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Tragic life of singer behind catchy new Lincoln car commercial revealed

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Tragic life of singer behind catchy new Lincoln car commercial revealed

Lincoln’s latest commercial, for its new Aviator hybrid electric car: is a pretty typical holiday spot: snow (in this case, manufactured for a family living among palm trees), joyous consumers and a jazzy tune playing over it all. But the ad is also shedding light on the forgotten vocalist who sings the ring-a-ding standard, “It’s a Most Unusual Day.”

Beverly Kenney was a rising jazz vocalist with a sophisticated style when she suddenly and tragically vanished from the scene — committing suicide with pills and booze in her Greenwich Village flat in 1960, at the age of 28.

Virtually unknown and long forgotten, she’s now making a big comeback from the
grave six decades later, with the largest audience she’s ever had. The national TV spot was the most-viewed automotive commercial of the week after it debuted in November, drawing big audience impressions from “Today,” “Good Morning America,” “Fox & Friends” and more, and has become one of the season’s most popular spots according to a ranking compiled by iSpot.tv.

The tune is from the singer’s 1957 album “Beverly Kenney Sings for Playboys.” But the coolness and joy of her vocalizing — prompting a spike on Google Trends for both Kenney’s name and the song title — offers no clue to Kenney’s decline. Her life ended alone in a drab one-room apartment in the Village, surrounded with empty bottles of the sleeping pill Seconol and alcohol.

Kenney cajoled Hugh Hefner into singing “Makin’ Whoopee” with her on the TV series “Playboy After Dark.”
Playboy

“It’s tragic, heartbreaking, and I’m just obsessed with her,” musician and producer Tony Guerrero, 55, told The Post. “I was driving around town one day and her voice came on the radio and I was immediately captivated. The first time that I heard Beverly sing I could have guessed that her story was tragic.”

He became so entranced that he put together a website and YouTube video, “Born to Be Blue,” devoted to Kenney’s career.

Born in 1932 during the Great Depression, Kenney was one of several daughters from a working-class Harrison, NJ, family. Her first singing job was for Western Union, making “Happy Birthday” telephone calls.

Beverly Kenney
Beverly Kenney had six albums, including “Beverly Kenney Sings for Playboys.”
Amazon

She was reportedly discovered by the Dorsey Brothers and released her first solo album in 1956 at age 24, with Downbeat magazine declaring: “It looks as if finally, a new voice of unmistakable jazz quality has appeared to take its place beside those of Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald … “

Soon, Kenney had a promising career as a cabaret singer, with shows at such iconic
Manhattan jazz venues as the Village Vanguard and Birdland, as well as clubs in Miami.

She went on to cut six albums, toured with the Tommy Dorsey band and played major gigs with such top jazz musicians as Miles Davis, Tito Puente and Art Blakey. She performed her “I Hate Rock and Roll” on the “Steve Allen Show” and cajoled Hugh Hefner into singing “Makin’ Whoopee” with her on the series “Playboy After Dark.”

Once discovered, XXX was compared to and joined the ranks of other jazz greats such as Miles Davis (left) and Tito Puente (right).
Beverly Kenney played with jazz greats such as Miles Davis (left) and Tito Puente (right).

As the late torch singer Julie London once noted, “I dig [Kenney] because, well, she
phrases like mad … Matter of fact, she sings like a musician.”

But, suddenly and mysteriously, Kenney vanished from the scene, likely dealing with, according to observers, mental illness that seemingly went untreated. By the time of her suicide on April 13, 1960 — her third attempt to take her own life — she had stopped singing altogether and was doing office work and living in a drab room at the University Residence Hotel, a woman’s club, at 45 East 11th St.

The night before she killed herself, a Sunday, she had had dinner with her father. The next day, all day, her radio blared from her room nonstop, upsetting other residents who eventually telephoned the police. Breaking down the door, they found Kenney on her bed, wearing a pink nightgown. She had left no note.

Beverly Kenney
Beverly Kenney died in a drab room at the University Residence Hotel, a woman’s club, located at 45 East 11th St.
Helayne Seidman for NY Post

Questioned by the police, her father stated, “Everything seemed fine.”

Her closest friend until Beverly’s death was the model and budding actress Millie Perkins, from Fair Lawn, NJ, who went on to play Anne Frank in the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank.” In a telephone interview Perkins gave to Guerrero in 2020, the now-83-year-old reminisced about Kenney, who she first met in the Village in the beatnik fifties.

At the time Perkins was dating the literary critic and New York Times writer Anatole Broyard, and Kenney was seeing Broyard’s friend, the nonfiction writer and poet Milton Klonsky.

Kenney recorded six albums and toured with jazz legends such as Art Blakey.
Kenney also toured with legends such as Art Blakey.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

“Anatole didn’t approve of my relationship with Beverly because he thought she was kind of decadent, which she wasn’t, not with me anyway,” Perkins recalled. “I was much more innocent than Beverly. Beverly was my girlfriend and a lot of people thought we were gay. I tended towards creative, smart people and Beverly was one.”

But Perkins also came to the conclusion that Kenney had emotional problems and
was a depressive.

Kenney’s best friend was model and budding actress Millie Perkins (above) who starred in the movie version of “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

“Beverly was in pain all the time,” Perkins once wrote to a friend. “Everyday life was difficult for her.”

It was a few months after Perkins went to Hollywood to audition for the Anne Frank
role that Kenney killed herself. Perkins says that the singer’s devastated sister, discussing the suicide, claimed, “Beverly was hurt because I went to California, which was nonsense.”

Guerrero believes that one of the reasons the life and death of Beverley Kenney is still
so “mysterious” is because “the family hasn’t offered a lot of information about her … They had letters from her and Beverly’s father, and he burned them.”

In her last days Kenney had written a slew of letters to the family, the contents of which remain a mystery.

“And there was no suicide note,” Guerrero added. “There was a lot of speculation that her suicide was related to her sadness over a previous lover, but I don’t believe that’s true. She had a much closer relationship with somebody after that and he was part of taking care of her in those last months.”

Guerrero, a jazz trumpeter and songwriter, is now considering arranging a Beverly
Kenney tribute concert on the West Coast, with the proceeds going to mental health organizations, and a documentary about her life. Universal Music, which holds the license to Kenney’s music, is reportedly considering re-releasing her songs in 2023.

“There’s something about an artist like Beverly that just reaches and grabs you in a way that you can’t understand,” he said. “Beverly falls into that Billie Holiday, Chet
Baker world for me. They just kind of grab you on an emotional level and it has little to
do with the power of their voice or their technique. I think a lot of people who have
heard her in that commercial are having the same experience.”

Jerry Oppenheimer is a bestselling biographer and a regular Post contributor.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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