Catherine Mastice was born on June 11, 1925, in Trenton, New Jersey and moved with her family to Raritan at the age of three. Today [January 2020] she is 94 and living in Westchester County, New York. Cathy Mastice, on the other hand, was born in the pages of the New York Daily News and hundreds of other American tabloid newspapers on June 7, 1949, and passed out of the public consciousness on June 4, 1952.
|Cathy Mastice, 1949|
Part One - Ambition (1937-1949)
|1939, age 13|
One of the first newspaper profiles of Catherine Mastice described her:
"She's a small girl with dark curly hair and a Deanna Durbin smile, this Catherine Mastice of Raritan, 13-year-old mezzo soprano who gives so liberally of her vocal talent to organizations of Somerset and Middlesex counties - a small girl with a big ambition and more poise than one expects to find in a child of her years."When that newspaper story was printed in April of 1939, the avowed ambition of thirteen-year-old Catherine Mastice was to one day sing as part of the Metropolitan Opera Company. Her parents began to notice her vocal ability at the tender age of two, but she didn't begin training seriously until she started with New Brunswick based voice teacher Hannah New when she was twelve.
|22 October 1939 Home News|
|8 June 1941 Greenville, NC News -|
the "record" referred to is presumably appearing on
100 consecutive weekly radio broadcasts.
It wasn't long before Catherine was tapped to sing on a weekly Saturday morning children's radio show called "Bright Idea" broadcast over station WEAF. She ended up being featured on the program for more than two years.
|1941, age 16|
|2 November 1941 Home News|
Soon after the start of her high school senior year in the fall of 1941, Catherine was thrilled to win a $4000 scholarship to study at the Chatham Square School of Music in New York. She beat out four hundred other hopeful musicians for the award which is the equivalent of almost $72,000 today! Every day after school she would travel to the city to attend classes and return late at night to prepare for school the next day. She capped off her Somerville High School years by singing at graduation in June 1942. Plans to study music overseas after high school were dashed by the war, but Catherine didn't slow down for a second.
|Singing at the Sergeant John Basilone Homecoming Parade,|
19 September 1943
|26 June 1944 Home News|
|1947 Souvenir Program for The Medium and The Telephone|
Part Two - Stardom (1949-1952)
Italian-American media mogul Generoso Pope first heard Catherine Mastice sing at the unveiling of Raritan's John Basilone statue on June 6, 1948. Pope - a benefactor of the statue's construction as well as the first Italian immigrant to become a self-made millionaire - used the fortune he made in the sand and gravel business to purchase several Italian language newspapers and Jersey City radio station WHOM. In January 1949 he signed Miss Mastice to sing over the air every Sunday afternoon at 4:30. Now living in New York, she began to appear on other local radio and television shows and made her New York concert debut at the celebrated Town Hall in April. She even occasionally got her picture in the paper. There's no such thing as bad publicity, as she would soon find out, even if they spell your name wrong!
|25 April 1949, New York Daily News|
|7 June 1949 LA Times|
It had been suggested to Berle that since other nascent TV shows were featuring serious music in their telecasts that he might try the same - perhaps an opera number in the style of the Metropolitan's popular soprano Dorothy Kirsten. Finding Catherine Mastice sealed the deal - with a blonde wig and a costume from the same company that dressed the opera stars the young singer could perform one of Kirsten's signature arias - "Sempre Libera" from La Traviata. But was it a tribute or a send-up?
|New York Daily News headline -|
8 June 1949
|8 June 1949, New York Daily News|
Berle issued a statement in defense of Catherine Mastice - calling her a "very capable and charming young singer" - but by this time the tabloid newspapers were all over the story. The up-and-coming soprano, in coordination with her press agent, threatened to sue Dorothy Kirsten for $100,000 over the unflattering remarks that "injured her reputation as a concert, stage, and radio singer." Not only that, but she actually sang her response to Kirsten at a June 9th press conference, and filed suit a week later!
|Catherine Mastice singing her response Dorothy Kirsten's lawsuit|
at a June 9, 1949, press conference.
|22 December 1949 New York Daily News|
|2 September 1950 New Brunswick Home News|
|Gossip column mentions 1949-1951|
A new career opportunity arose midway through 1950 when Cathy was signed as a pop singer by Admiral Records. Her first disc, featuring the old Ozzie Nelson song "Dream a Little Dream of Me", sold 90,000 copies the first month and filled jukeboxes across the country.
|Cashbox trade magazine, August 5, 1950|
The only problem was hers was one of seven cover versions of that song released in the summer of 1950, Frankie Laine's being the most popular. Still, good reviews led to a follow-up disc "Sleep, Little Baby" later that year.
|A and B sides of the two Cathy Mastice 78rpm discs on Admiral Records.|
By the end of the year, she had jumped labels to RCA Victor, releasing two more discs in 1951.
|A and B sides of the two Cathy Mastice discs, 45s and 78s on RCA Victor.|
Later in 1951, a return to Montreal for an engagement at the Ritz Carlton Hotel was squeezed in among appearances at a memorial tribute to Al Jolson at Carnegie Hall, a benefit for the United Jewish Appeal at Madison Square Garden, and benefits for disabled servicemen and the March of Dimes.
|1 December 1951 New Brunswick Home News|
|3 July 1952 New Brunswick Home News|
Part Three - Mrs. Catherine M. Pope (1952 - )
As Mrs. Catherine Pope, Cathy traveled the world, mingled with international figures and six US presidents, and was involved in many charitable causes. Today she lives in Westchester County and will celebrate her 95th birthday in June.
Raritan Online - which has a great summary of the life of Catherine Mastice here - reported that when Catherine was asked a few years ago if she had any special memories of her time as a singer, she remembered singing for the troops stationed at Camp Kilmer during the war, saying, "The boys were so enthusiastic. It gave me a wonderful feeling to sing for them."