Lenny Lizzard stood recently in front of the Fry’s Food and Drug at 20th Street and Camelback Road, crooning to shoppers as they entered the store. He was accompanied by a boom box and a lot of chutzpah.
“I haven’t gotten to the point where I can make a living as a singer,” Lizzard said last Thursday from the patio of a Scottsdale sports bar. “But I’m getting pretty close. I’m about to book something big.”
In the meantime, the man who aims to be “the world’s best lounge singer” works as a part-time compliance auditor at local markets. “I go into the store and you know how the Doritos are on an end display? Well, they pay for that. Fry’s or Kroger’s gets my report and they say, ‘Oh, look, the Doritos are there, they have to pay us.’ It’s a mindless job, but it gives me more time to promote Lenny Lizzard.”
Sometimes, promoting Lenny Lizzard means singing in front of a grocery store. Lizzard, who’s performing at the Desert Rose in Glendale on Saturday, February 16, used to be the customer service manager for a billiards table company. “Every phone call I took was someone who was screaming at me, because our quality control was terrible,” he said.
One day, Lenny stopped going to work. He went home and unplugged his phone.
“I developed social anxiety. I thought everything I said to you, you would start screaming at me.” He forced himself to go shopping once a week to buy soda and snacks. “I knew the cashier was going to say to me, ‘Why are you buying 7-Up when Sprite is on sale, you idiot?’”
Now, instead of selling pool tables, he’s selling song.
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“A few years ago, I don’t know why, I started getting old songs stuck in my head,” he explained. “‘New York, New York’; ‘Danny Boy’; ‘That’s Life.' I figured everything happens for a reason, what can I do with these songs? I was in the grade-school band, but I only ever sang in the shower. But I thought I could be Larry the lounge singer. I Googled that name and it came up all over the place. Then the name Lenny popped into my head.”
Lizzard’s act features a little patter, some soft-shoe, and a lot of what he called “Rat Pack stuff. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, like that.” He had heard of Jerry Vale, Jack Jones, and Matt Monro, but claimed no deep knowledge of American crooners or of the great American songbook. Lizzard grew up listening to classic rock; his parents favored records by John Denver and Eddy Arnold. Still, he anticipated becoming the world’s best lounge singer.
“A business coach I know told me I needed to start using that phrase to describe myself,” he said. “If you Google ‘lounge singer,’ only lounges come up. Not singers. He told me if I start calling myself the best lounge singer, maybe Google will eventually put me in as the best lounge singer.”
Lizzard was big, he admitted, on making things real by saying they are so. “For decades, I could never figure out why everything bad happened to me. I’d be driving somewhere, running late, and I’d get a flat tire.”
He bought a book called The Power of the Subconscious Mind. “It was marked down, half off,” he remembered. “I bought it and read it and it talked about how everything you send out comes back to you, so I started to slowly change my attitude.”
Lizzard put his new attitude to the test. “I decided to move to Vegas in 2006. I didn’t know anyone there, and there was drinking and drugs and sordid women and gambling. I figured if I could live there without falling into any of those traps, I could do anything.”
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He managed not to succumb to Sin City’s vices, and returned to the Valley five years later to pursue his new dream to be an entertainer.
“I perform to tracks,” he admitted. “I’m an air musician. I play air saxophone, air trumpet, air flute. I don’t call myself a dancer, but if I’m performing at a retirement center, I’ll grab one of the older ladies and do a little dance with her. They just love that.”
Lizzard’s ultimate goal is to entertain for a living, preferably on a cruise ship.
“I’m not trying to be a superstar,” he insisted. “This is the hardest job I’ve had. When I was in sales, I could sell you anything. You didn’t need a billiards table, but I could sell you one. I’d go home feeling miserable, because all I was doing was taking people’s money. Now, I actually have a job where I’m giving something. I’m singing ‘My Way’ and it makes people happy.”