menthol Silva Thin cigarette and blew cigarette smoke at the ceiling.
"As I was saying, I've led a very uninteresting life and I doubt if you'll be able to find anything about me that could turn out to be a story." She motioned her head towards the radio again.
"Oh, isn't that Johnny Ray? I used to wear a sailor cap turned inside out with his name written all over it." She told a story about a time when she and her friends skipped school to see Johnny Ray perform live.
"The next day the principal asked me why I hadn't come to school the day before. I told him I'd been sick. What I hadn't known was that the Globe had taken a picture of me and my friends, and we were plastered all over the newspaper." She laughed at the memory. It was a happy laugh, bubbly.
She turned serious again. "Someday they're going to build the Kennedy Library, and I'll have two poems in it." She reached to her left and produced a 59-cent composition book. Neatly written on the cover on the right hand corner were the words: "Original Compositions by Ginny Dee." The composition book contained 86 poems. Number 40 was a poem entitled "A Woman" about Jacqueline Kennedy. Number 46 was about John F. Kennedy.
"I sent those two to her, uh, Jackie, eight years ago. She sent me a letter thanking me and saying that they would be included in the Kennedy Library when it would be built. I don't know when that'll be." She grabbed at a lock of her dark hair and pulled it downward in a small nervous gesture.
"Everyone in my family has been in show business. Music is in my blood."
Virginia's father was a violinist. He played behind such people as Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder, The McGuire Sisters, and Andy Williams. He wanted her to learn to play the violin, but the instrument did not interest her. She learned to play the piano by ear and later learned to play the guitar and the organ.
"We always had a piano in the house. My mother played although she was deaf," she said with pride.
Virginia DeGeorge was born in Everett, Massachusetts on September 7, 1936. She attended Everett High School and was a class officer. She was also a member of the Gilbert and Sullivan Club and the school's Glee Club. In 1955, she entered the Women's Army Corps to be with her husband.
"My husband was such a nice man." She clenched her fist and made a face as she said this. "My mother liked him, too," she grinned sarcastically. "She used to let me in the house, then slam the door in his face."
She was discharged from the service in 1966 and began singing with a small combo.
"I sang with them for two years. Then they went to New York, so I went out on my own and sang for awhile at the Arbeiter Club in Jamaica Plain." Almost as an afterthought she added, "That was before I became too fat to wear those slinky gowns."
Ginny Dee, her pen name, had opportunities, but it seems nothing ever turned out right. The big break needed in the music business never seemed to materialize for her.
"My father played my music for Tony Bennett, The McGuire Sisters, The Platters and Andy Williams." According to Virginia, they were impressed with her work. "They told my father that the music was good and even kept the music, but I never heard from them again."
"I once signed a contract with Ace Music Company. I was 23 then." The telephone on her desk rang, and she turned to it.
"Hello, Virginia DeGeorge speaking," she chirped. "No, I can't help you, but if you hang on I'll get someone who can." She walked behind the blue partition and called one of the women there to handle the call.
"Now, where was I? Oh yeah, Ace Recording Company. The manager called me in to hear Pat O'Day—she had one hit, "Dear John"—sing one of my songs. I told him she was killing it and walked out. She was singing country and western. I don't write country and western. I write what you might call ballads." She grabbed another cigarette and lit it.
"I've had other offers, but most of them wanted me to get an apartment alone somewhere in town. They'd pay for the rent, of course. That wasn't for me. If I can't make it on my feet, I'm not going to get there on my back. Of course, that was when I was young and lovely." She laughed shyly and quickly added; "I was young once but never lovely."
"You know, I probably will never give up. I've got music in my blood. Every year, I send my music to the American Songwriter's Festival. Maybe someday …"  She let her words trail off and stared at the radio. Telephones and strange voices drowned out the song, a Johnny Mathis ballad. Abruptly, she began to talk again.
"I'm so stupid.  I don't give up. Maybe if I bought a long streaming wig and put on dirty clothes and stood and played my music on a street corner somewhere, then maybe…" Someone walked by and said that it was time to go home. Ginny Dee lit a cigarette and prepared to leave.
"Whatever happened to Ginny Dee? I don't know. I honestly don't know. When I was young, I really never took things seriously. Then by the time I realized how important it was, it was too late."

Virginia DeGeorge said her good-byes and left. The office was quiet except for the radio someone had left on. Sarah Vaughan came on and played to an empty office.

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