Sunday, 4 November 2012

1974, Music: Lena Zavaroni

Today it would have been Lena Zavaroni's 49the birthday. The Lena Zavaroni story is one of the saddest in showbiz.
Lena was born in Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland on November 4, 1963. She grew up in the small town of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute with musical parents. Her father Victor Zavaroni played the guitar and her mother Hilda sang. Her name came from her immigrant Italian grandfather.
In 1973 she was discovered by record producer Tommy Scott who was on holiday in Rothesay and heard her singing with her family in a band. Scott contacted impresario Phil Solomon which led to his partner Dorothy Solomon becoming Zavaroni's manager. In 1974 she appeared on “Opportunity Knocks” and won the show for a record breaking 5 weeks. This was followed with the her first album “Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me” which reached number 8 in the UK album chart. At the age of 10 Lena Zavaroni is still the youngest person to have an album in the top ten and was also the youngest person to appear on the BBC's Top of the Pops.
Lena Zavaroni in "Opportunity Knocks" (1974)
Lena Zavaroni in 1974
In 1974 Zavaroni sang at a Hollywood charity show with Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. She toured the world, including Japan and the USA, where she sang for US President Gerald Ford at the White House. At the age of 12, she was the youngest-ever performer at a Royal Variety Performance (1976), in front of Queen Elizabeth II.
Lena Zavaroni in Japan (1974)
Lena Zavaroni with Frank Sinatra (1974)
She followed lessons at the Italia Conti Academy stage school, and by the age of 14, she had her own BBC television show “Lena Zavaroni and Music” (1979 - 1982), which featured singing and dancing.
Lena Zavaroni with Bonnie Langford (left) (1978)
From the age of 13 Zavaroni suffered from anorexia nervosa and whilst at stage school her weight dropped to 25 kg. Zavaroni blamed this on the pressure placed upon her to fit into costumes whilst at the same time she was "developing as a woman". She continued to suffer from Anorexia throughout the 1980's and in 1989 she married computer consultant Peter Wiltshire, but they separated 18 months later. Also in 1989 Zavaroni's mother, Hilda, died of a tranquilliser overdose and a fire destroyed all of her showbiz mementos.
Lena Zavaroni at the Queen's Silver Jubilee Gala performance (1977, King’s Theatre, Glasgow)
Other stars (from back to front): Frankie Howerd, Shari Lewis, David Soul, Dolly Parton, Sydney Devine and Allan Stewart.
After the divorce she moved to Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. By this time she was living off state benefits and in 1999 she was accused of stealing a packet of jelly, although the charges were later dropped. Zavaroni had several drug treatments and received electro-convulsive therapy to beat her anorexia. None of these proved to be successful in the long term. She also suffered from depression and begged doctors to operate on her to relieve her depression.
Lena Zavaroni on the "Des O'Connor Show" (1984)
In September 1999 Zavaroni was admitted to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff for a psycho-surgical operation. After the operation she appeared to be in a satisfactory condition. After a week she was "making telephone calls, cheerful and engaging in conversation", however, three weeks after the operation, she developed a chest infection and died from pneumonia on 1 October 1999. She weighed less than 32 kg.
Lena Zavaroni performing the Neil Sedaka song "Going Nowhere"
on her television show "Lena Zavaroni and Music" in 1981
"The Real Lena Zavaroni" Channel 4 Documentary (2000)
Eating Disorders useful sites:
US: Anad (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)
Canada: NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre)
The Netherlands: SABN (Stichting Anorexia Boulimia Nervosa)
Belgium: AN-BN / Eetexpert

1 comment:

  1. Still a terribly sad story . Poor Lena . A tormented soul until the day she died. Bless you Lena ... Never forgotten.