A recent afternoon in their Upper East Side home
overlooking New York's
Kim Garfunkel talks about her art and her Art
Savannah Morning News
By Gene Downs
Kim Cermank had every reason to expect a warm and enthusiastic response from her parents. After all, she grew up listening to them play Art Garfunkel records in the family's Minneapolis home.
But when she announced to them that she was dating the legendary singer, they were not so very excited.
"My mom said, 'Are you nuts?'" Kim recalls. "'A rock star? Do you know what could happen to you?' But eventually she met him and loved him.
"He is really a beautiful human being," Kim Garfunkel added during a phone interview Monday morning from New York. "I can't tell you how much I love him. It can be a challenge being married to someone who has such a large life, in terms of finding my own way. But due to Artie's outlook and my outlook, we make it work because we really love each other. I wouldn't say it's easy, it's definitely not; but we look at the obstacles as challenges -- or we try to."
Having found herself the spouse of a celebrity, Kim Garfunkel will find her way to the stage of Hannah's East for performances tonight and Saturday, part of the preparation for a performance Aug. 3 at Guild Hall, in tony East Hampton, N. Y.
Those who haven't followed Art Garfunkel's post-Paul Simon career may be surprised to learn that his wife of 13 years is an accomplished performer in her own right.
Kim acted in plays in high school and knew early in her life that she wanted to be an entertainer: a singer, dancer, actress or any combination of the three. After a year at Ithaca College, she won a scholarship to a drama school in New York City and moved there when she was 19. She established herself under the stage name Kathryn Luce, which was her grandmother's maiden name. (There's a distant familial connection to Henry Luce.)
Surprisingly, their mutual love of music was not what brought Kim and Art together, which makes the story of their romance all the more interesting.
They met through a photographer for whom Kim was modeling in the mid-'80s. At the time, her relationship with a subway guitarist was ending, and when the photographer asked her what kind of guys she likes, she answered, "Musicians."
Turns out, the photographer had shot pictures of many rock-and-roll greats, and he began to list them for her: Procol Harum, Mick Jagger, Phil Collins, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel .
"Art Garfunkel?" Kim told him. "That's the one person I've wanted to meet my whole life because my parents played his music while I was growing up."
"You remind me of a girl he really loved and used to date," the photographer said. "Why don't I send him your picture?"
He did, and three months later, Art Garfunkel called and asked Kim out. They dated, they fell in love, he proposed to her in a taxi, they were married in 1988 and have a 9-year-old son named James.
She began singing with him in a very informal setting: harmonizing as he warmed up for performances. One day, he asked if she'd like to try doing some background vocals with his band.
In addition to performing on tracks for his releases "Songs From a Parent to a Child" and "Across America," she began to accompany him on tour dates.
"I was scared to death," she said, "singing in front of thousands of people, doing harmonies with him. Then I started getting used to it, and then I started loving it. I don't do all of his shows with him; that would be a little much, with my son and all and for me to be my own person and develop my own style and get my own work."
Still, she has found time to perform with Art at some prestigious locations: Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium and at the White House Easter egg hunt in 1999.
For her solo concerts, Kim's repertoire ranges from jazz to Broadway to pop to comedic novelty songs to dramatic ballads. The one common theme is they tell a story or somehow relate to her own experience.
"I Furnished My One-Room Apartment off the Sidewalk," from the musical revue "Upstairs at O'Neals," is a good example. When she moved to New York 15 years ago, Garfunkel lived in a $200-a-month apartment that she furnished with items she found sitting on the curb.
"You can get some great stuff, you really and truly can," she said. "My son enjoys going out on the Upper East Side, and he has found an umbrella stand and a 1930s bar stool. People are lazy and so they will just dump anything."
In Savannah, her choices will be typically diverse: "Children Will Listen" from the musical "Into the Woods," George and Ira Gershwin's "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise," Anna McGarrigle's "Heart Like a Wheel," and "I Like 'Em Big and Stupid," an early '80s hit for Julie Brown.
Being a celebrity wife and full-time mom -- while it has its advantages -- has not always made it easy for Garfunkel to make her own way.
"It has been a struggle for me to get my own stuff together, in light of my life with Arthur and James," she said. "But I'm doing pretty well . I've always had such a drive to do this and try to make a difference in people's lives. I love people and I love to communicate and lift their spirits. Everybody needs some light, so if I can just give them a little bit of that, I'll feel like I've accomplished what I was put here to do."