Steve and Eydie Tribute at Carnegie Hall: A Night to Remember...and Repeat?

Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, once one of the most popular singing duos in the country, were recalled in a sold out tribute concert at Carnegie Hall on March 18 performed by the couple’s son, David Lawrence, and Debbie Gravitte.

| 23 Mar 2024 | 11:22

Steve and Eydie. That’s all you had to say for decades. Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, who met on the Tonight Show in the late 1950s and married in 1957, became one of the most popular singing duos in the country during the big band era from the late 1950s right through the 1980s. Even ‘ol Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, remarked: “they were the best.” So, no surprise fans filled Carnegie Hall’s Zankel concert hall on March 18 for “A Toast to Steve and Eydie.”

The concert was performed by the couples’ singer-composer son, David, and Tony award winner Debbie Gravitte, taking on the Eydie “role.” They were magnificently accompanied by a full orchestra.

The timing was touching. While Gorme died in 2013, Lawrence just passed away on March 7. That was not mentioned until the couples’ standing ovation, when David held back tears, and asked the audience to singalong with the number his folks always ended their shows with: “Our Love Is Here To Stay.”

The location mattered too. Two times in the early ‘80s, Steve and Eydie performed at Carnegie Hall for eight straight sold-out nights. That record was beaten only by Sinatra and Liza Minnelli. And the Lawrence family has created the Lawrence Foundation which makes grants to support environmental, education, human services and other causes, particularly for underserved young people. The mission of The Lawrence Foundation is support organizations that are working to solve pressing environmental, human services and other issues and according to its web site, through 2023, it has made 825 grants totalling over $6 million.

Gino Francesconi, who was Carnegie’s first archivist, was also the backstage artist attendant when Steve and Eydie first performed there. “I greeted the artists at the door,’ he recalls of that job, “and got them to their dressing rooms, to the stage door, and then home after the show. I had nothing but fun with, and admiration for, those two. I truly cherish those memories.”

David Lawrence remembers seeing his parents perform there the first time. “They were incredible,’ he told me in an earlier interview, “and I thought, ‘I want to get their autographs....wait, I live with them!’”

His parents met on Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” and were married in 1957. Their son had a bi-coastal life, attending Beverly Hills schools but later spending a decade in the Beresford on the Upper West Side. Yes, he knew his parents were not the traditional sort, but in many ways, they were. “They were working parents, as were others,” he told me, “especially in places like Beverly Hills. It was not easy for them to be full-time artists and parents. But they managed the juggling reallywell. They occasionally had creative differences but always kind ones.”

Lawrence and Gorme were clearly best known for their beautiful voices, but as their son reminds us, his father was also popular for his comedy timing. (Which David inherited) He played the agent in the Blues Brothers movie, and Carol Burnett had him on her show more than anyone else, to do skits as much as to sing notes.

The March 18 show, Toast to Steve & Eydie was directed by Lonny Price and Matt Cowart, with musical direction by Tedd Firth. It was written by Robert L. Freedman and songwriter Faye Greenberg, who also happens to be David Lawrence’s wife. Songs included “Cheek to Cheek,” “This Will Be the Start of Something Big,” and “I Gotta Be Me.” Almost all received applause on their first notes. Yes, this was a Steve and Eydie-knowing crowd. 

For Gravitte, it was a dream come true. “People used to always compare me to Eydie, before I even met David,” she says.

David and Debbie have been doing tributes for nearly 25 years after first teaming up in the movie “Isn’t She Great” which starred Bette Midler playing writer Jacqueline Susann.

For the younger Lawrence, the March 18 was a personal way of saying farewell, and thanks, acknowledging “that the torch has now officially been passed.”

Let’s hope the torch passing will continue, with more such evenings ahead.