First your CD, The Origins of Sophie Tucker, got nominated for a Grammy. Then, you had a critically acclaimed documentary, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, and an award-winning book, I Am Sophie Tucker. And now your new musical, The Last Of The Red Hot Mamas, will be making its world premiere at the renowned Bucks County Playhouse in July 2024. You two have been busy!

S:I guess you could say the last eighteen years…  
L: …have been a pretty interesting.

Let’s start at the beginning. Who got you two interested in Sophie Tucker?

S: Bette Midler!  
L: Back in 1973 we were both at Ithaca College… 
S: …and Lloyd was the one that somehow got the up-and-coming Bette to come do a concert there. 
L: I needed a date, so I asked Sue if she wanted to go… 
S: …and I said YES! 
L: In the middle of her act, Midler did a fifteen-minute impersonation of Sophie Tucker. 
S: And because Lloyd was in charge, after the show we got to have dinner with Bette… 
L: …and her piano player at the time, Barry Manilow.  
S: It was a pretty unbelievable first date. And, we’d also have to say, because of Bette, we ended up 
getting married, having three kids, and selling our family business.

What was your family business?

S: In 1983 we started selling Father-to-Bee hats with a bumble bee logo instead of the word “BE”. 
L: Everything had our “BEE” logo on it. 
S: Then, we expanded and sold maternity gifts for the rest of the pregnant family—mothers-to-bee, grandparents-to-bee, aunts and uncles-to-bee. We found our own little niche.  
L: After the Internet came into being in 2004, we became the #1 collector of pregnant names from a website called

So how did that lead you to explore the career of Sophie Tucker?

S: I guess you could say, after our first date, over the next three decades, we became Bette Midler groupies.  
L: During that time, we probably saw ‘The Divine Miss M’ perform a dozen times, each time hearing her do her Soph impersonation.  
S: Then cut to 2006, after we sold our baby business. We had a lot of spare time. 
L: So, we decided to find out who the real “Soph” was. 
S: And since my husband never does anything half-assed, by accident, we became the world’s foremost authorities on Sophie Tucker. 
L: So much so, that after the first five years of researching, we realized we had enough material to develop a new entertainment franchise based on the life story of ‘The Last of the Red Hot Mamas’…  
S: …and that’s what we’ve been working on ever since.

Why do you think there has never been a movie about Tucker?

L: We think Bette Midler put it best. Sometime in the 1980’s she said, “I read her autobiography. All she ever did was shop! There was no drama.” 
S: She was right. Sophie’s book was funny but there wasn’t enough for a movie or anything else. 

So, if the autobiography was weak for a movie script why did you continue?

L: We figured like most autobiographies in the 1940’s, a lot must have been left out.
S: So, we decided to find out for ourselves if there was more.
L: And there was!

Tell us more about those first four years of research.

S: We checked out fourteen archives, travelled to over 20 U.S. states, including Hawaii, and went to Canada, England, and France, too. We saw and read it all. 
L: We even tracked down all her apartment belongings at the time of her death. That took us to Cincinnati. The best find though was unearthing Sophie’s personal scrapbooks at the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center and Brandeis University.
S: There were over 400 scrapbooks from 1906 to 1966. 
L: Not only did Sophie keep all her show biz memorabilia but she also kept every single card, letter, and telegram that anyone ever sent to her.
S: By the time we were done in 2010 we had interviews with over 60 stars, and all of Sophie’s family and friends who were still alive.

In the middle of your first five years on your Sophie Tucker Project, how did you come to collaborate with Archeophone Records’ CD about Sophie’s early recordings and end up getting nominated for a Grammy?

S: We had heard that Archeophone was working on a CD, remastering Tucker’s first ten Thomas Edison phonographic roll songs from 1910-11. We called in 2007 to introduce ourselves and explore the possibility of using whatever music they had restored in our documentary.
L: Then, in 2008 things escalated and they asked us to take a crack at the album liner notes.
S: We told them that we weren’t really music groupies but if they were looking for some newly unearthed real 1910-11 Sophie stories and trivia, we would give it a go.
L: In return, they educated us about the nitty gritty jazz trivia and today, because of our partnership, we understand why Tucker was not only a great entertainer but one of the true innovative jazz geniuses of the early 20th century.
S: That collaboration turned into the hardback booklet with the CD called, Origins of The Red Hot Mama, 1910-1922.
L: Which lead to having the album featured in a story on the front page of the Sunday Arts Section of the NY Times and then getting nominated for a Grammy for our Album Notes.

Then, a couple of years later, once again, you got featured on the front page of the Arts Section of the NY Times with a great review of your documentary, The Outrageous Sophie Tucker. Can you give us a few highlights people can still discover by watching it on Amazon Prime.

L: This woman did it all: beer halls, burlesque, vaudeville, silent movies, one of the first talkies, major film musicals and Broadway shows, and finally she played at every swanky and not so swanky nightclub in the world.
S: Tucker knew all the presidents from Taft to Johnson.
L: She even had JFK’s personal White House number and called him any time she liked.
S: She performed for and palled around with two English Kings, the current Queen Elizabeth, two former Princes of Wales and the Mountbattens.
L: She also hung out with all the well-known gangsters in the 20’s including Al Capone.
S: And was personal friends with J. Edgar Hoover. 
L: That’s a good one. We have an unbelievable interview with one of Sophie’s friends who was sitting in between her and J. Edgar when Hoover leaned over and asked Tucker if he could have one of her fancy beaded gowns after she was done with it.

Then, you guys wrote your book, I Am Sophie Tucker, where you revealed more things that Sophie left out of her autobiography, right?

S: There’s an understatement! It’s all in there.
L: Tucker stories involving sex, violence, revenge, affairs, nasty business deals, murders, family feuds, drug and alcohol abuse and more sex.

And now your new musical, The Last Of The Red Hot Mamas, will be making its world premiere at the renowned Bucks County Playhouse in July 2024. Give us a preview please.

L: Okay. The musical is about how nineteen-year-old Sophie leaves Hartford, comes to New York, makes friends with two Harlem Vaudeville headliners, Mollie Elkins and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson…
S: …and then, how Mollie and Bojangles take Tucker under their wings, and after some minor trials and major tribulations, six years later, get Sophie starring at The Palace Theater.

So, after you two get your Tony awards, what next on the agenda in the Sophie Tucker Project grand plan?

S: Aah, that an easy question. Go on and tell them, Mr. Half-Assed.
L: Okay, Mrs. Half-Assed. After our twenty-year run on Broadway, there will be an Academy Award winning Best Picture…. with another Academy Award for the sequel…. and finally, with our remaining treasure trove of Sophie Tucker research, we have enough material left over for the next great eight-year, Emmy Award winning Best Drama TV series.

One last question. What’s been the most unexpected result of the Sophie Tucker project so far?

S: Since our CD, movie and book have come out, in addition to the friendships of all 60 stars and dozens of Sophie’s family and friends that we interviewed, every week we are still hearing from people who intimately knew Sophie Tucker. 
L: Our mailing list is now over 5,000!
S: The crazy thing is, these people would all still kill for her. 
L: And now …… so would we.

Any last thoughts?

S: After being at this for eighteen years, it’s gotten to the point where we feel like Sophie’s looking over our shoulder and pulling for our success to reintroduce her to the world as a headliner one more time.
L: So here’s our last thought. We have no doubts in our minds. It’s gonna happen!