Actress and singer Pia Zadora began her career as a child actress on Broadway, in regional theaters and in the film “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964). She went on gain attention with her Golden Globe winning performance in the movie “Butterfly” (1982), from which she also nabbed Razzie Awards for Worst New Star and Worst Actress. She picked up another Razzie for Worst Actress for her acting in “The Lonely Lady” (1983) and a 1990 Razzie for Worst New Star of the Decade for her work in both films. In 2000, she was nominated for a Razzie in the category of Worst Actress of the Century. She said, “They never told me about winning all those Razzie Awards, maybe because they were afraid that after reading all the reviews I might kill myself!”
Although her film career failed to blossom, Zadora received more respect as a singer and was handed a Grammy nomination for her single “Rock It Out” (1984) and had a worldwide hit with “When the Rain Begins to Fall” (1984). She also scored a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with “The Clapping Song” (1983). Zadora's studio albums include “Pia” (1982), “Let's Dance Tonight” (1984), “Pia & Phil” (1985), “I Am What I Am” (1986), “When the Lights Go Out” (1988) and “Pia Z” (1989).
Zadora retired from show business in the late 1990s.
Pia Alfreda Schipani
Childhood and Family:
Pia Zadora was born Pia Alfreda Schipani on May 4, 1954, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her father, Alphonse Schipani, played violin in a Broadway orchestra and her mother, Saturnina Zadorowski, was a theater wardrobe supervisor. Pia was educated at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills, New York, and later attended the High School of the Professional Arts in New York. Pia is of Polish extraction on her mother side and Italian on her father side.
In 1972 while touring for a bus and truck production of “Applause” in Ohio, the then 17 year old Pia met corporate businessman Meshulam Riklis, who is 41 her senior. They married on September 18, 1977, and welcomed their first child, daughter Kady Riklis, on January 1, 1985. Their second child, son Kristofer Riklis, was born on March 2, 1987. The couple divorced on March 29, 1995.
Pia married director and writer Jonathan Kaufer on August 27, 1995. Their son, Jordan Maxwell Kaufer, was born on April 13, 1997, but they divorced on November 30, 2001. Following her divorce, she began living with her first husband again until they sold their mansion several years later.
Rock It Out
As a child, Pia Zadora attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art as a means to overcome timidity. It was during her time there that she was chosen to play Cleo June in a Broadway production of Mary Coyle Chase's “Midgie Purvis” (1961). The play, however, was a flop and closed after 21 performances. Also in 1961, she was an understudy in another short live Broadway production, “The Garden of Sweets,” opposite Katina Paxinou.
Young Zadora continued to perform in various stage productions, such as “We Take the Town” (1962), a musical version of “Viva Villa” starring Robert Preston, “Damn Yankees” (with Vincent Price), “Promises, Promises” and “The Sound of Music.” In 1964, she replaced Linda Ross as Bielke, the youngest daughter of Tevye, in a Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” for which she would stay with for two years until 1966. It was also in 1964 that Zadora made her feature film acting debut as Gimar, a young Martian girl, in the Nicholas Webster directed family movie “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” She also sang “Hooray For Santy Claus” in the movie.
After “Fiddler on the Roof,” Zadora appeared in the chorus for “Henry, Sweet Henry” in 1967, a musical version of the film “The World of Henry Orient,” and replaced Bernadette Peters to play Ruby in the off-Broadway musical “Dames at Sea” in 1968. From 1971 to 1973, she toured with Alexis Smith in a musical production of “Applause,” which was produced by her future husband Meshulam Riklis. She and Riklis married in 1977 and about two years later, she attracted public attention with TV commercials for a French wine. At the time, her husband was a major shareholder of the American distributor for the wine.
