Thursday, November 29, 2007

Remembering Betty Kern Miller

Mike's post about the Kern lawsuit reminded me of Betty Kern Miller -- Jerome Kern's daughter whose relationship with her attorney Andrew Boose is disputed by her daughter. Mrs. Miller was a generous and enthusiastic supporter in the early days of 42nd Street Moon.

I first "met" Betty -- over the phone -- in 1989. I was producing a CD of early Jerome Kern songs called -- what else? -- Early Kern, and I had been planning to use a photo of the great composer as a baby on the album cover, which I thought was a cute idea. I can't remember through whom, but somehow I acquired Betty Kern's phone number and gave her a call at her horse ranch in Kentucky (horses were her big passion).

I explained my idea to her and she promptly told me it sounded kind of stupid to her, and suggested instead that she send me a photo of her father as a young man. That's how I got a previously unpublished photograph of Jerome Kern on my album cover.

In 1993, when Stephanie and I were starting 42nd Street Moon, we very much wanted to present some of the early Kern musicals -- Oh, Lady! Lady!! and Sweet Adeline, specifically. We weren't having much luck getting the rights. I called Betty Kern and she said "Let me make a phone call or two." The next day we found out we were approved, and because she vouched for us, the "vaults were opened," so to speak, and we began to get access to many shows that had been gathering dust on licensing agency shelves.

The last time I spoke to her was probably late 1995 when we were presenting the American premiere of Kern & Hammerstein's London show Three Sisters. She was quite frail at that point, but still feisty (on the phone, at least), and regretted that she would not be able to come out for the show. She died the following spring.


sfmike said...

What a great story. Do you know anything about the long-drawn-out lawsuit being conducted by the daughter. According to some commentators I've read, the thing has gone on as long as the legendary Jarndyce and Jarndyce lawsuit in Dicken's "Bleak House."

Greg MacKellan said...

I don't know anything about the suit, Mike, was actually surprised to hear about it in your post. We've dealt with Andy Boose several times and have had very
pleasant experiences with him.