With her mobile hips, her sultry voice and her free-wheeling
outlook on love, Abbe Lane has well earned the crown of...
Swingingest Sexpot In Show Business"
By Frank Thistle
vol. 7 no. 4, 1963
turn the boys into men, but I take them from there."
This provocative comment comes from the lips of
Abbe Lane, the voluptuous vocalist, dancer and actress. Undeniably, Abbe
is all woman. As one male gasped after watching her performance with the
Xavier Cugat orchestra, "She makes Jayne Mansfield look like a boy."
Few men who have seen Abbe on stage would disagree
with the appraisal, for Abbe in action is truly a sight to behold. It leaves
no doubt as to how she gained her reputation as the swingingest sexpot
in show business.
During a recent engagement at the Coconut Grove
in Los Angeles, Abbe turned in a performance that kept even the blasé
Hollywood set spellbound. She slithered on stage in one of the tightest-fitting
gowns ever to adorn a female body. It fitted her like another layer of
She sang her first number, "What ever Lola Wants,
Lola Gets," in a throaty, sex-drenched voice. It wasn't the song, however,
that caused the males in the audience to squirm in their seats. You see,
Abbe puts more into a song than just her voice. She has a captivating habit
of undulating her bountiful body in the same intense, rhythmic manner with
which she shakes the maracas. And her torrid torso-tossing during a rhumba
forcibly reminds you that it was originally an African mating dance.
Abbe stayed on the move with such numbers as "Lazy
River," which sounded more like a sex pond the way she chirped it, and
"Never on Sunday," her rendition of which made all the males in the audience
wish it was early Monday morning. She displayed an exceedingly mobile abdomen
during the hot-cha Latin rhythms which climaxed her act. Amid a rousing
ovation, Abbe wiggled off the stage, her bounding derriere the focal point
of all eyes.
In her dressing room, Abbe expounded on her future
plans and her feelings about being a sex symbol as articulately as she
had conveyed her "message" on stage.
"There's much more to me than a wiggle," Abbe told
We nodded, gazing rather obviously at her low neckline.
"Well, my necklines don't plunge all the way to
my middle," she said defensively, "but I couldn't safely call them Victorian
either. Seriously, no facet of talent and no physical asset either should
be hidden from your audience."
We told her we thought she was doing an admirable
job of not concealing either.
"But I'm not content with being just a sex symbol,"
Abbe said. "I want to become a woman and an actress, not just a sexy girl.
What I have to do is show people I have talent in addition to sex appeal.
I have hopes of doing some serious film roles in the United States, and
of acting in good dramatic shows on television."
Abbe explained that although she has been in show
business for half of her 30 years, she has not been able to crack the movies
in Holly wood. She did appear in several Hollywood films during the early
part of her career, but she had only bit parts which showed off her physical
assets rather than her acting ability.
"Since then I've turned down Hollywood roles because
they weren't right for me," Abbe said. "I was only offered the kind of
parts in which the girl was used for decorative purposes."
Abbe pointed out that she's had much better luck
with roles in foreign films, mostly in Italy.
"In Italy they had no preconceived idea of what
I was like in the United States," she said. "I did a variety of roles,
among them a doctor, a thief, a secretary and a bad girl."
We asked Abbe if living in Italy had changed her
"Yes, it's made me think differently," she said,
"and slow down. Theirs is an old civilization and the Italians have an
entirely different feeling about time. They live for the day and don't
worry about their business problems the way we do. The whole atmosphere
is more relaxed, and you hear nothing about ulcers, and no one needs sleeping
pills. Latins love women and are very articulate about it. If you walk
down the street and a stranger or a workman admires you, he'll give voice
We said we had heard that fanny- pinching was one
of the most popular ways in which Italian men show their affection for
girls on the street. Abbe nodded knowingly and continued.
"They get such obvious pleasure when you take time
to make your self look attractive," she said. "An American never seems
to notice all the little things that they do. I found that you don't have
to be so obvious about sex appeal. In America I felt I had to make a bid
for attention. But Italian men do not require dyed hair, tight dresses
or a low cleavage to appreciate a woman. To them, sex is more important
We asked Abbe if Italian men were as bosom-conscious
as American men.
