Phyllis McGuire Of Middletown's McGuire Sisters Dies At 89

Dec 31, 2020

UPDATE 10:30 A.M. NEW YEAR'S DAY 2021: My old pal Norm Clarke, the former Cincinnati Associated Press writer who was the man-about-town columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal (1999-2016), wrote this on his blog on Valentine's Day in 2019 -- on Phyllis McGuire's 88th birthday -- about her attending a Las Vegas gala about 10 years ago:

"In a city illuminated by its famous neon, Phyllis stood out in her signature Harry Winston diamonds and haute couture. Ever elegant, she made it clear that night that her days on the red carpet were dwindling.

" 'The day I need a cane or crutches is when no one will see me at these events,' she said." 

Upon hearing of her death Thursday, Clarke said: "That was the last time we saw her. She was the definition of an icon.” Clarke says that in the early 1990s, McGuire began a romance with rough-around-the-edges Bob Stupak, a high-stakes poker player and entrepreneur who created the Stratosphere, a Las Vegas casino hotel with a 1,149-foot observation tower. 

They had broken up a year before the May 1996 opening of the Stratosphere., On March 31, 1995, Stupak and his son, Nevada, then 19, survived a near-fatal motorcycle accident on Rancho Road.  Bob Stupak was in a coma for nearly two weeks with massive head injuries and broken bones. His son also survived the crash.

Nevada Stupak said McGuire opened her home to his father and "nursed him back to health." During that time McGuire also allowed Nevada Stupak and his sister, Nicole, to stay at her Rancho Circle home, which was always under 24-hour armed security.

After Stupak recovered, he and McGuire went through another split. This time Stupak apologized with 1,001 red roses.

"My dad had been caught in an indiscretion," Nevada said. To make up for it "he essentially decided to empty out every flower shop in Vegas of roses and they were bringing them in by the semi-trucks."

Stupak had a press release sent out announcing the jaw-dropping make-up gesture. When the Stratosphere opened three months later, McGuire was on Stupak’s arm, with a video crew close behind.

"It was a true romance and he always had feelings for her," said Stupak's son.

ORIGINAL POST 1 P.M. DEC. 31: Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving sister from the Middletown vocal trio the McGuire Sisters, died Tuesday in her Las Vegas mansion. She was 89.

Phyllis, and older sisters Dorothy and Christine, hit the pop music charts in the 1950s with "Sugartime," "Sincerely" and "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight." 

She lived in a 26,000-square foot home she called "the Beverly Hills of Las Vegas," according to the Las Vegas Sun.

The sisters were born in Middletown to Asa and Lillie McGuire, and grew up in Miamisburg where Lillie was a minister. They developed their close harmony singing at church services, revivals, weddings and funerals. Secular music was frowned upon in the household, "and they had to sneak the Andrews Sisters and other popular acts into their regular listening," according to Allmusic.com.

Their big break came when they went to New York in 1952 and appeared on the Kate Smith Hour and Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts. By late 1954, they had a No. 1 hit single, "Sincerely."

In the 1950s and '60s, they performed on TV shows starring Perry Como, Ed Sullivan, Pat Boone, Jack Benny and Steve Allen, plus the Hollywood Palace and Bell Telephone Hour variety shows.

The McGuire Sisters act broke up in 1968 because of Phyllis' long relationship with mobster Sam Giancana, she told ABC's Barbara Walters on Sept. 8 1989.  The love affair was dramatized in Sugartime, a 1995 HBO movie starring Mary-Louise Parker and John Turturro. The film replicated her Las Vegas estate, which included a 45-foot version of the Eiffel Tower; a replica Arc de Triomphe at the entrance; antiques; Persian rugs; 19th century crystal art; a tennis court; pool; and a bridge over a lake toward a guest house.

ABC 20/20 viewers in 1989 saw the mansion during Walters' interview, and McGuire's 34-karat diamond ring.

As a solo artist, Phyllis appeared on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, Red Skelton Show, Dean Martin Show, Merv Griffin Show and Bob Braun Show, and did numerous nightclub engagements in Las Vegas. She made two movies, Come Blow Your Horn starring Frank Sinatra in 1963, and The White River Kid in 1999 with Bob Hoskins and Antonio Banderas.

The sisters reunited to sing for five presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. They also returned to Middletown in 1991 to perform two shows at the Sorg Opera House. They are members of the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame (1994), Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2001) and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame (2009).

Her last TV appearances were TV documentaries: Hidden Mysteries about Al Capone in 2006, and a Mobsters episode about Giancana in 2007.

Dorothy died in 2012 at 84. Christine died in 2018 at 92.