1967 Lesley Gore – California Nights
Lesley Sue Goldstein was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey. She recorded her first hit when she was only 16 years old. Quincy Jones produced her record, It’s My Party. The single topped the Hot 100 chart in 1963 and sold over a million copies. Three more top five singles followed before the end of the year.
While a few of Lesley’s singles did not do well, she had three more top 15 singles between 1964 and 1966. Lesley co-wrote the single My Town, My Guy and Me, which peaked at only #32 and appeared to mark the end of her hits.
Lesley’s next five singles failed to produce anything close to a hit. Even an appearance on the final episode of The Donna Reed Show in 1966 did little to bring her back to the charts.
Her last top forty single came about thanks to an appearance on another television show: Batman. On the show, Lesley played Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s underlings, for two episodes on January 19 and 25, 1967. Besides parading around in a pink cat-style suit (complete with pink cat ears that any furry would have been proud to wear), Lesley lip-synced California Nights. The song was produced by Bob Crewe, who was also the producer for countless hits by the Four Seasons.
The response to Lesley’s appearance boosted her back onto the Hot 100 again. The single reached the Hot 100 in February and peaked at #16 on the charts dated March 18th and 25th. It became Lesley’s last top forty single on the Hot 100, although she had two singles briefly reach #36 and #39 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1969 and 1970.
Lesley continued to be active, not only touring but also writing songs. She was even nominated for an Academy award nomination for her work on the soundtrack of Fame.
The television show In the Life ran on PBS from 1992 to 2012. The show presented interviews documenting the LGBT rights movement. Lesley worked as a guest host for the show beginning in 2004. On the show, she discussed her own journey as a lesbian, which began when she was about twenty years old. She was in a lifelong committed relationship with luxury jewelry designer Lois Sasson starting in 1982.
Lesley died in 2015 after her battle with lung cancer.
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