Norma Zimmer, the “Champagne Lady” on “The Lawrence Welk Show” for 22 years and a studio singer who worked with Frank Sinatra, among others, died Tuesday, May 10, of natural causes in Brea, Calif. She was 87.
Until 1982, when the show ended, Zimmer sang solos, did duets with Jimmy Roberts and waltzed with Welk to the strains of his effervescent dance tunes, dubbed “champagne music.” She appeared with the orchestra on the road for three years, then stopped when she decided to raise a family.
Welk’s previous Champagne Lady (the title Welk traditionally gave to his orchestra’s lead female singer), Alice Lon, was fired in 1959 — he thought she exposed her legs too much on camera. After protests, however, Welk tried (and failed) to get Lon back. The show experimented with several different singers over the course of a year, and Zimmer officially joined Welk as his Champagne Lady on New Year’s Eve 1960.
Born Norma Larsen in Larson, Idaho, she grew up in Seattle. She sang with a succession of vocal groups including the Norman Luboff Choir, the Pete King Chorale and the Ken Darby Singers and appeared on television variety shows during the 1950s.
As part of a quartet called the Girlfriends, she sang backup for Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como and Bing Crosby, including on Crosby’s famed recording of “White Christmas.”
Zimmer appeared on the orchestra’s public TV specials that have aired (along with repeats of the series) since 1987. She also took part in a tribute to Welk and his show held earlier this year at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.
Welk died in 1992.
Zimmer made several film and TV appearances, including one with Crosby in the 1950 film “Mr. Music” and in an episode of “I Love Lucy” and was the voice of the White Rose in the 1951 Disney film “Alice in Wonderland.”
Survivors include two sons. Her husband, Randy Zimmer, died in 2008.