Riffs Obits
Published February 18, 2009
Lady Renaissance Swings On Out
Millie Vernon 1924 - 2009

Millie Vernon, a beautiful singer of jazz and show tunes, mother, wife, and friend of Lord Buckley's swung on out of our hearing range on Monday night, February 16, 2009 at the Actor's Home in Englewood, New Jersey. She first experienced the power of His Lordship's art in Brooklyn in 1939 when she was fourteen years old at The Strand movie and vaudeville house. Of this first experience she said,

"And he did his Amos and Andy thing. I never saw anything like this man in my life. You know, he was in the tails and I flipped! And I went backstage and I just waited at the stage entrance until he came out and I just, you know, I'm a fourteen year old kid. And I said, "Oh, Lord Buckley, I love you. I'm a singer and I'm going to be in show business. And I just - you're the greatest thing I've seen since I don't know what and - I just love you." And [he said] "Well, my dear, welcome to the club, aye."

Eventually Millie, now a club singer, found herself in Hollywood and ran into Lord Buckley again. Buckley's Hollywood scene was a movable dream with a huge cast of intriguing characters, one of which was young drummer Dick Zalud. His Lordship sized the two up, introduced them, dubbed them Lady Renaissance and Prince Owlhead, and they made the legal move. Their son David Zalud, a very swingin' professional trumpet player, has Buckley for his middle name.

Millie and Dick played countless club dates in their fifty plus years together. They traveled the world on cruise ships and played up and down the east coast. They had a ball and had steamer trucks full of momentos, photos and stories. Millie counted amongst her close friends Billie Holiday and, of course, Lord and Lady Buckley. Dick produced a number of Millie's albums and backed her up on drums and was her straight man on countless occaisons. Eventually they settled in New York at an apartment building reserved for performing artists.

Millie had a beautiful voice and stage presence whether she was doing her own material or charming audiences with her uncanny tributes to other famous singers. She had a smile that swept the cold and darkness out of any room she entered. Her laugh made you forget you had any troubles at all. Wherever Lady Renaissance is tonight we should be thankful for the gift that she was to us all.