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Monday, July 6, 2015

Exclusive Q&A with The Eckers on Their Documentary, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

     
      It was such a pleasure to interview Lloyd and Sue Ecker. They are ready for a stand-up comedy gig. I think you'll be royally entertained reading this.

      Buddy Beaverhausen: Look forward to seeing your Sophie Tucker documentary at Cinema Village. What was it that drew you to her as a subject?

Lloyd: Bette Midler. She did her Sophie jokes in her act the first time we saw her perform in 1973 at Ithaca College. I was the one responsible for getting Bette to come to our school, so after the show we had dinner with her.
      Susan: It was a pretty unbelievable first date. After that,we got married, had three great kids and sold our family business.  Thanks Bette!
BB: Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of your professional career together?
 S: Both of our parents always worked together when we were growing up.  So it was a natural that we would too.  In 1983 we started selling Father-to-Bee hats, using a bumble bee logo instead of the word “BE”.
L: Everything had our “BEE” logo on it.
S: We sold maternity gifts for the rest of the pregnant family—fathers-to-bee, grandparents- to-bee, aunts and uncles-to-bee. We found our own little niche.
L: After the Internet arrived, we became the #1 collector of pregnant names from a website called Babytobee.com.
L: We both were really bored after we sold our baby business in 2006. So we came up with this Sophie idea that we’ve been working on ever since.
S: We decided we were going to become the world’s foremost authority on Sophie Tucker and then develop a new entertainment franchise based on the life story of ‘The Last of the Red Hot Mamas’. 
BB: In the world of documentary filmmaking, who are your idols?
L: I guess we should say the Burns boys, but to tell you the truth, since this is our first documentary, we would have to go with our director, William Gazecki.
     BB: What was it that drew you to Sophie Tucker as a subject?
L: Bette Midler. She did her Sophie jokes in her act the first time we saw her perform in 1973 at Ithaca College. I was the one responsible for getting Bette to come to our school, so after the show we had dinner with her.
S: It was a pretty unbelievable first date. After that,we got married, had three great kids and sold our family business.  Thanks Bette!
BB: Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of your professional career together?
 S: Both of our parents always worked together when we were growing up.  So it was a natural that we would too.  In 1983 we started selling Father-to-Bee hats, using a bumble bee logo instead of the word “BE”.
L: Everything had our “BEE” logo on it.
S: We sold maternity gifts for the rest of the pregnant family—fathers-to-bee, grandparents- to-bee, aunts and uncles-to-bee. We found our own little niche.
L: After the Internet arrived, we became the #1 collector of pregnant names from a website called Babytobee.com.

L: We both were really bored after we sold our baby business in 2006. So we came up with this Sophie idea that we’ve been working on ever since.
S: We decided we were going to become the world’s foremost authority on Sophie Tucker and then develop a new entertainment franchise based on the life story of ‘The Last of the Red Hot Mamas’. 
BB: In the world of documentary filmmaking, who are your idols?
L: I guess we should say the Burns boys, but to tell you the truth, since this is our first documentary, we would have to go with our director, William Gazecki.
S: I don’t know the names either, but we loved Man on a Wire, the dolphin movie and Sugarman and whoever made those.
L: I’m sure those directors will be thrilled that we don’t know their names!
BB:  Can you tell us how working together as married people influences and/or affects a marriage and your careers?
L: As Sue said, working together as a married couple is in our DNA.  We don’t know any other way to be married and do a project of any type at the same time.  It’s either both of us or not at all.  For me the project switch is always ‘ON’, morning, noon and night.
S: I’m not as crazy as Lloyd.  I have to read a good book to escape for a few hours every day or I would go nuts from ‘Mr. ON’.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have made it to being together for 40 years.
L: When are you reading?  That’s gonna have to stop.
S: Did I mention were married for 40 years?  I think I deserve a medal!                                                         
BB: Who usually got the last word in decision-making on this film?
S&L: ME!
L: To be honest, I make the mess…
S: …and I clean it up.
L: Maybe we both better take the 5th so we can make it to 41 years together.
      BB: Bette Midler -- who I saw recently in her latest show -- always devotes part of her act doing Sophie jokes. Any opinions?
      