Zadora made her return to the big screen when she was cast as the daughter of Stacy Keach in “Butterfly” (1982), which was financed by her husband. A drama based on the 1947 novel “The Butterfly” by James M. Cain, the film was panned by critics and was nominated for 10 Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture, with Zadora taking home the awards for Worst New Star and Worst Actress. However, she won a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture for her role, amid accusations that her husband bought the award with a promotional campaign. Zadora also picked up a Sour Apple at the 1982 Golden Apple Awards and a 1982 ShoWest for Young Star of the Year and performed the song “It's Wrong For Me To Love You” on the film.
After “Butterfly,” Zadora starred with Telly Savalas in the film “Fake-Out” (1982) and starred as Jerilee Randall in the dramatic film “The Lonely Girl” (1983), an adaptation of Harold Robbins' novel of the same name. Directed by Peter Sasdy, “The Lonely Lady” was panned by critics and won 6 out of 11 nominations at the 1984 Golden Raspberry Awards. The film was later nominated for Worst Picture of the Decade at the 1990 Razzie Awards, where Zadora won the award for Worst New Star of the Decade and a nomination for Worst Actress of the Decade for her work in “Butterfly” and “The Lonely Lady.”
After portraying the lead role of Babette Latouche in the Showtime TV film “Pajama Tops” (1984), opposite Robert Klein and Susan Geirge, Zadora starred as Dee Dee in the musical “Voyage of the Rock Aliens,” opposite Craig Sheffer as Frankie. Apart from showing her comedic side, the film showcased her musical talents and featured many songs from her 1984 album “Let's Dance Tonight.”
In 1985, Zadora appeared with Meat Loaf in the German musical “Der Formel Eins Film.” She resurfaced three years later when she made a cameo appearance in John Waters' “Hairspray” (1988). She also briefly appeared in the 1990 comedy film “Troop Beverly Hills” (starred Shelley Long, Craig T. Nelson and Betty Thomas) and the 1994 Peter Segal film “Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.” She then had a small role as Little Miss Muffet in the television film “Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme” (1990).
In 1995, Zadora returned to Broadway in the musical “Crazy for You,” where she portrayed Irene Roth, but suffered a miscarriage during the production and decided to leave show business the following year to focus on her family. Later, in 1999, her voice could be heard as Jill in an episode of “Frasier” called “Dr. Nora.”
While most of her films were unsuccessful with critics, Zadora enjoyed better luck with music. She recorded several albums during the 1980s, such as “Pia” (1982), “Let's Dance Tonight” (1984), “Pia & Phil” (1985), “I Am What I Am” (1986), “When the Lights Go Out” (1988) and “Pia Z” (1989). “The Platinum Collection” was released in 1993. The compilation album included repacked versions of “Pia & Phil,” “I Am What I Am” and “Pia Today,” which she recorded in 1989. Zadora also produced several singles. The single “Baby It's You” (1980) rose to No. 55 on the U.S. Country Singles chart, while “I'm in Love Again” (1982) made it to the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 45. Her cover of the Shirley Ellis hit “The Clapping Song” (1983), which she performed on “The Lonely Lady,” peaked at No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it was her duet single, “When the Rain Begins to Fall” (1984), with Jermaine Jackson that brought Zadora worldwide success. The song topped the Singles Chart in The Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and France, where it achieved platinum status after selling over a million units. In America, the song only peaked at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 61 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Zadora's singing career reached its peak when she was nominated for a Grammy for Female Rock performance for her single “Rock It Out” (1984). The single “Dance Out of My Head” (1988), from the album “When the Lights Go Out,” went to No. 65 in the U.K.
Razzie: Worst New Star of the Decade, “The Lonely Lady” (1983) and “Butterfly” (1982), 1990
Razzie: Worst Actress, “The Lonely Lady,” 1984
Razzie: Worst Actress, “Butterfly,” 1983
Razzie: Worst New Star, “Butterfly,” 1983
Golden Globe: New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture, “Butterfly,” 1982
Golden Apple: Sour Apple, 1982
ShoWest Convention: ShoWest Award, Young Star of the Year, 1982