by Lola Rossi-Meza

Vocalist Rebecca Clark is performing a special holiday show on Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24, at 7 p.m. at Azul Tapas Lounge and Patio, 369 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. (760) 325-5533.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Rebecca Clark was one of ten siblings, five girls and five boys. Her mother became very ill with tuberculosis shortly after Clark was born, so she and her brothers and sisters were placed in different orphanages. “I was only eight months old when my Mother couldn’t take care of us,” said Clark. “My sisters and I were placed in St. Joseph Hall Orphanage for girls and my brothers were in another for boys. I lived there until I was 13 years old.” During the time she lived there, she recalls, “I first started singing when I was six years old. I would get some of the other girls together and we would hold Talent Shows, using our hair brushes as microphones and our blankets as curtains, singing songs to keep ourselves amused.”

She became interested in learning how to play the piano after hearing one of the employees playing it in the auditorium. The first time she played the piano, she remembered some of the notes to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, a musical piece she would hear the worker play often. “I finally started learning how to play the piano, and after I did, the nuns would ask me to play ‘When the Saints Come Marching In’ at the class assembly every Tuesday.” When she was 13 years old, Clark was sent to live with her Father and a few members of the family in Puerto Rico. “It was difficult at times, but my sister and I would play our guitars every night outside on the porch, so being in an abusive home was at least tolerable.”

An attractive young lady, it wasn’t long before she discovered the beauty pageant circuit. “I entered the Miss New York State Beauty Pageant when I was 16 years old and won first-runner up.” Shortly after that, she decided to leave home and took a job as an exotic dancer in Connecticut and in 1979; Clark made the move to California. She continued go-go dancing in Hollywood for a while, but this talented and personable young lady started singing karaoke and would win every contest she entered. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, because everyone who has heard this lovely lady sing would know she was destine to be a vocalist. While being part of these contests, it wasn’t long before she had musicians wanting her to work in their bands. “My very first singing engagement was at the Elks Lodge in Orange County.”

She married Officer Michael Dean Finn of the Garden Grove Police Department when she was 24. She had her son Michael Edward Finn, and together, they were a very happy family. Then tragedy shattered their world, when her husband was killed in the line of duty. “It was a difficult time in my life and also for my Son. However, he is all grown up now and married a beautiful girl, Naomi and I am a proud grand-mother to Ethan and Giovanni.”

In 1985, she auditioned for the Bob Hope USO Show and toured with that group for five years. Clark moved to Palm Springs in 2001, at the beckoning of her good friend, vocalist “Diva” Denise Carter. It wasn’t long before she started performing in shows with Carter and other singers in town, Mona Caywood and Mara Getz. “People would always tell me I sounded a lot like Barbra Streisand. In 2003, I received an offer to perform as Streisand with a group based in Germany called Stars in Concert.”

Since then, she has had many opportunities to perform in Las Vegas, Nevada; Branson, Missouri and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with “Legends in Concert” as a Streisand impersonator. Her repertoire as a vocalist includes songs made famous by Cher, Linda Eder, Diana Ross and Shirley Bassey, to name a few. She has and continues to perform for various charitable organizations. Let’s face it, being a professional entertainer has its ups and downs financially and when the economy started changing in 2008, work slowed down for her and many others.

God has a reason for everything and slowed her down to meet Les Packer, who she married in March of 2010. Since then, Clark has performed very little over the past few years as a professional vocalist, enjoying married life with her new husband.

I am mentioning this because of a controversy regarding her eligibility as a contestant in the Palm Springs Voice Competition she entered on September 5, 2012. Confirmed e-mail correspondence clearly stated she had been a vocalist for over 10 years in the Coachella Valley when she entered. The rules clearly stated that in order to be part of this competition, the contestants must not make more than 60% of their annual income from performing. Since Clark’s income as a singer over the past year has been less than this, it was cleared by the producers for her to be a contestant and allowed her to audition on September 18. Her main source of income is from investments she made before getting married.

She was so excited to be part of the competition. As the auditions continued, there weren’t enough Coachella Valley singers interested in competing. Personally, I think, if that was an issue, one would think someone would have gone to the many karaoke venues to find participants, after all, it is the Palm Springs Voice, and there are lots of singers in the Coachella Valley who may not have heard about the contest. According to an announcement I saw on ReverbNation, the competition seemed to change from residents of the Coachella Valley and expanded to the Inland Empire and stated they were looking for the “next Big Singer.” This attracted people from Riverside and Los Angeles.

The night of the finals, fashion designers Michael Costello and Gordana Gehlhausen of Project Runway and I were the three judges. We were told at the beginning of the show that one of the contestants was disqualified, however, they did not tell us who it was until the end of the show, at judging time. They allowed Clark to perform and sing her heart out while already knowing they were disqualifying her.

They told us that people were calling them and complaining that Rebecca Clark was a professional singer, and that she also lied on the paperwork, however, I found that hard to believe. I stood up for Clark and told them she should win the contest because she was clearly the best and told them I knew for a fact she had not made a lot of money singing over the past year. It took a lot for her to swallow her pride and enter this competition for the prize money, hoping she would have been at least one of the winners. We as judges felt the results of the competition weren’t completely fair, but had to go with the producer’s final decision. We also wondered why our attendance was even necessary.

Rebecca Clark was the clear winner and should have been named “the Palm Springs Voice” that evening, but was wrongfully disqualified, without even letting the audience know. Attendees were leaving telling us judges how stupid we were, that we robbed her and made a very bad decision. Our ability as judges and our integrity was being criticized. A few days later, I was actually told by someone that I was the cause for her losing because I am jealous of her ability. That is not true. All of us performing female vocalists have a mutual respect for each other and would defend each other to no end.
Well the contest is over. Congratulations to the winners. Should strangers come into our town and insult us again with their singing contests?

Remember, it is not so much what negative thing someone did to you, but more importantly, how you react to what they have done. Forgive, move on, be honest and have integrity, a very simple solution to dissolve injustice.