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Lena Zavaroni
Lena Zavaroni
October 1, 1999
Age 35
Anorexia
 
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Lena Zavaroni
Singer, 1963-1999

Instant celebrity came the way of Lena Zavaroni in 1974 when, aged nine, she sang Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me on the British TV talent shown Opportunity Knocks. It proved a very mixed blessing for Zavaroni who has died, aged 35, from the effects of anorexia.  

Zavaroni was acclaimed for the power of her voice - it was remarkable in a girl 124cm tall - and for the professionalism of her performance, which drew comparisons with the young Judy Garland.  

Zavaroni's elfin features and broad smile proved irresistible to the talent show viewers: she won the contest on five consecutive weeks, and when the song was released as a single it reached No 8 in the charts. She flew to the United States to perform and to meet Frank Sinatra ("She's good, very good," he said) and went on to become, in 1978, the youngest performer to top the bill at the London Palladium. At 15 she had a television series, Lena Zavaroni and Her Music.  

But the transformation was perhaps too extreme, and within a few years Zavaroni's singing talent had been overshadowed by her persistent battle with anorexia.  

Zavaroni was born at Rothesay on Bute, Scotland and educated locally. Her father ran a fish-and-chip shop, and in the evenings would provide accordion accompaniment to her mother's singing. A relative, who had seen Zavaroni singing with her mother, got in touch with the record producer Tommy Scott, who in turn alerted Philip Solomon, a music manager responsible for launching other child stars. Solomon took Zavaroni to London and entered her for Opportunity Knocks. Later, she remembered her bemusement at city life: "Everything changed so quickly. I had never seen lifts or escalators or traffic lights."  

After the release of Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me, Zavaroni sang for the Queen at a royal variety performance, and appeared with Sinatra and Liza Minnelli in Los Angeles, before singing for President Gerald Ford at the White House.  

She enrolled at the Italia Conte stage school in London, where she met the child star Bonnie Langford. Later, the two starred together in a television show, Lena and Bonnie.  

It was at stage school that the first signs of the cracks in Zavaroni's confidence appeared. At 13 she became anorexic and her weight fell to 35kg.  "When they tried to fit me into those costumes," she said, "they would talk about my weight. I was a plump little girl and I was also developing into a woman. I only became fanatical about not eating when the pressure became too much."  

From time to time over the next two decades she would fall prey to the disease; and although, when in better health, she would talk enthusiastically of a return to performing full-time, she never did. In 1987 she announced she was giving up show business.  

Zavaroni married, in 1989, Peter Wiltshire.  

The Daily Telegraph, London 
 

    About.com
 
Lena Zavaroni Fails to Survive Operation Pop star Lena Zavaroni who started her career in show business in the 1970s when still at school, did not recover from an operation which it was hoped would help her to overcome her long battle with anorexia nervosa. She developed pneumonia after the operation. The girl from Rothesay on the Isle of Bute was only ten years old when she shot to stardom by winning a TV talent show "Opportunity Knocks".  Her strong, bright voice and diminutive size captivated audiences and she had three successful tours of America, performing with Frank Sinatra and at the White House. Her eating disorder affected her career and she retired finally in 1989.  
 
UK: Wales 

Inquest told Zavaroni 'died of pneumonia'

             Lena was admitted to University Hospital of Wales last month  

An inquest has been opened and adjourned into the death of former child star Lena Zavaroni.  

The hearing in Cardiff revealed the cause of death of the 35-year-old singer was bronchial pneumonia.  

Coroner Dr Lawrence Addicott said further tests were being carried out to assess possible links with a brain operation Ms Zavaroni underwent at the University Hospital of Wales.  

"At this stage there are no obvious indications that the surgery was directly related to her death but further investigation will take place," said Mr Addicott. 

The inquest heard from coroner's investigating officer Derek Hassan that the singer's body had been formally identified by her father Victor.  

No members of the family were present at Tuesday's hearing.

Mr Addicott issued a burial certificate and adjourned the hearing until December 8 to await the results of further investigations by the pathologist.  

They are expected to take several weeks to complete.

The Scottish-born star died after the rare operation in a final bid to cure her depression and anorexia. 

Ms Zavaroni underwent the operation two weeks ago but developed a blood infection which caused heart failure.

Her father Victor, aged 60, was at her bedside when she died.

Divorcee Miss Zavaroni of Tower Heights, Hoddesdon, Herts is to be buried in Hertfordshire but no funeral details have yet been announced.  

She found stardom as a 10-year-old on Opportunity Knocks but after years of illness died weighing just three-and-a half stone.

The operation Ms Zavaroni undertook involved cutting into the brain and was considered to be low-risk. 

It was developed in the 1930s, when the medical establishment embraced it enthusiastically.

It remained popular until the late 1950s when, with the introduction of effective drugs, the operation became a rarely-performed procedure.

Doctors wishing to perform a leucotomy now must first get a second opinion and then permission from the Mental Health Act Commission.

