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Ruth Wallis; songwriter, singer of ribald tunes

Ruth Wallis wrote about 150 songs, many of them packed with double entendres. Ruth Wallis wrote about 150 songs, many of them packed with double entendres. (file)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Margalit Fox
New York Times News Service / January 8, 2008

NEW YORK - Ruth Wallis, a cabaret singer of the 1940s, '50s and '60s who was known as the Queen of the Party Song for the genteelly risqué numbers she performed for happy, and very occasionally horrified, listeners worldwide, died Dec. 22 at her home in South Killingly, Conn. She was 87.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease, her son, Alan Pastman, said.

Ms. Wallis, who began her career performing jazz and cabaret standards, soon became known for the novelty songs - more than 150 of them - she wrote herself, all positively dripping with double entendre. Even today, only a fraction of her titles can be rendered in a family newspaper, among them "The Hawaiian Lei Song," "Hopalong Chastity," "Your Daddy Was a Soldier," and "A Man, a Mink, and a Million Pink and Purple Pills." Her signature number, "The Dinghy Song," is an ode to Davy, who had "the cutest little dinghy in the Navy."

In 2003, Ms. Wallis's work was the basis of an off-Broadway revue, "Boobs! The Musical: The World According to Ruth Wallis."

Though Ms. Wallis performed in some of the most glittering nightclubs in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, her career was largely overlooked at the time. Few mainstream newspapers dared print even faintly suggestive titles like "Johnny Has a Yo-Yo," "De Gay Young Lad," "Stay Out of My Pantry," and "Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew." Nor could they reproduce Ms. Wallis's lyrics, in which body parts, real or merely implied, tended to loom large.

In Boston, Ms. Wallis's songs were banned from the radio. In Australia, her records were seized by customs agents when she arrived there for a tour. Both incidents only made her more popular, according to later news accounts.

Ruth Shirley Wohl was born Jan. 5, 1920, in New York. She chose her stage name in honor of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the duchess of Windsor, her son said.

Ms. Wallis's marriage to her manager, Hy Pastman, ended in divorce, though they were later reconciled, her son said; the elder Pastman died in 1987. Besides her son, of South Killingly, she leaves a daughter, Ronnie Ramistella of Monterey, Calif.; and one grandchild.

Services were held at Sharon Memorial Park in Sharon, Mass.

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