They just don’t make them like Danny Kaye anymore. The beloved entertainer was so multi-talented that he was able to succeed at just about anything he tried, including dancing, performing, acting, medicine, charity, cooking, and so much more. He even owned a baseball team for a period of time. Kaye’s legend is truly remarkable and The Danny Kaye Centennial is about to wrap up its yearlong celebration of his contribution to the arts by highlighting some of his most celebrated films’ arrival on Blu-ray and DVD this holiday season. Parade sat down with Danny’s only daughter, Dena Kaye, to talk about her father’s films, life, and his ongoing legacy.
What does it mean to you to be promoting and celebrating your father’s centennial?
It means several things to me: 1) It kind of brings me close to him again. 2) It’s allowed me to look at his films, and his whole career, as an outsider rather than just his daughter. So there’s a much different appreciation of who he was as a performer and entertainer and humanitarian and a chef and a baseball owner. Audrey Hepburn was a friend of mine. I had the privilege of meeting her through UNICEF and she once said to me, “We all come with certain baggage and we really have to respect and honor that baggage.” Baggage in the sense of what you’re born with or what your legacy is. And so this centennial and having his work come out is a great satisfaction. To have him stay alive and be remembered by people who knew him, and by younger generations, is my goal. He was a unique talent. He was a trailblazer in his humanitarian work, and he was passionate about everything he did in his life.
How nice has it been for you, through the years, to meet your father’s fans and hear how much they love his work?
I never get tired of people telling me how much they like his work because I’m proud of what he did. I was very close to my father and we were great friends. He was a part of my life, especially as an adult, and I admire him so the fact that people remember is an honor.
How has your father and his work influenced your work as a journalist?
I did a lot of travel writing for a while and design stories in different parts of the world. The foundation I run has a global view. I think I got a non-snobbish approach to the world from him as well.
How thrilling was it for you, as a child, to ask for Frank Sinatra to come to your birthday party and then have him actually show up?
That’s a hard question for me to answer. It’s like the question, “What’s it like being Danny Kaye’s daughter?” My answer is always, “I never knew anything else.” It was thrilling, though, to have Sinatra there. When I was in college and I finished a term paper, my great reward was to put on my new Sinatra album. To me, the mark of a great entertainer is that you are moved emotionally. Sinatra did that.