A spokesman for the University Hospital of Wales and Llandough Hospital NHS Trust, which runs the 800-bed hospital, revealed the technique had been carried out there for more than six years.

BBC News
 
 

        
Date set for Zavaroni funeral

The funeral of former child star Lena Zavaroni will take place on Friday 15 October, her family have said.

The service will be held at St Augustus Roman Catholic Church in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, where she lived for several years and where her father and younger sister still live.  

The 35-year-old singer died on 1 October following brain surgery to combat the eating disorder anorexia, which she had suffered from for 22 years.

Her cousin Margaret said hundreds of mourners were expected at the funeral, including family, friends and show business colleagues.

"We would like to say thank you to everybody who has sent us their sympathy and flowers," she said at her home on the Isle of Bute off west Scotland.

"Lena's father has asked for flowers to be sent to anorexia sufferers."

Family members expected to attend the funeral include her father Victor, his wife Christine, his two brothers and Lena's younger sister Carla.

But her former husband Peter Wiltshire, who has recently remarried, said he would not be attending the funeral.

Lena Zavaroni was born on the Isle of Bute and shot to fame at just nine years old after singing on Opportunity Knocks. 

She was the winner on the talent show for five weeks in a row and went on to top the charts with Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me.

At the age of 12 she sang for the Queen at a Royal Variety  performance and appeared alongside Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli at a charity concert in Los Angeles.

But it was at the height of her fame, aged 13, that she developed the eating disorder  anorexia.

Her career slipped and she retired from show business when she married businessman Peter Wiltshire in 1989.

The marriage broke up after 18 months and she moved to Hoddesdon, to be near her father and his wife.  

By her mid thirties, Lena was living in a council flat in Hertfordshire and surviving on 48.80 weekly state benefits.

She fought a constant battle with anorexia and depression, and was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff earlier this year in a final attempt to overcome her illness.

On 7 September, she underwent a rare operation to remove the part of her brain that was believed to be controlling her anorexia, but contracted pneumonia after the surgery.

An inquest into her death has been opened and adjourned.  ~BBC

 
 

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Tragic Zavaroni ruined by illness

Zavaroni went from a council house in Scotland to LA glamour.

Lena Zavaroni's 22-year battle with anorexia took the child star from performances for the Queen and a US president to a court charge of stealing a 50p packet of jelly.

She made her mark in the 1970s as a nine-year-old girl with a huge voice who became famous after winning the talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1974 for a record five weeks in a row.

That unprecedented success led her to perform in front of the Queen at a Royal Variety performance.

Her most famous song was Ma, He's Making eyes at Me.

She grew up in a council house on the Isle of Bute, off the Scottish west coast, and went on to appear alongside Frank Sinatra and Liza Minelli at a charity concert in Los Angeles.

Zavaroni also sang for President Gerald Ford at the White House.

She went to the Italia Conte stage school in London where her friends included fellow child star Bonnie Langford.

Talking about the impact of her overnight success she recently said: "Everything changed so quickly. I had never seen lifts or escalators or even traffic lights.

"I went from a council house on an isolated island to a posh hotel in Piccadilly, with shopping trips to Harrods."

Her talent came from her father Victor who was a club singer, but her parents split after she hit the big time.

The singing sensation, who was just 4ft 10ins tall, battled with the slimming disease anorexia nervosa from the age of 13.

At one point her weight plunged to just four stone.

Recently she explained the root of her illness. "When they tried to fit me into these costumes, they would talk about my weight.

"I kept wondering how they expected me to fit into these dresses. I was a plump little girl and I was also developing into a woman.

"I wanted to be just right for them but I had to go to all these breakfasts, dinners and lunches."

She added: "I only became fanatical about not eating when the pressure got too much. I just wanted to have a nice shape."

Broken marriage

Her career slipped and she retired from show business when she married her one and only boyfriend, businessman Peter Wiltshire in 1989.

She had been introduced to him by her father and was engaged within four months.

The couple settled in north London, but the marriage lasted only 18 months.

Zavaroni later claimed she had never loved her husband but hoped the experience would make her "grow up."

In 1989 her mother Hilda died of a tranquillizer overdose. Later, a fire destroyed all her showbiz mementoes.

When Zavaroni's marriage broke up, she moved to  Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, to  be near her father and his second wife Christine.

Once destined to earn millions, she lived in a council flat on state benefits of 48.20.

Earlier this year she was accused of stealing a 50p packet of jelly. The charge was later withdrawn but it illustrated a miserable decline.~ BBC


WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 16TH 1974 
TOP 40 SINGLES

 
 Lena Zavaroni-----Ma He's Making Eyes At Me.   Child star Lena Zavaroni was in her second week on the chart with the first of her two top 40 hits. This was the biggest of the two and peaked at number ten for the 'Opportunity Knocks' winner. Six months later, Lena had been forgotten, until her anorexia condition became front page news in the early '80's.
 
 
 

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