       L: As we said, if Bette didn’t do those Sophie jokes back in 1973, we wouldn’t be talking to you today.  We are lifelong fans of Midler, have seen her perform over a dozen times and met her in person a half dozen times.
      S: Even though all of Bette’s Sophie jokes are written by our friend Bruce Vilanch, we will always be thankful that Bette was responsible for this project and our long marriage.
      L: So I can blame Bette about our marriage?
      S: Next question.
BB:Will your film portray Tucker "warts and all"? Tell us about some of the more controversial aspects of her life and career.

 L: This woman did it all: beer halls, burlesque, vaudeville, silent movies, one of the first talkies, major film musicals and Broadway shows, and finally she played at every swanky and not so swanky nightclub in the world.
S: Tucker knew all the presidents from Taft to Johnson.
L: She even had JFK’s personal White House number and called him any time she liked.
S: She performed for and palled around with two English Kings, the current Queen Elizabeth, two former Princes of Wales and the Mountbattens.
L: She also hung out with all the well-known gangsters in the 20’s including Al Capone and got herself arrested a couple of times for indecency for singing lewd songs.
S: She was also personal friends with J. Edgar Hoover.
L: That’s a good one. We have an unbelievable interview with one of Sophie’s friends who was sitting in between her and J. Edgar when Hoover leaned over and asked Tucker if he could have one of her fancy beaded gowns after she was done with it.
BB: Ha! That's a good one!
S: Which reminds me, there is a whole segment in the film which discusses her lifelong bisexuality.
L: One thing is for sure. We now have more than enough material to go forward with our plan to develop a new entertainment franchise based on the life story of The Last of the Red Hot Mamas. 
BB:  Sophie Tucker is credited with influencing a variety of women in comedy and song. Not just Bette Midler but everyone from Mae West to Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Joan Rivers, to Mama Cass Elliot. What are your thoughts on the influence she's had on women who sing and tell jokes in show business?
S: Everyone is talking on the Internet these days about ‘fat shaming’. Sophie was probably the first ever to be ‘fat shamed’ back in 1906. We have a whole segment in our film discussing her weight which fluctuated between 175-215 pounds her whole life.  Instead of being mortified, Tucker embraced her heft and made it part of her livelong act. 
L: Add Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer to your list. They should thank Sophie too. We loved Joan Rivers, but we got a kick out of some of the quotes in her obituaries a year ago, attributing her as a breakthrough woman performer.  Without Sophie Tucker first, there would have been no Joan Rivers or any of the others you mentioned.
BB:How do you two like to relax?
S: Visiting the Caribbean as often as possible.
L: And when were not there, we keep our pool at 94 degrees so we can ‘swim’ under the stars each night.
S: Of course, wherever we ‘swim’ ‘Mr. On’ is still talking about our Sophie project.
BB: Any last shout-outs to our readers?
S: Yes. We want everyone to come visit us starting on July 24 at the Cinema Village in Greenwich Village.  We will be there every day, 5 showings a day at 12, 2:15, 4:30, 6:45 and 9pm.  Lloyd and I will doing a live show after every screening. It will include a Q&A and a preview about our future SOPH Broadway musical.  
L: We also want everyone to know our first of three novels called I Am Sophie Tucker is on sale at Amazon, your local bookstore or our site at SophieTucker.com in both hardcover or as an eBook. We need everyone to buy it so it can become the next big #1 NY Times bestseller. This is the novel that that is the basis for our future new Broadway Best Musical and Academy Award winning Best Picture. Then after that we’ll write the other 2 books and produce a great six year run, Emmy Award winning Best Drama TV series.
S: Did I mention that I have been married to ‘Mr. ON’ for 40 years? It better be a GOLD medal.

For press reservations, interview requests, or more information, contact Richard Skipper Celebrates at Richard@RichardSkipper.com or 845-365-0720



3 comments:

  1. I met them and saw their Documentary a couple of years ago, in upstate NY; I think it was through Richard Skipper? Anyway, it was a wonderful Film, and they were a very nice and gracious couple....I would highly recommend seeing this!

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