I love Doris Day.
She probably was my first love, since my mother loved her, too, and we faithfully watched Day’s movies whenever they were on — which was a lot. I still find nothing quite as comforting as watching an old Doris Day comedy on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
On one such Sunday, during my years of struggling with my sexual orientation, Day’s classic Calamity Jane aired and I laughed as she paraded around in drag, undecided whether she wanted to be a boy or a girl. (She even lived with a femme.)
I’d seen the film dozens of times. But when Day started to sing “Secret Love,” I felt like I’d never heard it before.
Once I had a secret love / That lived within the heart of me/ All too soon my secret love / Became impatient to be free.
I got choked up, thinking about the roommate that I was secretly in love with. And even though Calamity Jane was hankerin’ for Wild Bill Hickok, I found an odd kind of reassurance in the song. Plus, I wasn’t the only one who imagined that Calam really was singing about Katie.
Years later, I realized that not only Calamity Jane is a lesbian icon, but Doris Day is, too. From time to time, rumors crop up that Day actually is a lesbian, but they are based on little more than the fact that her marriages were unhappy and she is committed to animal welfare. Still, a girl can wish.
This week marks a comeback of sorts for the 87-year-old Day as she releases her first album in 17 years, My Heart. The album, which for now is available only in the U.K., contains previously unreleased recordings produced by Day’s late son Terry Melcher.
The songs include some from Day’s television specials as well as tunes written by The Beach Boys and Joe Cocker, among others. As Day told Advocate.com, “I had to sing some modern songs because I had already done all of the old ones.”
One of Day’s admirers, Paul McCartney, spoke to her about the album and her career for The Telegraph. If the interview seems unlikely, keep in mind that the two share not only a long musical career, but an active involvement in animal rights issues. Here are some highlights from the interview.
Paul McCartney: Is it true that you didn’t want to sing “Secret Love” [Oscar winning song in 1954] in [Calamity Jane] originally?
Doris Day: Yes. It worried me that if I had to sing it in character as Calamity rather than in my voice it might interfere and make it seem so phony. But I was taught to see the difference.
PM: With your new album I wasn’t sure what to expect because you hadn’t worked in show business for awhile … but you seem so perky and I feel that spirit in the album.
DD: It has been a long time. I had a lot of fun doing it and I hope people enjoy it.
PM: When you’re singing, there’s a lot of emotion in your voice. Is that from your early training with vocal coach Grace Raine?
DD: She decided I should have three lessons a week and we couldn’t afford that so she gave me three for the price of one. She was a wonderful lady who had retired from the WLW Radio (a Cincinnati talk radio station). She knew that the words meant so much to me and that’s what she really liked. And they’ve always meant so much to me. I’m singing to someone.
PM: Was there any single moment that made you dedicate your life to helping animals?
DD: I’ve just always loved animals. With the band, I couldn’t have any pets then when I went into films and stayed in one place, I could. I’ve had many of them and I still have many.
PM: Is it true that on the set of The Man Who Knew Too Much, you demanded from Alfred Hitchcock that the animals on set should be better cared for?
DD: I did. Because they weren’t being looked after. They were being used. So I spoke with Hitch about it and he agreed and then they were treated beautifully.
PM: And now at the end of every film, there’s a statement saying no animals were harmed making this movie. So you were a pioneer in that, Doris.
DD: That’s the way I feel. I just love animals, babies and music.
And I bet they love Doris Day, too. As do we all. I hope she makes an appearance or two to promote My Heart. I’ve missed her.
Is Doris Day among your personal dykons? What is your favorite Day song or movie?