Pearl had a killer record collection.
It was vast and included a wide array of musical genres and artists: Mario Lanza, the handsome tenor and favorite son of Philadelphia, Yma Sumac, the exotic Inca princess with a five octave voice, Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 (♫Night and Day), Trini Lopez, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, Broadway show soundtracks (especially of the shows she had traveled to New York to see, like ♫West Side Story and ♫Funny Girl), Franz Liszt’s ♫Hungarian Rhapsodies, André Previn playing ♫Rhapsody in Blue and the singers of the Great American Songbook: Nat King Cole, Mel Tormé, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Billie Holiday (another Philadelphian) and her favorite, Dinah Washington.
Pearl did a great imitation of Dinah Washington singing Noel Coward’s ♫Mad about the Boy, “Mmmm mmm mmm, on the silver screen, he melts my foolish heart in every single scene.” She giggled every time she played Ruth Etting, the Ziegfeld Follies girl, singing ♫Ten Cents a Dance (now considered by the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry as a culturally, historically or aesthetically important tune). In the song, a taxi-dancer, paid by the dance, laments “trumpets are breaking my eardrums, whah, whah, wha wha wha, whaaaah” where the whah whahs of the horns are so faint you can barely hear them. Pearl wondered how so soft a sound could be so hard on the dancer’s ears.
When it came to Florence Foster Jenkins, Pearl told me it’s reaaaaalllly hard to sing off key on purpose. Still, she included her LP in her collection (and believe it or not, David Bowie called “life-changing.” It’s an album that still sells well today). She also had Henny Youngman’s Horse Racing record, with a built-in skipping mechanism, and a record with vinyl in an array of color patches instead of the conventional black.