By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Contemporary fashion might measure a woman's beauty with a toothpick, but that doesn't mean there's no love left for a superbly sized sexpot. "I've lived on Miami Beach long enough to know," says Bambi as she sways down Alton Road on bright red high heels that match her lipstick and the flowers on her low-cut sundress. "These guys walk by with their skinny girlfriends hanging on their arms, but they always turn around to look at my fat ass." On the opening track of the latest Bambi & the Boys release, I'll Be Famous When I'm Gone, the voluptuous songbird declares her philosophy outright: "With me, it's gotta be big."
And if today's over-aerobicized rap divas no longer leave anything to the imagination -- just check the explicit survey of female genitalia in Khia's "My Neck, My Back (Lick It)" -- Bambi is happy to let the listener linger, in typically coy fashion, over just what "it" might be. That is precisely her appeal, according to pinup photographer Bunny Yeager, who is currently compiling a portfolio called "Bunny Shoots Bambi." Known for her work with Monroe as well as cheesecake cult figure Bettie Page, Yeager says that like those Fifties icons, "[Bambi]'s just very sexy and yet she's wholesome."
Fifty years after the last of the great white canaries stopped chirping, Bambi's Bubblicious Lounge Act shows just what made good clean fun so delightfully dirty. Back in the bad old days of racial segregation, it was the blues singer's job to tell it like it was, coming direct with the boozin', drugs, and sex talk. The white chanteuse had no sex, no funk. At least if she was a good girl, she didn't. And that's what made the thought of being bad all the more exciting.
"It was very very white Wonder Bread jazz-influenced music," says Bambi of the show tunes and standards she heard growing up out of radioshot in rural Montana. As a small child, Bambi would accompany her mother to gigs at what mom liked to call "piano lounges," modest nightspots where mother would play and a precocious Bambi often would sing "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." At home she would dance with her hamster Jellybean and sing along to Julie Andrews's records in the living room while looking in the mirror. "I still do," smiles adult Bambi.
In fact her whole act started out as a lark and a lie. Nine years ago, while Bambi was based in Paris but making frequent trips to South Beach as a plus-size model, she was "discovered" by a bar manager who overheard her singing with friends at a table. "This guy asked if I had a band," Bambi giggles. "I lied and said, 'Yes.'" Booked for a gig the following Saturday night, Bambi turned her fib into the truth by making a few phone calls to friends of friends at the University of Miami music school. She found her boys: piano player Buck, bass player Bo, and drummer Billy, joined as finances allow by horn players with names like Bugsy and Bugler and occasionally a female backup singer who goes by Bimbo. By now Bambi has been through three rounds of boys -- "A boy needs a certain freshness," Bambi explains -- but they always keep the same names. And they almost always come from the music school, lending Bambi's recordings and shows an impressive level of musicianship for a novelty singer in a bygone genre. The chirpies of yesteryear have nothing on Bambi.
Landing at the turn of the 21st Century, Bambi hasn't even missed out on any of the glamour or drama enjoyed by her forerunners. While performing regularly at the Jockey Club on Biscayne Boulevard, she struck the fancy of the then-owner of the joint, wise guy Eddie Anton. Not wowed by Mr. Anton's efforts to impress her with offers of a Cartier watch or a diamond necklace, and a little tipsy by the end of the night, Bambi meant to put off her boss by demanding he deliver her a tea cup poodle. Anton complied, having Bambi's tiny pet Bubbles delivered by limousine from the kennel in Missouri. Anton ended up in jail, but Bubbles, dyed a perky pink with Kool-Aid in Bambi's bathtub, boasts a healthy career in commercials and makes the occasional cameo with the Bubblicious Lounge Act. The act also features a hokey-pokey contest, Bambi's rope-twirling tricks, and lyrics about every aspect of her life, from annoying pickup artists at the bar to the dangers of leaving the curling iron on.
"It's all about me," admits Bambi. "This is a joke. Whatever I do, whatever I say is the gospel word. I like that. People live vicariously through me." Just how much people enjoy surrendering themselves to Bambi sometimes surprises even her. "I didn't think people would like a song that stops in the middle to take a virtual tour of my vagina," marvels Bambi over the popularity of her new song "That's the Spot." Then she shrugs and purses her pretty lips. "But they do."