FAREWELL, MR. TORME
By Tom Cleaver
Singer, songwriter, and all-around general excellent entertainer Mel Torme died Saturday morning, June 5, 1999, in Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Mr. Torme had suffered a stroke in 1996, and his death was considered a result of the aftereffects of that event. He was 73.
Beyond the fact that Torme was a well-known entertainer, his departure should be of note to modelers for more reason than the fact his Shearing recordings are excellent "music to build models by." The fact is, Mel Torme was an avid modeler whose love of World War I aviation was such that, in 1960, he was one of the founding members of "Cross and Cockade," which lives on today as the League of World War One Aviation Historians. Through most of the 1960s, Mel Torme spent his own money to keep the society alive and its publication "Cross and Cockade" - reborn as "Over The Front" - coming out regularly, until the membership was able to make the organization self-supporting.
I had the pleasure of running into and meeting Mel Torme twice, once outside a live theater on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, where he was a courteous celebrity and accepted the well-wishes of a fan, and once about five years ago or so when I ran into him coming out of Paul Freiler's Historic Models in Torrance, California with a bag of Eduard World War 1 kits in hand and a big smile on his face. Since it was obvious I was going into where he had just been, that had to mean we both shared "The Great Secret" of being fellow modelers. At the time, the Eduard kits were still fairly new, and I had yet to do one. I asked him about them - it was the right question! He had the Fokker E.V, the Hansa-Brandenburg, and the Morane L, and each was the second or third he had purchased. "They're great," he assured me, "Great War modeling will never be the same again." It was a nice moment - not star and fan, but two people who shared the same passion.
In an interview in 1988, Mel Torme spoke about his career as a singer, about how he would quit the day he found he wasn't still learning, "getting my wings" was how he put it. "You do something as well as you can, and you come back to it later, with skills and knowledge you didn't have before from what you've done since, and you do it again, hopefully better. And as you gain in experience, you learn what you can do and how to do it, and you become consistent. Once you become consistent, you have to constantly work to be new." As well as being good advice to anyone in a creative endeavor, these are words of particular resonance to a serious modeler.
So, farewell, Mr. Torme. I hope you are someplace where you are surrounded not only by people who are knowledgeable about your music, but those know what they're looking at when they see your model collection.
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