42ND STREET opened in 1980 at the Winter Garden Theatre on August 25th which happens to be the birthday of the original Warner Bros. film’s star, Ruby Keeler.  Ruby attended the Broadway show shortly after the opening and that’s when I first met her backstage.

     I told her that she was partly responsible for me getting the Dick Powell role of Billy Lawlor.  As I sang my ballad, I Only Have Eyes For You, at the audition, I looked up into the balcony and pictured her dear, sweet face as I sang the song.  She gave me a coquettish smile & said,  “Well, I’m here now and you can sing it to me in person.”  I did and we were dear friends from that day forward.  It became our song.  She also autographed one of my tap shoes.  James Cagney later autographed the other one.

     We always saw each other when she was in Manhattan or I was in Rancho Mirage where she resided.  We referred to these as our ‘date nights’.

     On one of those date nights, Ruby told me that she no longer had tap shoes because they were all donated to charities.  She was partially paralyzed from a stroke and walked with a cane.

     I called Capezio where her shoe size was still on file and ordered her a new pair of tap shoes in silver with the taps she preferred.  I told them to rubber the shoes and put elastics where the buckles were so she would be able to slip into them with ease.

     The next time we had our date night in Manhattan, I presented the shoes in a gift wrapped box.  She said, “Now, Honey, you should be saving your money.  I don’t need anything.”  I replied,  “Ruby, you need these!”

     When she saw the tap shoes, her big turquoise blue eyes filled with tears and we hugged.  I whispered in her ear,  “As long as I’m alive, Ruby, you’ll never be without your tap shoes.”

     After she returned to Rancho Mirage, she called.  In the background, I heard me singing from the 42ND STREET cast recording and she said,  “Listen, Honey!”.  She was tapping with her good foot and rapping with her cane.  

     Ruby was fighting Cancer and told me during our last conversation that the doctors wanted to operate but the outlook wasn’t favorable.  I knew she was very Catholic and told her that she should pray to God and he would tell her what to do.  She decided not to have the operation and passed away shortly thereafter.

     Her daughter, Cathy, called and said that when she was cleaning out Ruby’s closet, the tap shoes were proudly displayed at the center on the top shelf.  Ruby lives in my heart!