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Classy and Serene by Barbara Leavy

Most cabaret songs are story songs, and good cabaret performers are also good storytellers, whether their patter is about themselves, the songwriters and eras they favor, or the themes that define what is important to them. To interview them is to elicit stories, the more thoughtful of them creating narratives in which life and art are inextricably intertwined. For some the art of spinning tales may be in the genes.

As Valerie lemon tells it, her mother was a frustrated singer, and her father had a true gift for storytelling. Valerie herself has many tales to tell.

In the hands of a serious novelist, Valerie's family life in Ohio could constitute a family saga. The multiplicity of plots could also feed episodes of a daytime TV series. Valerie describes stress and trauma, but also the security of being much loved and the conflicting loyalties split love engenders.

Her parents divorced when she and her sister were young and a custody battle ensued, but she was saved by the strong, unconditional love of a beloved grandmother.

Then there were a series of step-parents, one especially loving and supportive, another like the stereotypical wicked step-mother. Step-siblings were acquired, some with serious problems that required Valerie's help. Her handsome and charismatic father became increasingly alcoholic. With her mother, Dee, whom Valerie describes as movie-star beautiful and gifted, probably frustrated not to have had her own singing career, Valerie engaged in a not untypical ongoing mother daughter conflict.

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