I'd love to hear more about your fans—any interesting stories?
I actually would love to put out a book called "A Fan Letter To My Fans" because of some of the e-mails I get, thanking me and thanking me and thanking me...
It's no surprise considering you have touched so many people's lives.
Oh God....It's just so amazing. I mean they're writing me stuff like, "I was a very unhappy teenager... " I get their life story (Laughs). It's wonderful. I have to tell you a funny story, and don't get offended by this. When "Leader Of The Pack" was running on Broadway, the fans would wait outside the stage door with albums for me to sign. And one night I come walking out and this guy is standing there—very sweet with his Raindrops and Ronettes albums. And he goes, "I'm so happy to have met you, and I want to thank you thank you thank you for all your music." He's going on and on, and then he says, "I just want to tell you, I had my first blowjob to "Be My Baby." And I'm standing there, stunned. Totally. I didn't know what to say, and I'm trying to cover myself on this one thinking, "Okay Ellie, let's see how quick you can be on this one." So I answered, "Did it happen during the verse or chorus?" He cracked up! And it eased a little bit of the tension. But when I got home I was like, "WHAT??!!" Unbelievable. But that's how close people start to feel to you. They feel comfortable and they share their most intimate moments.
That's most certainly an intimate moment!
People get hysterical when I tell the story, yet I'm the one who had to stand there and respond! On one hand I'm thinking it's unbelievably weird, but the other side of me says, "But isn't it kind of ... cha cha charming in its own little way?" That he would feel that comfortable to tell me what an important part that song had in his life. When I write my book I really have to talk about this stuff because there are just so many stories— people dying of cancer and wanting me to write them a note, people that have died to "Baby I Love You." Heavy duty stuff.
Are you writing a book at the moment?
Yes I am. And it's funny because I'm just a kid from Levittown. I never did drugs. I ate too much here and there—that's for sure. But I had a very straightforward little life with a house with a white picket fence. And I got thrown into a business that was crazy, but wonderful. Music has always been my passion, and I would've done it somehow. If I hadn't been in the business, I probably would've gotten married, had 42 kids, and run a musical theater.
It's in your blood.
Yes. There's nothing that makes me happier or sadder. It's amazing the emotions that music evokes. I'll hear a certain chord change and go, "AHHHHH!! OH MY GOD! That's beautiful!" My friends used to tell me, "We used to have such a good time coming to your house and watching you listen to the music because all of a sudden you were playing the saxophone and you were into all the parts, and every time we would interrupt, you'd go, "How could you dare talk during that saxophone solo??" I would get enraged. It was those moments that were my prerequisite to being in the business. That's how important the music was to me.
Are you in touch with your friends from the Brill Building days?
I speak to Lesley Gore on occasion. Darlene [Love] and I aren't the closest of friends, but I speak to her once in awhile. I'm mostly friendly with the arrangers and the musicians. At one time I was talking to the Shangri Las, but their whole situation got so crazy with people using their name. And then they were blaming me. I go, "What have I got to do with it? I don't even own your name." But you get to a point where you just have to let it go. But we all miss those days—we were creating a sound back then without knowing it. Had I known that these songs would still be living today, I certainly would've kept my ownership. That's for sure. I never published anything, and when they would say my copyright renewal comes up in 28 years, I'd be like, "Oh please—these songs mattering in 28 years? Who needs to bother." And then 28 years come and go, and I go, "Oh no no no." Nowadays people go in with their lawyer and their accountant, and say, "Hello I'm Britney Spears." They go in as a business.
Would you care to comment on Phil Spector's latest hairstyle?
Harpo Marx lives!
Thanks to Ellie Greenwich, Bob Weiner, Don Charles, and Laura Pinto for making this interview possible.