May 29, 1953 |
Mokena, Illinois, United States
|Occupation||Singer, actress, voice artist|
|Spouse(s)||Robby Benson (m. 1982)|
DeVito and her three brothers were raised by their mother Vivienne, who, when not working to support the family, often was singing at home. Karla attended Willow Crest Grade School in Mokena, Illinois, where she was a cheerleader.
Karla attended Lincoln-Way High School in New Lenox, Illinois. In her senior year Karla appeared in the high school's production of Brigadoon and The Odd Couple. She also was runner-up to the Homecoming Queen.
At Loyola University Chicago, she majored in theatre. During her freshman year, she joined the Chicago cast of "Godspell". In 1971-72, Karla studied with Jo Forsberg at Second City Company in Chicago and was part of the Second City Children's Theatre group, with Bill Murray and many other improvisational actors. In 1973, she was in the cast of the popular play Hair.
She subsequently sang with Meat Loaf, on the Bat Out of Hell tour (and also performed lip sync to Ellen Foley's vocals in the music videos). Karla then contributed background vocals for such groups as Blue Öyster Cult and the Sorrows. Later she became a solo performer in her own right and opened for such prominent artists as Hall & Oates and Rick Springfield, as well as headlining solo concerts at New York's The Bottom Line.
In the early days of MTV, Karla was featured on the channel's first New Year's Eve concert (televised live from the ballroom atop New York's Diplomat Hotel) and later hosted the series Rock Influences. After she sang "Where the Boys Are" during one of 3 appearances on the David Letterman show, Letterman affectionately called Karla "The Sweetheart of Rock and Roll."
In 1981, Karla released her debut solo album, Is This a Cool World or What?. In addition to original material, the album contained covers of three well-known songs: Jim Steinman's "Heaven Can Wait", The Grass Roots' "Midnight Confessions", and John Fogerty's "Almost Saturday Night". Three music videos were produced for this album, in England, where DeVito was screen tested by Director Ken Russell for the lead in the movie Evita. Karla was recommended to Andrew Lloyd Webber by his first wife Sarah, who had seen her on Broadway in Pirates. Russell wrote in his autobiography that Karla "had a thrilling voice which soared to the heights of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" with such emotional impact that many of those who saw the results on the screen were reduced to tears." Though the movie didn't happen at that time, Russell warmly addressed Karla as "My Evita" when they met again many years later.
Also in 1981, Karla covered the leading role played by Linda Ronstadt in The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway. She won critical and audience acclaim when she went on for Ronstadt during a press preview, then took over the role when Ronstadt left the show. Screen star and former teen heartthrob Robby Benson later joined the company as the romantic lead.
Another album, to be called "Karla DeVito - Incognito" for which Karla had recorded several new demo songs, was shelved, and those still unreleased recordings were thought to be lost for twenty years.
Karla's second album, "Wake 'Em Up in Tokyo" - featuring more songs written by Robby and Karla - was released by A&M in 1986.
One of Robby and Karla's songs, "We Are Not Alone", was prominently featured in the motion picture The Breakfast Club (1985). Another, "Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do", was covered by Diana Ross in her album "Swept Away".
Karla also can be heard in two solo tracks "White Bird" and "Don't Walk Away, Renee" on the album "Desolation Angels Anthem", and a duet, "Gimme the Word", with Paul Anka on one of his later albums.
In 1989, Karla did an acclaimed concert "Karla at the Koger" in South Carolina. She returned there to headline a 1990 concert "An Evening of Andrew Lloyd Webber" with a 50 piece orchestra - in honor of Lloyd-Webber, Michael Eisner, & then president George HW Bush receiving honorary degrees from University of South Carolina. Lloyd-Webber attended with Sarah Brightman, and both spoke warmly of Karla's performance. Michael Eisner said he could not have produced a show of such quality for a million dollars.
In 1990, Karla co-starred with Benson in the film Modern Love for which she sang two songs on the soundtrack. That film was also the debut of daughter Lyric Benson.
After Robby voiced the title role in Disney's classic 1991 animated feature "Beauty and the Beast", Karla voiced a role in Disney's popular "Bonkers" animated series.
Karla appeared briefly in the television series "Fired Up" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" at Paramount Studios.
In 2002, Karla sang the part of Elizabeth for the CD recording of Graham Russell's rock opera The Heart of the Rose which had a limited release on CD.
In 2004, Robby wrote an acclaimed new musical called "Open Heart" that he has dedicated to, and performed with, Karla. A concept album of the show is available online.
In 2011, Karla executive produced "Lyric's Love Light Revolution" the debut album of her daughter Lyric Benson. The album was engineered and produced by Robby Benson. In interviews following the release of that album, Robby announced that his next project, after finishing his Medical Memoir "I'm Not Dead... Yet" would be to produce an album to showcase Karla. Robby's memoir was released as a multimedia eBook, featuring his own photographs, slide shows, and songs, including some by Karla.
In July 2012 while living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Karla DeVito and Robby Benson marked their 30th wedding anniversary.
In early 2013 Karla was executive producer of Zephyr Benson's film "Straight Outta Tompkins."
After being unavailable in any format but vinyl and cassette for years, Karla's second album "Wake 'Em Up In Tokyo" finally was released digitally in February 2013.
Benson and DeVito became a couple in real life and appeared together again onstage in EVITA for the Kenley Players. They were married in 1982. Daughter Lyric Benson was born a year later. After becoming a mother, Karla chose to concentrate on her family. Robby's and Karla's son, Zephyr Benson, was born in 1992.
- "Karla DeVito". The New York Times.
- Holden, Stephen (January 4, 1982). "ROCK: CLUB SPOTLIGHTS KARLA DEVITO". The New York Times.
- Bennetts, Leslie (August 21, 1981). "SOARING FROM HARD ROCK TO 'PENZANCE' STARDOM". The New York Times.
- Genzlinger, Neil (March 23, 2004). "THEATER IN REVIEW; Words Can Never Harm Him, But Cardiac Arrest Can". The New York Times.
- Karla DeVito official site
- on YouTube
- Karla DeVito on Facebook
- Unofficial Fan Bio Page
- Robby Benson Official Site
- Lyric's Love Light Revolution
- Zephyr Benson Online
- American Superstar Magazine Interview with Robby Benson