People Magazine: August 2, 1976
The First Lady was presumably fair game but, would CBS's Moray
Safer have asked Mrs. Agnes Carpenter how she'd react if her
daughter, Karen had a premarital affairs?. Or -damn the double
standard - what if her son, Richard, were messing around?.
The singing Carpenters are probably the most popular brother
- and - sister act since Fred and Adele Astaire. But it is
their curse to be grooved in a middle - of - the - road musical
bag and life - style at odds with much of their own generation.
Richard, 29, lived at home with his folks (in suburban L.A.)
until two years ago. Karen, 26, is just now in the process
of moving out. Bette Midler has rudely parodied their Goody-Four-Shoes
persons in her show. A deejay, figuring they were too pure
to be real, once charmingly asked Richard in a phone interview
if their thing was incest. And, for their contemporaries, perhaps
the most ruinous rap ever laid on them came at a White House
performance in 1973 when Richard Nixon hailed them as "Young
America at its very best".
In truth, the Carpenters now less up, neither of them is
a virgin. Both favor legalization of marijuana. "It's
no worse than alcohol", observes Karen, an iced tea
freak herself. But, as Richard protests gloomily, the two
of them just can't kick their "squeaky - clean, milk
- drinking image. We make Pat Boone look dirty". And,
unfortunately, dirty is in these days. Movie porn queen Andrea
True moans an explicit piece of trash -More, More, More -
and it becomes a gold record. She will almost certainly never
have another one; yet Andrea is getting more, more, more
attention than the Carpenters, who simultaneously collected
their 17th gold wall plaque for their current LP, A Kind
Among the previous 16 are half a dozen bona true fide standards
including, two composed by Richard, Top Of The World and
Goodbye To Love. The Carpenter's first two hits, Close To
You and We've only Just Begun, are now memorialized as names
of apartment house complexes they built in L.A. They also
have interests in a baby carriage company and at one time
owned a shopping center. But they have toured as many as
250 days a year along the way, and their lives were not as
silky or upbeat as their art.
They were hardly immune from the debilitating, disorienting
effects of the road. "Several years went by", as
Richard put it. "And we lost contact with any personal
life - it all become professional, and we were losing our
identity". "It was sickening", adds Karen, "Suddenly
it wasn't fun anymore". Last year it finally all got
to her. Though she usually has to diet to keep at her playing
weight of 110, Karen dropped worrisomely to a gaunt 90 pounds.
Quickly, they canceled a tour to Europe and Japan and a command
performance for Queen Elizabeth - their first blown gigs
in six years. Karen was suffering from "physical and
nervous exhaustion", and it took two months of bed rest
at home to recuperate. Then when they got back into business,
the Carpenters fell into another hassle and their first bad
press (except from the rock critics) ever. Seems they fired
their opening act at Vegas, Neil Sedaka, who was upstaging
them. Lately they've made peace - putting Sedaka's Breaking
Up Is Hard To Do on their last LP.
And this year the Carpenters have also gotten their own
live act together. Reports Richard: Young Rich did after
all study classical piano in his early teens at the Yale
School of Music. The Carpenters, only children of a printer,
lived in New Heaven until 1963, when they moved to the L.A.
suburb of Downey, "I never missed the East for a day",
An un-athletic, nearsighted boy (he wears contacts on stage,
thick specs off). Richard was turned on first by Liberace's
TV show, then by what he calls his "Three B's - the
Beatles, Beach Boys and Burt Bacharach". Karen got into
music when she enlisted in her high school marching band
in Downey to get out of gym. "I couldn't stand track
at 8 a.m. or a cold pool, so they put me in the band and
gave me a glockenspiel. It was a horrendously smelly instrument
tuned a quarter note sharp to the band. But it was percussion
and it got me on the drum line". Two years later, with
a friend on bass, the Carpenters won the 1966 Battle of the
Bands in the Hollywood Bowl. They beat out hundreds or competitors
but couldn't parlay it into record success until 1969. Along
the way, with various groups, they played everyplace from
Whiskey a Go-Go to Disneyland. Karen and Richard then trimmed
down to heavily overdubbed duos - they now often record 12
vocal tracks - and were spotted and signed personally by
A&M Records president Herb Alpert. Richard whose canny
orchestrations and keyboards added lush backing to Karen's
rich and soothing alto range, had two straight goldies. They
also won the 1970 Grammy for Best New Artists in contention
with other rookies like James Taylor and Elton John.
Richard clearly has a golden ear for the commercial, if
he is not quite, as collaborator John Easy listening artists
will only record what has already been done". Bettis
admits that their latest work, the single I Need To Be In
Love, is "autobiographical for all three of us",
meaning Karen, too both Carpenters are between romances.
His fling with his ex-manager's daughter, Randee Bash, is
kaput, and Karen's last on - and - off affair ended six months
ago. She's distracting herself, when not on the road these
days, renovating a condominium in Century City.
Her bedroom, like the living room in Richard's tract home
in Downey, is being designed around a seven - foot - wide
Advent TV screen. Both Carpenters are video addicts, with
a couple of sets burning all day. Other sublimations include
needlepoint for her, French wines and 13 cars for him. Both
think love could be around the corner. Karen, who hasn't
had time to read Mr. Right Is Dead (among other other books),
says, "I still firmly believe The Guy is going to show
up". Like Richard, Karen is counting ultimately on having
a family outside music.
"It's really hard to meet people in this business.
But", she cautions, "I'll be damned if I'll marry
somebody just to be married". Richard complains that "With
my girlfriends now and then Karen "There are fewer of
them", she says. "I have a harder time finding
somebody. The problem is we were growing professionally during
the years most people were concentrating on being a person".
That, Karen declares, "has to change".