She was known as "The Queen Of The Vanity Records". And "vanity" took on a whole new meaning with Dora Hall.
But first, "What is a vanity record?" you ask. "And who the hell is Dora Hall?"
You better sit down for this.
A vanity record is an album or single that a completely unknown person makes for commercial sale outside of independent or major labels.
They never "pay their dues" the way most actual stars do with hard work, constant touring, daily practice and nightly performance. And most of all, making connections (after all, it's not always WHAT you know but who you know.)
The vanity act often has little to no live performance history or review, no music industry credentials or experience. Someone who basically makes records based on nothing else but their own self perceived enormous talent.
Basically, a self-made, self appreciated and self-assured star in their own right. They often entice friends and family to buy their self distributed records and basically live delusionally in their own superstar fantasy. Sometimes, they'll take out self written, superlative filled advertisements to entice others to buy their music.
99.9% of these acts NEVER get noticed by the music industry (professional or independent) and most want nothing to do with them as they expect some level of "dues paying". Those who do it this way are perceived as arrogant, stuck up and overly demanding with no basis other than themselves.
Not much is known about Dora Hall prior to her vanity career. It's been said she was a so-so cabaret act in the '20s, (she claimed she was entertaining troops during World War I.) But in 1926 she met and married Leo Hulseman, who became a wealthy disposable cup magnate and the founder and CEO of the Solo Cup Company.
But in the early '60s, Dora Hall, now an aging grandmother had decided to re-enter show business. But the industry wasn't interested in an inexperienced elderly grandmother with virtually no track record whatsoever.
No biggie. Her husband was more than happy to make her a star. Experience and industry expectations? BAH! He was a multi-millionaire and he could spend that money any damn way he pleased.
He set up a couple fake record labels, Reinbeau (pronounced "Rainbow"), Premore, and Cozy. Almost EXCLUSIVELY for recording his wife's songs.
|There was one other artist on the Solo Cup labels, somebody named Larry Taylor (not the Canned Heat bassist).|
But how would Leo Hulseman get his wife's music out to the public? Commercial radio rarely plays anything (then or now) from unsolicited, unknown acts in enough rotation to garner any kind of attention. But NEVER one whose career was basically BOUGHT. (There were STRICT laws against payola on the radio back then.)
Again, no biggie. He simply GAVE them away (or included mail-order coupons) on or in the packaging of his Solo Cozy Cup products.
Well, no doubt this was stirring some, albeit mediocre amount of attention. Who was this strange woman who made some of the most godawful covers of '60s pop songs the human ear has ever heard?
And why did her music always come with Solo cup products?
Well, needless to say, Leo Hulseman was going to make his wife a superstar, no matter what. The laws against payola on the radio were one thing.
But there was NOTHING against payola on TV.
Hulseman also owned a TV studio in Culver City, CA. Which he rented out to various TV networks to produce shows in. But his biggest ambition was to produce a HUGE variety show where his wife, Dora Hall was the star. And in 1971, he did. And Dora Hall was flanked by several B-list names of the time (Frank Sinatra Jr., Phil Harris, Rich Little, Rosey Grier, etc.) in a variety show called "Once Upon A Tour".
At the time, TV variety shows (Tony Orlando & Dawn, Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie, etc.) were all BIG in the '70s (only to be completely - and actually mercifully - killed off forever by the Pink Lady show in 1980. Look for more about that here tomorrow.)
It didn't matter to the other stars who Dora Hall was or how she got to where she was, Or that she had problems singing on key. Leo Hulseman cut HUGE checks for their appearances. And the money DID talk.
He shopped the show around to the three commercial TV networks back then (ABC, NBC and CBS.) But the networks wanted none of it. So he syndicated the show. Prime time entertainment starved independent TV stations (or network stations during off-network hours) could air it that way.
But just as much as the entertainment (or whatever it was), the show was to sell Solo products. And of course, the included Dora Hall record offers.
There were a few more of these shows. But Dora Hall was well into her late '70s by this time and having serious trouble adapting to the changing times (disco namely.) And all of her syndicated shows bombed in the ratings. And by 1980, Solo cups were sold without record offers (although she did made one interesting inroad before the end. When the very first consumer video tape machines came out in the late '70s, she offered free video tapes of her old TV shows - with the purchase of Solo Cups, of course.)
And Dora Hall faded back into obscurity She died in May 1988.
However, she did maintain a very small, but loyal fan club. And her fans (what few there were) have maintained a fan site in her memory.
So think about that with your next red Solo cup of whatever.......