You can expect rumors of for-real romance to burst out with every duet which Tommy Leonetti and Jill Corey Sing, for here's a pair to flutter any matchmaking imagination. Tommy is tall, dark and handsome; Jill is petite, pert and pretty. Each comes from an Italian family where every member loves music. Each has a warm, outgoing personality, and both have reached that level of professional achievement where one lucky song, one hit record, will bring the blazing glory of top stardom.
To compound the inevitable conclusion that these two belong together is the fact that they have gone out on a few dates. "That was in Hollywood a couple of years ago," says Tommy, with a hint of happy memory in his voice. Jill says, with a touch of nostalgia, "Long before we ever guessed we might be singing together on Your Hit Parade." Then, almost instantly, each assures you, with a shy charm, that the association had no serious connotations.
Says Jill, who has been going
through a period in which columnists linked her name with that of virtually
every interestingly eligible young man on Manhattan. "Don't believe
what you read in the papers. I'm not in love with anybody . . . but
I do think Tommy is a lot of fun." Says Tommy, who has squired many
a glamorous lass, "Jill's a sweet girl. But my first record was called
I'm Available, and that still stands."
Closest to her is her sister Alice. Their mother died when Alice was fourteen and Jill was four, and the older sister quit school to take care of the child. Despite their loss, theirs was a happy, musical family. Says Jill, "Everyone played some instrument - trumpet, clarinet, drums, piano. We had a music room instead of a playroom, and there we all could make just as much noise as we wanted to."
She had a radio show when she was twelve, and she began singing with a band when she entered high school. "For the first two years, one of my brothers turned up to take me home. But, after that, my family trusted the boys in the band to take me home." Throughout this, she kept up her grades. "I graduated ninth in my class - but I had missed more days of school than anyone else in the class."
The manager of a Pittsburgh [area] radio station arranged for her introduction to Mitch Miller, artists-and-repertoire man for Columbia Records in New York. "My sister Alice and her husband, Dr. William Yockey, were with me. I would never have dared to go alone. I expected Mr. Miller would say, 'Go home, little girl, and study hard . . . ' "
The marvel of what actually happened will never fade for Jill. "When they asked me what key I sang in, I didn't even know what to say. I just sounded a note. My accompanist was wonderful. He said, 'That's C,' and went into my number." And instead of the "Go-home-little-girl" speech she expected, Mitch Miller said, "You're for us - and how would you like to go over and audition for the Garroway show, besides?"
Since then she has added The Johnny Carson Show, Robert Q. Lewis Show and others to her credit. She has a disc jockey show of her own and now stars in a syndicated film series sponsored by the National Guard. Each year her income has doubled. "I've been fortunate in my work," says Jill. Her Manager, Lloyd Leipzig, says, "I've never seen any young singer work so hard and study so continuously - voice, dancing, acting." Jill enlarged the scope of her capabilities with two summer-stock appearances. In Kansas City, she sang the lead in High Button Shoes, and in Cincinnati, she played a straight dramatic role in The Reluctant Debutante.
Through all her swift rise, Jill has remained as sweet as when she came from Avonmore. She's an appealing little creature. She stands only five-feet-four and weighs 108 pounds. (She diets on steak.) Her hair is dark brown and her eyes are a liquid brown. She moves with grace and has a shy smile which makes everyone in a room smile right back at her.
She lives at present in a sublet apartment on New York's east side and looks forward to finding one of her own. She does not feel she is particularly domestic - "I've yet to find nerve enough to give a party." But her manager comments, "She's fantastically tidy. Every paper on her desk is squared away, and I swear she files her clothes rather than merely hanging them up."
The motion-picture offers which have come Jill's way form an important part of her long-time plan. "I just haven't yet met love," she admits. "But, when I do, I'd like to settle down in Beverly Hills and have a nice, big family. I'd like to do a picture now and then. But if that interfered, I'd drop that, too. My family will always come ahead of my career."
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