The Australian songbird Lana Cantrell first came to the attention of American audiences when her cousin persuaded her to sing for the manager of the New Orleans Playboy Club. Although she was a virtual unknown without much “stage presence,” her singing more than impressed the talent booker, and she was soon entertaining the Playboy audiences on a regular basis.
Once she established herself as a contender at the Clubs, she was booked to play nightclubs across the country and appear on the various TV variety shows of the 70’s. But even though she had a recognizable name—with a voice to match—occasionally she got into trouble. Lana told me about how, “One time I was appearing at a casino in Las Vegas at the same time Shecky was there.” (Which isn’t hard to do because in those days, Shecky was always in Vegas!) “Shecky was predictable at that time. He could always be counted on for causing trouble and getting arrested on a regular basis.
“Well, very late one night—or early is probably more accurate—I was driving down ‘the Strip’ at about three or four in the morning, in my little blue Volkswagen, and I was stopped by the police. I can’t say whether I was speeding or jumped a curb or what, but the police pulled me over. The officer said, ‘Got your license?’ ‘No, but you know its me,’ I said, shaking my head and pointing to the marquee. I may have had a few drinks, so I’m not ruling out the fact that I might have been a little sarcastic.
“They took me down to the police station, and the next day it was in the newspaper headlines that I was arrested for speeding! And Shecky, funny guy that he is, sent me a note saying, ‘What are you trying to do, steal my thunder?’ Shecky was nuts in those days but great—a sweetheart when he wasn’t tipping over tables. I got to be very friendly with him, Sinatra, and all the Vegas regulars. Nobody really understands what we entertainers go through to get on that stage. It’s a difficult road—but a great ride when you do.”
The last concert Lana gave was at Carnegie Hall. Lana said, “There were a hundred kids from an Australian choir that happened to be in New York at the time, and my band and I had the kids up on stage. It was just magic.”