Kay Armen, 95, Dies


Kay Armen with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian in 2009

NEW YORK — Kay Armen died on October 3, after a short illness, at the age of 95. Born on November 2, 1915 in Chicago, Armen (née Armenuhi Manoogian) was the first of four children born to Armenian parents. In 2008, Armen was honored with a pontifical encyclical and the St. Sahag-St. Mesrob Medal from the Catholicos of All Armenians, the highest honor bestowed by the worldwide Armenian Church to artists for their lifetime advancements in the arts and culture.

In the 1980s, New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral honored her with its “St. Vartan Award” for her longstanding support of the cathedral construction project and for her continuing contributions to its cultural life.

Affectionately known as “Charmin’ Kay Armen,” she had an illustrious show business career, which spanned almost 60 years in the radio, television, stage, screen and recording industries. A singer, actress and composer, she made many records and performed on stage, in nightclubs, films and on television.

Her many radio hits include the successful “Stop the Music” program with Bert Parks, on both radio and later on TV. At one time Armen was heard on all three national radio networks, CBS, NBC and ABC, with various programs. Playwright William Saroyan and his cousin, Ross Bagdasarian (creator of the “Chipmunks”), wrote Come on-a My House for Armen and it was later recorded by many artists, including Rosemary Clooney.

On television, she starred in the hit sitcom “Love and Marriage,” and Ray Bolger’s “Washington Square,” in which she was his singing star and was a regular guest on many talk/variety shows, including “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.”

She made her screen debut in the 1955 MGM musical smash, “Hit the Deck,” appearing with co-stars Vic Damone, Debbie Reynolds, Tony Martin, Jane Powell and Ann Miller. The production finale from “Hit the Deck” in which Armen sings Hallelujah is featured in the MGM musical retrospective “That’s Entertainment!” (1974).

In 1995, President Bill Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Honor for the Arts, and in 2000, she received the Handel Medallion from New York City.

In October 2005, Armen was honored by the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The prestigious Opera News Magazine called Armen “one of the great pop contraltos of all time.”