"No," she said. "They love hips more than bosoms
and feel that hips are the most appealing part of the feminine anatomy.
Personally, I think hips are sexy, and no matter what the fashion is, I'll
never try to reduce mine.
Abbe's hips have been a definite asset in her climb
up the show business ladder, as anyone who has seen her current stage routine
can testify. But she got her start in show business on the strength of
her voice. She made her professional debut by singing a song on a radio
program at the age of four. Three years later she appeared in some movie
"These were made at the Vita- phone Corporation
in Brooklyn," Abbe recalled, "and I did a little song and dance in each
of them. I loved the work and even as a kid I was determined to make this
a career. Papa wanted me to be a teach er. Mama wanted me to sing. Eventually
we women banded together and won the argument."
At the age of 15, after she had blossomed out physically
with curves to spare, Abbe left her home town of Brooklyn for Broadway
and a song and dance role in the George Abbot production of
Boy with. Cheek.
"I had to bend the truth as far as my age was concerned,"
she confessed, "because there was a law in New York about girls working
in musicals if they were under 16. When I turned 16 I got two jobs that
ran simultaneously. I was a featured vocalist on the Vincent Lopez television
show and I worked in Michael Todd production of
As the Girls Go.
That's when I met Cugie.
"He was looking for a new vocalist when he saw me
doing a calypso number in the stage show one night. The very next day Cugie
was a guest with Vincent Lopez and he saw me again. He liked my style and
voice and asked me to audition the next day. I did and he hired me."
Cugat took more than a professional interest in
his young shapely vocalist, and in 1952 married her.
"We got married in Miami and on our honeymoon I
came down with the measles, of all things," Abbe reminisced, "Everyone
said, 'You married a typically jealous Latin lover. He'll stand over you
with a stiletto.' But it didn't turn out that way at all. Oh, all the columnists
write stories about Cugie's jealousy. But I wouldn't say he was jealous.
I'd say he was Latin.
"He gets that gleam in his eye when another man
looks at me, true. But I've never really done anything to give him any
cause to doubt me. Cugie knows he's the only man for me. We have a wonderful
relation ship. He's helped me, obviously, in my career. But I think I've
helped him as a person."
Although Abbe is happily married and has reached
such an exalted place in show business that 99 out of 100 starry-eyed girls
would swap places with her, she maintains she will not be completely happy
until she becomes a successful dramatic actress in American movies.
"When I first began singing as a vocalist with Cugie's
orchestra, no body thought of me as a singer--just a showpiece to stand
in front of the band," Abbe said. "But then I proved that I could sing;
now I want to show people that I can act.
"The thing that galls me is that Hollywood is importing
all its new talent from Europe," she pouted. "Why couldn't they just discover
me at home?"
We suggested that maybe she should have acted like
Brigitte Bardot in her films overseas.
"I have never wanted. to do what Bardot does--they
already think I'm too sexy for TV--but I'm beginning to change my mind.
Oh, I wouldn't go as far as she did. And I wouldn't do a movie just to
be seen in a bath tub--I'd want to have a good part, too. I'd like to do
a womanly role without obvious sex appeal, or a comedy of the Doris Day
"Wouldn't you hate to lose your identity as the
swingingest sexpot in show business?" we asked.
"You don't have to divorce sex from drama or comedy,"
Abbe said. "I'm a woman and I'm proud of my sex--but it has to be integrated.
It has to fit the part. Naturally you can't expect the public to forget
about sex if you walk around with your body exposed."
Abbe floored us with her next remark.
"The plight of my life is trying to be a sweet-looking
little girl," she moaned. "It's the reason a Hollywood producer won't give
me a good dramatic part. They have a standard brand of sex appeal they
won't break away from. If a girl is a bad girl, she's always one type,
and if she's good, she's always Peter Pan. I'm trying to crawl out of my
sexpot image so that I can land a good dramatic part in Hollywood."
At this point Cugat appeared and said: "She's like
a general. She knows what she wants and how to get it."
Whether or not Abbe achieves her goal of becoming
a successful serious actress in Hollywood remains to be seen. But one thing's
for sure. If she does, more than a few men are going to be very disappointed.
They like Abbe Lane just as she is--the swingingest sexpot in show business.