Her public commitment to animal welfare is more than 40 years strong, her incredible entertainment career spans decades longer than that, and the adoration of her faithful fans worldwide is never-ending. Doris Day, America’s original sweetheart, still holds the impressive distinction of being one of the top box office draws and best-selling recording artists of all time. But, unlike some in the spotlight today, Carmel resident Day exclusively tells Carmel Magazine she has no angst and no regrets about her Hollywood fairytale.
“I’m a believer of whatever happened in my life was meant to be and each phase of my life led to something better,” she says. “I love all of it. As far as being an American role model, well, I am humbled by the letters I received from so many people telling me that I played a positive role in their lives in some way. I had so much fun singing with the bands, recording songs, making movies and TV series and specials. All of the people with whom I worked were very special to me. Sadly, most of them are now in heaven.”
When Day, still beautiful and spry at 87, reminisces about the good old days, she uses names such as Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra, James Cagney, James Stewart, Howard Keel, Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon, Clark Gable, Gordon MacCrae, Brian Keith, Jack Carson and Ronald Reagan. She also keeps a special place in her heart for Clint Eastwood and dear pal Jim Garner.
“He and I talk on the phone a lot and we laugh a lot and he eats a lot. I learned this whenever there is a lull in our conversation and I’ll ask, ‘Are you still there?’ and he’ll answer, ‘Uh-huh, I’m eating my dessert.’ Of course I envision hot apple pie with ice cream and loads of whipped cream and of course I’m right.”
The popular entertainer, who is still making headlines today with her latest CD, “My Heart,” reflects back on a movie career that almost didn’t happen.
“When I think back to the beginning of my film career, I’m still amazed,” she shares. “I was on my way heading back East, when my agent wanted me to audition for ‘Romance on the High Seas.’ I told him I couldn’t do that. I was a singer, not an actress, and I never had had an acting lesson. But he was insistent, so I agreed to go. Not in a million years did I think I would be chosen—there were so many actresses also auditioning! Well, I found out the next day from Jack Carson that I had gotten the part. When he called me at 7:30 in the morning, I thought someone was a playing a joke on me. Then I recognized his voice, and he convinced me that I had indeed gotten the part! After I hung up, I almost fell to the floor, I was so overwhelmed.”
Day, the dancer and singer, had uncovered yet a third talent in her magnificent skill set.
“Acting was always easy for me, and that’s why I enjoyed it so much,” she shares. “Who knows, if I hadn’t decided to leave the industry and move to Carmel to follow my dedication to animals and animal welfare, I may have made more movies because I loved it so much.”
As a young girl, a car accident curtailed Doris Day’s original goal of a dance career, so she turned to singing during her recovery. By her early teens, she was featured with the some of the era’s most notable big bands, at times padding her age to be able to play a venue.
“Traveling with the bands was just heaven for me,” she says. “The musicians were so sweet, and they assured my mother they would take care of me—and they did. We were like a family. But it was impossible to have a pet then.”
Day’s well-known connection with animals, who she calls smarter than humans, has prevailed since she was a little girl and is a hallmark of her local and universal appeal.
“I have always loved animals,” she says. “As a child, we had miniature pinchers that were darling little critters!”
The Doris Day Animal League and the Doris Day Animal Foundation have made enormous changes for animals by providing grants to many rescue groups, not only for dogs and cats, but for horses as well.
“Over the years, many more animals were spayed and neutered because of funds provided by the DDAL and DDAF to national groups that provide low-cost spaying and neutering,” Day says. “Additionally, for young people who want so much to become veterinarians but can’t afford the tuition, our foundation provides tuition so that their dreams can come true,” she continues. “And, of course, bringing together humans and animals makes both groups very happy!”
In fact, Doris Day may have single-handedly turned her longtime hometown, Carmel, into the popular domain it is now for pet owners. She and her beloved late son, Terry Melcher, teamed up with local businessman Dennis LeVett more than 20 years ago to establish one of the country’s most well known pet friendly hotels, Cypress Inn.
