Lucia Pamela, 98, a Musician to
By Neil Strauss
New York Times
Sunday, August 18, 2002
a one-of-a-kind entertainer best known for recording a music
album in 1969 about her fictional travels to the moon, died on
July 25 in a hospital in Los Angeles, where she lived. She was
Until 1992, Ms.
Pamela's only album, "Into Outer Space With Lucia Pamela,"
was all but forgotten. Irwin Chusid, a radio disc jockey, helped
revive her career and produced a reissue of her album. When a
small independent label, Arf Arf, reissued it on CD that year,
record collectors around the world took note. Not only were the
homemade lyrics and songs unusual and full of infectious childlike
optimism and sincerity (she truly believed she had gone to the
moon), but her background was equally compelling.
Ms. Pamela's story is a mixture of fact and
self-invention. She claimed, for example, to be the first person
ever on television and radio; that Ignace Paderewski told her
mother she would be the finest pianist in the world; that she
was kicked out of a German music conservatory for being overqualified.
Relatives said there were grains of truth in all these stories.
Ms. Pamela was born in St. Louis, and her
mother was a concert pianist and composer. In 1926, Ms. Pamela
won the title of Miss St. Louis. After performing in St. Louis
theaters, she moved to Fresno, Calif., where she managed the
Fresno Storyland amusement park (she also played Mother Goose
there). She was also the host of two radio shows for young women,
"The Encouragement Hour" and "Gal About Town."
Ms. Pamela formed what some say was the country's
first all-female orchestra, Lucia Pamela and the Musical Pirates,
in which she claimed to have played 15 instruments. With her
daughter, Georgia, she formed the vocal duo the Pamela Sisters.
Nowadays her daughter, Georgia Frontiere, is best known as the
owner of the St. Louis Rams. Ms. Pamela married several times,
the last time to Billy Angelo, a professional prizefighter, who
died in 1987.
Ms. Pamela is also survived by a son, Ken
Irwin of Palm Springs, Calif.; 12 grandchildren; and 27 great-grandchildren.
A documentary on her life is being completed
by Danielle Lemaire, a Belgian artist.
One of Ms. Pamela's proudest accomplishments,
she liked to say, was buildinga rocket, touring the Milky Way
and stopping on the moon to record her album. With the feel of
a warped bebop children's album, it features Ms.Pamela on all
instruments -- piano, accordion, drums, clarinet, and probably
various household appliances -- accompanying herself as she tells,
with gee-whiz glee, tales of amiable lunar roosters, trips to
Mars and blue winds. At 65, she sang of a world where anything
was possible and everything was shot through with an innocent
joy, excitement and imagination.
The album was released in 1969 on a small
label, Gulfstream, and signed copies are said to fetch as much
as $1,000. She also created a coloring book that tells the story
of a moon trip in which she met cows, Indians and anthropomorphic
cashews. "Some of the people there spoke Almond," she
A tireless entertainer, Ms. Pamela was cited
by "Ripley's Believe It or Not" for having memorized
some 10,000 songs. The English band Stereolab even wrote a song
about her, "International Colouring Contest." She performed
at Las Vegas hotels into her 80's.
"It was recorded on Moontown," Ms.
Pamela said of her album. "I was the only one from Earth