Hollywood intersection named after late singer Yma Sumac

HOLLYWOOD — A Hollywood intersection was dedicated Thursday as Yma Sumac Square in honor of the record-setting Peruvian singer and one of the best known performers of exotica music in the 1950s, nine days after the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Damon Devine, who was Sumac’s representative, personal assistant, makeup artist and eventual caregiver for the last 11 years of her life, and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who introduced the motion to name the intersection in Sumac’s honor, were set to speak at the 11 a.m. ceremony at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue.

Sumac’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6445 Hollywood Blvd. is just east of the intersection. She received the star when the Walk of Fame was completed in 1961 with the first 1,558 stars.

Born Zoila Emperatriz Chavarri Castillo on Sept. 13, 1922, in Callao, Peru, she graduated from high school in 1940 and sang in local festivals, according to her website. In 1942, she joined Compañia Peruana de Arte, a music group formed by the Peruvian folk musician and composer Moises Vivanco, who she married that year.

In this Sept. 25, 1989 file photo, singer Yma Sumac is shown performing in Boston.(AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)

Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac performs during the 16th edition of the Musical SPping Festival, on May 1, 1992, in Bourges, central France. Sumac died at 86 on November 2, 2008, in Los Angeles, where she lived six decades, her official website announced on Nov. 3. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Yma Suman on the stage (AP file photo)

This file photo shows Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac arrives at Le Bourget airport near Paris on June 23, 1952. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

Mai Zetterling, Danny Kaye, Yma Sumac and Julie Wilson at the premiere of “Knock on Wood,” on April 23, 1954. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Singer Yma Sumac, a noted Peruvian coloratura soprano, performs in New York on March 18, 1975, accompanied by Herman Brand on the piano. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Yma Sumac poses by a pond on set of “The Loves of Omar Khayyam,” the second motion picture for the Peruvian star, April 25, 1956. (AP Photo)

This file photo shows Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac arriving at Le Bourget airport near Paris on June 23, 1952. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

In this July 6, 1954 file photo, Yma Sumac is shown on the deck of the ocean liner United States as she arrives in New York. Sumac died Nov. 1, 2008, after an eight-month bout with colon cancer, according to Sumac’s friend and personal assistant Damon Devine. (AP Photo/file)

A photo dated from January 1955 shows Peruvian soprano singer Yma Sumac with her husband Moises Vivanco in Los Angeles during a press conference at which Vivanco denied the charges of a paternity suit against him by Sumac’s former secretary. (Photo by FELIX PAEGEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Peruvian singer Yma Sumac is pictured with a black left eye as she arrives for a district attorney’s hearing in Santa Monica on April 24, 1957, into the three days of battles between her, her estranged husband, and assorted friends. A brawl erupted at her home when she came to pick up personal belongings. At left is Sumac’s attorney, Gerry Geisler. (AP Photo/Harold Filan)

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She choose the name Imma Sumack for her radio debut, seeking to avoid the wrath of her disapproving parents who would be displeased she was singing instead of studying. Her parents discovered Imma Sumack during a live radio performance and were not pleased, but support from other family members and the public eventually persuaded her parents it was her destiny to become a singer.

A 1949 performance at the Blue Angel supper club in New York City was witnessed by a Capitol Records talent agent who was in the audience to see another act. They met backstage, and he requested she make a few demo tapes.

She moved to Hollywood in 1950, changed her stage name to Yma Sumac and signed with Capitol Records. Her first album for the label, “Voice of the Xtabay,” sold more than 1 million copies its first year. It was one of the first recordings of exotica, the style of easy listening music developed by musician and composer Les Baxter, who recorded the album.

Known for her unique five-octave vocal range — the typical trained singer has a range of about three octaves — Sumac recorded five more albums for Capitol through 1959, and performed throughout the world, including Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, Hollywood Bowl and in the Soviet Union.

Sumac has sold more than 40 million records, the most by a Peruvian singer. She appeared in the 1950s films “Secret of the Incas” and “Omar Khayyam,” the 1951 Broadway musical “Flahooley” and a 1955 episode of the CBS variety series “Shower of Stars.”

 

Sumac sang on the NBC late-night talk show “Late Night With David Letterman” in 1987 and continued to perform in concerts into the 1990s. Her music was used in the film “The Big Lebowski” and the television series, “Mad Men.”

Sumac died in 2008 at the age of 86.

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