“When I moved to Carmel, I didn’t see dogs and cats around town, and I missed that,” she explains. “So, I told Terry that I wanted to partner with a hotel and make it pet friendly. I actually went into Cypress Inn without anyone noticing me and I loved the old charm of the inn. Terry met with Dennis LeVett and introduced himself as Terry Melcher. Denny didn’t know him or his name. As Terry was leaving, he said, ‘Oh, by the way, my mother is Doris Day and she will only partner with you if animals are allowed.’ Denny didn’t think that would work, he kept saying, ‘No-no-no, what will happen to the beautiful rugs and furniture?’ He was so insistent it wouldn’t work. Denny said, ‘It was nice to meet you Terry and tell your mother hello.’ So Terry left saying, ‘That’s okay. I’m sure you’ll find the right person and we’ll find the right hotel.’ Early the next morning, Denny called Terry and asked to meet with him and said, “Be sure to bring your mother.” I told Terry, ‘If it’s meant to be, it will be.’ Que sera, sera, right? At the meeting, Denny accepted the idea because I told him that so many people love to travel with their pets and they would love to stay at Cypress Inn. I couldn’t be more thrilled. The inn is like a big happy home: guests with smiling faces and doggies with wagging tails and precious cats purring with contentment.”
Day has been a Carmelite long enough to remind us that this quaint little haven was, at one point, even smaller.
“I am so sorry to see the small stores disappearing to make room for the larger ones,” she says. “I love small-town living. The same thing happened in Beverly Hills and that’s one of the reasons I left there. But, I have noticed that the people of Carmel are pet lovers and that thrills me.” Day’s interaction with her pets and other animals keeps her mind sharp and her physical health good.
“I don’t have any health or beauty secrets,” she says. “I love to eat healthy foods, and have been doing so for quite a while now—raw vegetables, cereals, yogurts, fruit and fish. But I love ice cream, and I keep a lot of it in my freezer!”
And Day’s career continues to bloom. Her first album release in more than 20 years, “My Heart,” debuted in the top ten on the charts of the United Kingdom. Not yet for sale in the US, it is a compilation of old and new, with the imprint of her dear son all over it.
“The catalyst in releasing my new CD, ‘My Heart,’ was my son Terry and the animals featured in my series, ‘Doris Day’s Best Friends,’ which Terry produced,” she explains. “My guests would bring their animals to the tapings, plus there were many animals on the ranch where we were filming. Before I moved to Carmel, I had recorded so many beautiful songs written by the greatest writers and these songs were shelved, so I never heard them after they were recorded. While living in Carmel, I received a huge package from the Bear family in Germany—right out of the blue! Terry opened the box and he was floored. We saw four volumes of my songs and Terry said, ‘Mom, I’ve never seen anything like this, what a treasure you’ve been given!’ I honestly had forgotten I had recorded so many songs! I figured I had done my work and people would be interested in the new singers and actors and that was okay with me. I was doing a lot of my animal work and finally had the time to do it. But I listened to many of my songs that hadn’t been published, some old ones that had been published, and songs that had been written for my series, ‘Best Friends.’ The focus was really on Terry. Many of the new songs were written by Terry, or co-written by Terry with Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys.”
Day, who admits she’s not much of a pop music follower, yearns for the talent of the past.
“The music now is so different from what I am used to,” she says. “I liked the music when I was singing because the writers were so incredible. The lyrics were always so beautiful that I would be in tears when I sang them. I loved to sing about love!”
And fans here and all over the world, will forever love Doris Day.
For more information on Doris Day, go to http://www.dorisday.com.
For information on the Doris Day Animal League, go to http://www.ddal.org.
To learn more about the Doris Day Animal Foundation, visit http://www.ddaf.org.
And, to discover more about the Cypress Inn, visit http://www.cypress-inn.com