Local Obituaries

Pop singer and nightclub fixture Micki Marlo dies at 88

Singer Micki Marlo was a regular on NBC’s “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.
Singer Micki Marlo was a regular on NBC’s “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

Pop singer and Broadway and nightclub performer Micki Marlo was a Golden Girl long before NBC struck comedy gold with a 1980s sitcom.

Marlo was a fixture in the 1950s nightclub circuit, from Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau and Eden Roc to Biscayne Boulevard’s Vagabonds Supper Club and on to West Hollywood’s Ciro’s, The Flamingo Room in Las Vegas and New York’s Copa.

She got on those stages thanks to a stream of recordings on Capitol Records and ABC-Paramount, including “What You’ve Done to Me,” custom-made for her by 15-year-old songwriter Paul Anka, who sang harmonies on the 1957 record, and “Little by Little.”

Her 1959 album, “Married I Can Always Get,” arranged by Don Costa, who worked with Frank Sinatra, was recently reissued on iTunes with its original cover — the pop star in a low-cut, bare-shouldered wedding dress.

Marlo, who died Sept. 20 at 88 of heart-related ailments in Delray Beach, proved a trouper. After her starring role on Broadway, “The Ziegfield Follies of 1957,” and other appearances with stars such as Sinatra and Dean Martin, Marlo moved to the Aventura area in 1968 and continued performing the condo and club circuit until 2015 — often with her son, comedian/impersonator Bobby Mayo Jr.

“Ella Fitzgerald held up a show to see mom. How many people can say that? Judy Garland came to see mom,” said Mayo Jr.

Marlo went on a date — more of a publicity stunt by shared label Capitol Records, really — with Sinatra. He was in his “Ring-a-ding-ding” era, a boisterous presence on the Vegas strip and concert stages. Marlo told Sinatra to “be quiet.” Her son chuckles at the memory. “How many people could tell Sinatra to shut up?”

No worries. Marlo sang “Pet Me, Poppa” while at Capitol for Sinatra’s 1955 musical, “Guys and Dolls.”

“He respected her,” Mayo Jr. said.

Later, she was “wowing ’em in Dade” in a low-budget 1989 revue, “The Golden Girls of Music and Comedy,” according to a Miami Herald story.

Marlo, from the old-school era that insisted “the show must go on,” fought back laryngitis for those Golden Girls of Music and Comedy gigs in Sunny Isles Beach. She did so with some savvy.

“I just lowered the keys,” she revealed in the Herald, citing her mother, a blues singer in her native Philadelphia, and her father, a drummer, as her inspiration.

Born Aug. 12, 1928, Marlo began her career at 14 as a model. While modeling, a record producer heard her sing and she was signed to Capitol Records and then ABC-Paramount, which released “Married I Can Always Get.”

To plug her tunes, she became a regular on TV variety shows such as “The Tonight Show” with hosts Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, “The Steve Allen Show,” and “The Colgate Comedy Hour” with Martin and Jerry Lewis. In an era when few women, aside from Lucille Ball or Donna Reed, had their own TV shows, Marlo had her own live dance show, “Summertime on the Pier,” which originated from Atlantic City. Along with comedian Jan Murray, Marlo was on a 1962 episode of the sitcom, “Car 54: Where Are You?”

In a 2011 interview posted on Classic Television Showbiz, she joked about another TV appearance that had shades of the classic “Vitameatavegamin” episode of “I Love Lucy.”

While singing on Allen’s variety show, the host asked Marlo to do a beer commercial with him. “I never drank and to this day,” she said. “You had to take a sip of beer at the end of the commercial, like a toast. I took a sip of the beer and made the most horrific face. That was the end of me doing beer commercials.”

Stardom, however, proved elusive.

“She played with everybody and was part of that era that no longer exists — having a great opening act singer and a headlining comedian,” said Santa Monica publicist and family friend Jeff Abraham. “There’s not a nightclub she didn’t play. Performers like Micki are part of a lost generation — amazing performers who we would see at nightclubs coast-to-coast, amazing talents where we don’t always know their names but there was not an audience she didn’t leave entertained.”

Marlo is survived by her son.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen