By Jeremy Kinser
Originally published on Advocate.com December 19 2011 4:42 AM ET
At 87, Doris Day, one of the most beloved and versatile entertainers of the 20th century, returns to the spotlight with a new album, My Heart, a collection of 13 gentle pop songs. She's been a popular vocalist since she released “Sentimental Journey” in 1945, and the new album finds Day's voice as warm and expressive as ever. Produced by her late son, Terry Melcher, to whom it is also dedicated and who sings on the track “Happy Endings,” the album of unreleased recordings, which Day made during the 1980s but just recently completed, marks her first release in 17 years. “This music brings back so many memories, my dear friends who appeared on-screen with me, all the wonderful animals, and of course, my darling son, Terry, whom I miss so much,” Day said in a press release. Listen to samples from the songs and purchase the album here. Proceeds from sales will go to the Doris Day Animal Foundation, which she founded in 1978 to promote the welfare of animals, and which is located in Carmel, Calif., where Day now resides.
For her singing, animal advocacy, and many memorable films, Day has long been a favorite with LGBT fans. Perhaps best remembered for a trio of frothy romantic comedies that costarred her close friend Rock Hudson, Day was also an accomplished dramatic actress who held her own opposite leading men such as James Cagney, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and James Stewart. Day's soaring, plaintive ballad “Secret Love,” from 1953's Calamity Jane, was adopted early on as a gay anthem. Having previously received Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Day will soon be honored by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for career achievement. “Decades on from the main body of her work, Doris Day is still arguably the template to which Hollywood turns to when trying to quantify and capture ‘girl-next-door’ appeal,” says Brent Simon, president of the LAFCA. “Equally at home in snappish romantic comedies and more dramatic fare, Day was the biggest female star of the 1960s, giving a series of delightfully perceptive performances. LAFCA is thrilled to be able to honor her.”
To support My Heart, Day agreed to answer a few questions submitted by email and provided several photos from her personal collection.
The Advocate: There's a lot of excitement surrounding My Heart. What's most gratifying about the response to the album?
Doris Day: Most gratifying about the response to my new CD are the wonderful comments about my son, Terry, on it. So many have expressed that when they listened to him sing they were in tears.
You're receiving the career achievement award from the Los Angeles Film Critics in January. It's been more than 30 years since you acted. What have you missed most about your acting career?
Working with such terrific actors and actresses ... having such a great time. It wasn't "work" to me ... I couldn't wait to get to the studio in the morning ... I enjoyed every minute of it.
One of your signature songs, "Secret Love," has been adopted as an anthem by the gay community. Were you aware of this, and how do you feel about having a song that's taken on such meaning for marginalized people?
I was not aware of that, but that's wonderful.
Rock Hudson is probably the leading man with whom you're most closely identified. What's something about him that most people aren't aware of, and what are some of your favorite memories of him?
Rock Hudson was a wonderful actor and one of the funniest men I have ever known, so you can imagine how much fun I had working with him. One of my favorite memories was that we had nicknames for each other. He called me "Eunice" and I in turn called him "Ernie."
I know many women and gay men who look up to you for having played so many independent-minded career women. How do you feel about being regarded as a feminist role model?
I didn't know that I was regarded as a "feminist role model." All of the roles that I played seemed easy to me because they seemed to fit the person that I am.
Your love of animals is well known. How has the ethical treatment of animals progressed since you created the Doris Day Animal Foundation?
The Doris Day Animal League has done so much by lobbying to prevent experimentation on animals for cosmetics, medicine, and medical procedures. Those things are rarely done now, but the DDAL continues to monitor those activities. The Doris Day Animal Foundation works in all aspects of improving the welfare of animals and is now focused on providing grants to welfare groups that rescue senior animals and helping seniors keep their pets with them. The foundation also continues to enable spays/neuters, provides funding to provide sanctuary for hard-to-place horses, train assistance dogs and many other activities that improve the life of animals.
See photos from Day's personal collection on the following pages.