This Week in Armenian History

Death of Kay Armen (October 3, 2011)

Kay Armen was an Armenian American singer who was popular during the 1940s and 1950, with a career in show business spanning almost six decades in radio, television, onstage, and in film.  

Kay Armen, whose actual name was Armenuhi Manoogian, was born in Chicago on November 2, 1915. Her father and her brother, both called Robert Manoogian, were professional wrestlers known as Bob Monograph and Bobby Managoff respectively. She first appeared on radio at WSM in Nashville, Tennessee, performing on 12 programs per week. In 1947, she had her own weekly 15-minute program, Kay Armen-Songs, on NBC-Blue.  

Her many radio hits include the successful “Stop the Music” quiz show 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. William Saroyan and her cousin, Ross Bagdasarian (creator of the Chipmunks), wrote “Come on-a My House” for Armen, and Rosemary Clooney later recorded the song. 

On TV, she starred in the hit NBC 1959 sitcom “Love and Marriage,” with William Demarest and appeared repeatedly on Ray Bolger’s “Washington Square,” in which she was his singing star. She was also a regular guest on talk and variety shows including ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.” 

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

Kay Armen also appeared in the 1961 film “Hey, Let’s Twist!” and later had supporting roles in the 1980 CBS telepic “Jimmy B. & Andre” and in the 1981 comedy “Paternity,” starring Burt Reynolds. She was also a songwriter with compositions including “Be Good to Yourself,” “My Love and I,” and “It’s a Sin to Cry Over You.” 

In 1995, President Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Honor for the Arts, and in 2000, she received the prestigious Handel Medallion from New York City. Kay Armen was honored with the St. Sahag-St. Mesrob from Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II in 2008. 

Kay Armen passed away on October 3, 2011, in New York City.