Doris Day bio begins in Tristate

Wednesday, October 14, 1998

BY JOHN KIESEWETTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

day
Doris Day
Here's a warning for anyone who knows Robert Kappelhoff in Bridgetown: Don't call him between 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday.

He will be glued to A&E's two-hour Biography about his cousin, former Cincinnati dancer and singer Doris Kappelhoff, who spent the first 16 years of her life in Cincinnati before becoming the famous Doris Day.

"I'll be watching it, being the last of the Kappelhoffs," says the retired General Electric engineer and father of five daughters.

Biography takes a sentimental journey through the movies and music of Cincinnati's (and America's) sweetheart, born April 3, 1924, to William and Alma Kappelhoff of Evanston.

ON THE AIR
  • What: Biography of Doris Day.
  • When: 8-10 p.m. Sunday (repeats at 10 p.m.).
  • Where: A&E cable
  • It includes scenes from Pajama Game, Pillow Talk, Calamity Jane and all her musical hits, plus comments from celebrity friends including James Garner, Kaye Ballard and Edie Adams.

    "People loved her because of her appearance. It's a cliche now, "the girl next door look,' with her freckles and all," says band leader Les Brown, with whom she recorded "Sentimental Journey," a million-seller in 1944.

    The only thing missing from the Biography is Doris Day herself. That doesn't surprise her cousin.

    "She's pretty much of a recluse," says Mr. Kappelhoff, 75, a year older than the actress who lives with her pets in tonyCarmel, Calif.

    Son is spokesman

    Terry Melcher, Ms. Day's son and manager, appears as her spokesman. Mr. Melcher, legally adopted by Ms. Day's third husband Marty Melcher in 1951, was born in 1942 during the singer's first marriage to Cincinnati trombonist Al Jorden. She met Mr. Jorden in 1940 while singing "Day after Day" in Barney Rapp's night club at age 16, after dropping out of Our Lady of Angels High School in St. Bernard. (That song inspired Mr. Rapp to change her name to "Day.")

    Doris Day literally was the girl next door here until 1940, when Mr. Brown offered her $75 a week to sing for his Band of Renown.

    She recorded hundreds of songs and starred in 39 films, starting with light-hearted musical comedies like Romance of the High Seas (1948) and advancing to screwball comedies such as That Touch of Mink. Ironically, her signature song, "Que Sera Sera," comes from The Man Who Knew Too Much, her 1955 Alfred Hitchcock drama with Jimmy Stewart.

    Of all the roles, Calamity Jane (1953) came closest to home. "She's a lot like Calamity Jane. I call her "Calamity' to this day," her son says.

    Calamity also describes her personal life. At 12, a broken leg from a car wreck in Hamilton cut short her promising career in dance with partner Jerry Doherty.

    The men in her life also brought great pain: There was her father's scandalous affair and her parents' divorce when she was 8; her first husband's abusive temper; the jealousy of her second husband, saxophonist George Weilder; and her third husband's poor investments that left her $500,000 in debt upon his death in 1968.

    The retrospective ends with her last visit with close friend Rock Hudson on the 1985 premiere of Doris Day's Best Friends cable show, just before he died of AIDS.

    Mr. Melcher explains that his mom retired when "she felt she was just one inch past her prime . . . That's just her particular ethic about artistry."

    Her Cincinnati cousin hasn't talked to her in years, but that's no surprise either. Her 1963 Columbia Records Biography says "telephones are her pet aversion."

    Another cousin in California, who sees the actress almost daily, keeps Mr. Kappelhoff current.

    "My cousin says that physically she's in terrific health," he reports.

    For him, Sunday's Biography will be a romp down memory lane. For everyone else, it's a great two-hour course in Doris Day 101.

    John Kiesewetter is Enquirer TV/radio critic. Write him at 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, 45202.