Kaye was born on November 20, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then she has been on the cover of Life magazine, played the Tooth Fairy on Captain Kangaroo, and sipped tea in the Bronx with Mother Teresa. She knew she wanted to perform by the time she was five, and even before graduating high school, began to find work doing imitations of her favorite stars all around Ohio. Kaye performed in both Burlesque and Vaudeville, and before discovering the musical theatre, toured with the Spike Jones Orchestra for two years as featured vocalist and tuba player.
She went on to play every name nightclub that existed throughout the 1950's and '60's including The Bon Soir and The Blue Angel in New York, The Hungry i in San Francisco, and Mr. Kelly's in Chicago. She has appeared on every talk/variety show there ever was including, The Jack Parr Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Steve Allen Show, The Perry Como Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Muppet Show.
Film credits include The Girl Most Likely with Jane Powell, A House Is Not A Home with Shelley Winters, Freaky Friday with Jodie Foster, Which Way To The Front? with Jerry Lewis, and The Ritz with Rita Moreno and Jerry Stiller.
Where she really made a name for herself was on Broadway in such shows as The Golden Apple, in which she introduced the standard, “Lazy Afternoon,” the original company of Carnival as Rosalie, Molly, as Molly Goldberg, and Ruth in Pirates of Penzance.
Other credits include several record albums, including the first recording of Charles Schultz’ Peanuts characters with Arthur Siegel, Ado Annie in a best selling version of Oklahoma! with Nelson Eddy, and several Ben Bagley compilations.
Kaye has also performed Mama Rose in Gypsy with both Jack Cassidy and Gavin MacLeod, and been seen in Over the River and Through the Woods, Quartet, Funny Girl, Papermill's Follies, and two all-star versions of Dan Goggin’s Nunsense.
January 22, 2019 — Rancho Mirage, CA — Actress, Singer, Comedienne Kaye Ballard died peacefully at home in Rancho Mirage, CA on Monday, January 21, 2019 at age 93 after a brief illness. She was born Catherine Gloria Ballota in Cleveland, one of 4 children of Vincent and Lena Ballota and raised by her beloved Nana, Gabriella. Kaye graduated from West Tech High School in Cleveland with a scholarship in Fine Art. “I decided not to take it because a little voice inside me said that even though I had some ability I would never be the best artist, but I might, just might be among the best in show business”. So she went down to the Frank Sennes Theatrical Agency in downtown Cleveland and declared herself the “most talented person in the world”. Her guts got her local bookings as the “Sensational Comedienne Kay Ballad”. She sang and did imitations of Betty Hutton, Bette Davis, and Judy Garland. Soon she was appearing in vaudeville and got her big break when Spike Jones invited her to play a “trick tuba” with his touring band (Kaye was also an accomplished flutist). Her touring days led to her long-lasting career as a concert and nightclub star (The Blue Angel & The Bon Soir in New York, Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, The Hungry i & The Purple Onion in San Francisco and countless clubs and concert halls across the US and Europe), recording artist (having introduced three standards, “Maybe This Time,” “Fly Me To The Moon”, and “Lazy Afternoon”), television star (THE MEL TORME SHOW, THE PERRY COMO SHOW, THE DORIS DAY SHOW, hundreds of series guest shots, talk and game show appearances, but best known for co-starring with Eve Arden in THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW, directed and produced by Desi Arnaz), and Broadway star (THE GOLDEN APPLE, CARNIVAL, PIRATES OF PENZANCE).
Kaye always had a project going. Over 70 years of making a living from nothing but show business. Whether writing her memoir, recording a biography, or giving a series of benefit concerts she just kept moving ahead. In her late 80s Kaye performed no less than five different concerts backed by a full orchestra in New Mexico, Texas, and California with friends Lee Roy Reams, Donna McKechnie, and Liliane Montevecchi, all for the protection and well-being of animals. Kaye lived her final years happily surrounded by her puppies in the house she bought from Desi Arnaz on a street which was ultimately named for her—Kaye Ballard Lane. She knew and worked with every legend of 20th Century entertainment from Ray Bolger to George Clooney. Throughout her career Kaye was always devoted to the encouragement of rising talent. A super-fan of the movies from the time she first ushered at the RKO Palace Theatre back in Cleveland, Kaye was seen on the big screen in such films as THE GIRL MOST LIKELY, A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME, WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT, FREAKY FRIDAY, and THE RITZ. Ironically, her passing coincides with the initial exhibition last week at the Palm Springs Film Festival of a documentary about her life and career entitled THE SHOW GOES ON!, which she proudly attended. When told of the Audience Favorite Award the film was given, she responded by saying that, “I can now die a happy woman.”