Mama Cass – she would have made a great friend if she were still alive.
A proud and large woman with a wonderful voice to rival Whitney and Amy Winehouse. And brought down by the same monster that haunted the other two women: drugs and booze and an unhealthy lifestyle. So when I put my hands on this piece of non-fiction, I decided to give it a read. I mean, I liked Amy Poehler’s biography,
this should be more fun!
Boy was I wrong. This book depressed me. I knew she struggled with weight but I had no idea she put on weight to stand out, to be a woman that people talked about, to be the last one to be picked at the gym, to use it as a shield. Like “yes, I’m fat, whatcha gonna do!”
Eating disorder aside, she struggled with depression which ran in her family from both her mom and her dad’s side. She would get the highs that come from the diet pills and the drugs and afterwards she would slump down in the dark places where the demons whispered. A human balloon, she swelled to as much as 294 pounds before pursuing crash diets. In a single weekend of diuretic treatment at L.A.’s Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, she could shed 20 pounds.
She was pretty, she had talent and she threw kick ass parties. She knew how to make an entrance – she would wait until the party was in full swing and then she would enter and people always knew when she came in. The life of the party.
“You gotta make your own kind of music,
sing your own special song,
make your own kind of music,
even if nobody else sings along.”
Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941, in Baltimore, Maryland. She grew up in the Washington D.C. environs and in her senior year of high school, performed in a summer stock production of “The Boyfriend” at the Owings Mills Playhouse, where she played the French nurse who sings “It’s Nicer, Much Nicer in Nice.” After this experience, even though her family anticipated her seeking a college education in pursuit of a career, Cass forged ahead in the performing arts. She made a splash in New York and began an acting career, competing with Barbra Streisand for the Miss Marmelstein part in “I Can Get It for You Wholesale” in 1962.
I would say the world’s in terrible shape, but I’m afraid the world would say, ‘Look who’s talking!’
Elliot had two prime-time television specials of her own in 1969 and 1973, but most people remember her scores of television appearances throughout the early 1970s with Mike Douglas, Julie Andrews, Andy Williams, Johnny Cash, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan, Tom Jones, Carol Burnett and others. She guest-hosted “The Tonight Show”, had successful stints in Las Vegas and continued to record for RCA during these years, too. Cass had one daughter, Owen Vanessa, in April 1967 and she was married twice, first (1963-68) to fellow Big Three and Mugwumps member Jim Hendricks and second to Baron Donald von Wiedenman (1971). In 1974, she traveled to London where she had a two-week engagement at the London Palladium. After performing to sellout crowds and basking in repeated ovations, Cass tragically succumbed to a heart attack on July 29, 1974 in London, following this successful concert tour (and NOT, as is commonly believed, from choking on a sandwich).
In 1998, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Cass Elliot and her fellow band-mates from The Mamas and The Papas into that institution. Her daughter Owen represented her mother and accepted her award.
My advice is precisely the advice my mother gave me. If you believe you have talent, the next thing you must have is determination. If you keep working, keep striving, and try always to move forward a little bit with every job you do, you’ll eventually make it. And I believe that!
I say, Look, I’m here now. There must be a reason I’m here. If that’s fatalistic, be that as it may. Where my work is, is where my life is, and if we’re falling in the ocean, we’re falling into the ocean.
If you truly dig what you are doing, if you lay it out that way, nobody can not respond. That’s what rock and roll is; it’s relentless.