The late-career tribute thrilled Ms. Wallis, who was able to bask in the show's success in her mid-80s. Her son Alan wrote in a Dec. 22 e-mail to Leritz that the recent success of the revue (which she did not appear in) "extended her life immeasurably."
The Brooklyn-born Ms. Wallis, 87, lived in Connecticut and had battled Alzheimer's disease in recent years. A young Ruth Wallis studied dancing, voice and piano, and after high school sang in the Isham Jones and Benny Goodman orchestras. She would become famous for her suggestive words and lyrics.
Boobs! The Musical had a popular run in Manhattan beginning in 2003, and a cast album is in stores. Regional productions have also emerged. CD re-issues of her songs emerged in recent years, as well.
In her day, songwriter-musician-singer Wallis' records were popular in England, Australia and New Zealand, even though her discs had a history of being confiscated in Australia.
Ms. Wallis, who in recent years was a widowed "sweet little grandmother living in Connecticut," according to Leritz, was a sensation overseas and in Canada, but her self-produced records were never played on the radio in the U.S.; they were considered smut in the era of postwar conformity. A compilation disc of Ms. Wallis' original recordings was recently released under the title "Boobs: Ruth Wallis' Greatest Hits." The 19-track CD includes "Drill 'Em All," "Queer Things," "Marriage Jewish Style," "Freddie the Fisherman's Son," "The Pop-Up Song," "The Bell Song," "The Same Little Yo-Yo," "De Gay Young Lad," "Hawaiian Lei Song" and more. She is billed as "the queen of the party records."
A second disc, "Love is for the Birds" was re-released in 2006. Recently, Ms. Wallis was honored by the National Archives of Australia.
Ms. Wallis is survived by her daughter, Ronnie (Frank) Ramistella, of Monterey, CA; her son, Alan Pastman, of South Killingly, CT; and a granddaughter, Melissa (John) Pelochino, of El Dorado Hills, CA.
A graveside ceremony will be held on Dec. 26, 1:30 PM at Sharon Memorial Park, Sharon Massachusetts.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to Connecticut VNA Hospice 12 Case Street #356, Norwich CT, 06360.
The Boobs! revue (sung and danced by a handful of young performers) includes one serious song, "All the Clowns," which Leritz said is another highlight of the show because it's so unexpected.
Boobs! The Musical came about when Ms. Wallis made a call to the powerful agency ICM to pitch a musical using her songs. Mitch Douglas at ICM had been a longtime fan and gathered a creative team together. A workshop in 2000 was popular and led to Boobs!, which boasted wild costumes by Robert Pease (who co-produced with Leritz) and J. Kevin Draves. According to her show bio, "Ruth is a veteran of 10 comedy albums, which sold worldwide for over two decades. She traveled extensively, as an international star doing her own songs and appeared in top supper clubs in Las Vegas, Miami and was a sensation and sell out on her tours of Australia, London and New Zealand. In the '60s, her albums enjoyed great success and were released on her own Wallis Originals label. 'The Dinghy Song' sold 250,000 copies. She has also turned her vast talents to creating several scripts for the musical comedy stage."
Despite the dirty double entendre song titles and content, Boobs! is nice as can be.
"The songs are really pretty clean," Leritz told Playbill.com in 2003. "When people ask about buying tickets, they ask if there's any cussing. I say, 'No, all the dirtyness is in your mind.' It totally plays to a huge audience. We have 20-year-olds on dates, and we have senior citizens who have Ruth Wallis records in their attic."
Kids attended the show and saw a man wearing a costume of a little boat around him for "The Dinghy Song" (arguably songwriter-comedienne Wallis' best-known song). Their parents and grandparents like the song for another reason.
"He's got the cutest little dinghy in the Navy, and all the girlies know that it's so," goes the song. "Just for a lark he went and painted it green. It's the only green dinghy that the girls have ever seen."
Leritz said it was a pleasure creating the numbers on stage. Although there is a book to the show, by Steve Mackes and co-producer Michael Whaley, Leritz said the experience is essentially a musical revue (subtitled The World According to Ruth Wallis) that tells the story of Ms. Wallis and her career in the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
The 20 or so numbers — presented by a company of six — are the focus of the show. It's the sort of production where the song, "Pizza," includes a girl wearing a dress shaped like a pizza pie.
"It's the hit every night, and she's chased around for a slice," Leritz said. "The costume designers made the front slice removable..."
For more information about the life and songs of Ruth Wallis, visit www.boobsthemusical.com.