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Andy Williams, R.I.P.
IN today's overdemocratized popu-
Mr. Williams got it just right. His fresh-scrubbed Iowa looks made him seem trustworthy, but a quiet reserve delivered him from smarminess. He was good company on nights in the '60s when the country was split among three TV channels instead of being atomized across 3,000. And the voice. For about half of one opening note, it sounded merely soft, like goose-down for the ear. But then you detected something solid beneath--timber wrapped in batting. Mr. Williams showed that you didn't have to be Italian to be a top crooner.
"Moon River," Mr. Williams' theme song (from "Breakfast at Tiffany's"), neatly captures the all-prepossessing splendor of romantic love in a lyrical net. He also sang a jukebox full of other hits composed by Henry Mancini: "Days of Wine and Roses," "Charade," "Speak Softly Love"--or not--"Born Free," "Lonely Street," and "Where Do I Begin?" to name a few. These are songs for the long nights and the long haul. Mr. Williams' family-hour reputation will survive, one hopes, reports that when in his 70s and on an Asian concert tour, appreciative females in the audience threw their undergarments at him.
Americans during the '60s, of course, kept themselves fully robed while watching "The Andy Williams Show" and its spin-off Christmas specials that appeared almost annually until 1974. Mr. Williams' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" was a signal that Christmastide was nigh, and itself happy evidence of the song's declaration. In any season, Mr. Williams was a welcome guest in the American parlor.
But his life wasn't a storybook, unless Mickey Spillane was the author. His 1961 marriage to French dancer Claudine Longet ended in divorce in 1975. The next year, she shot her lover and stood trial for murder. Mr. Williams testified for her. She got 30 days. It was all a notorious turn for a dimple-cheeked former Presbyterian choirboy.
But Mr. Williams weathered it. He remarried in 1991 and became a charming fixture at the Moon River Theater in Branson, Mo. Through the years, he made people smile and sigh, and he improved the culture--just what you'd expect from a huckleberry friend.