In 1938, at age 19, Ervin Drake met the love of his life, Edith Bein, when she auditioned as a showgirl in his college’s play. As a number of girls lined up to try out, he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Something inside of me just said, ‘Wow!’ ” Drake said about the moment he first laid eyes on Bein at The City College of New York. “I introduced myself and we simply went together after that. For me, it was love at first sight.”
Now 93, Drake recalls the heartache of losing her at age 23, after dating three years. She told him she wanted to date other people and explore modeling opportunities in New York City.
Bein spent her career in show business, performing at Radio City Music Hall, the 1939 World’s Fair in Queens and on Broadway. She became an instructor at Barbizon School for Models and later owned a women’s boutique shop in Great Neck called Bermaine Cosmetics.
Fortunately, Drake’s heartache wasn’t for naught. A struggling songwriter at the time, he poured everything he had into co-writing, along with Dan Fisher and Irene Higginbotham, the song “Good Morning Heartache.” It was recorded by Billie Holiday in 1946, became an all-time classic and has since been performed by artists as diverse as Diana Ross, Gretchen Wilson and Alicia Keys.
He also worked as a television producer, working with performers such as Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle. He was president of the American Guild of Authors and Composers from 1973 to 1982 and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983.
Thirty-four years after parting ways, Drake and Bein found their way back to each other. In 1975, after both their spouses, Norman Berman and Ada Drake, died within months of each other, she called him after she found his wife’s obituary in a Great Neck community newspaper. They just happened to both live in the village.
Drake immediately recognized her voice when she called.
“He picked me up for a dinner date and from then on we never stopped talking,” Edith, now 90, said.
As soon as she got into his car, they spent hours catching up on the memories they missed out on, even unintentionally ignoring the friends they were on a double date with.
“It continued exactly the way we left it,” said Edith, who became Edith Drake when she married him in 1982. “And we’ve been together ever since and have been having an extraordinary life together.”
Edith Drake’s son, Jed Berman, admires Drake for his successful career in show business -- it includes penning “It Was a Very Good Year,” most famously performed by Frank Sinatra -- and Drake’s unwavering love for his mother. Ervin Drake adopted him about 10 years ago.
“It’s an unusual love that I’ve never seen before and it’s been a love that’s much more important than anything else,” said Berman, 57, of Great Neck. “I think it’s his most beautiful attribute.”
Ervin Drake’s niece, Lorna Drake, has restored some of the couple’s old photos, compiling them in albums.
“Even at their advanced age, they are out all the time,” she said. “If you want to make a date to see them they have to run to their appointment book. They go to concerts, plays, parties and cabarets. They’re simply amazing.”
She is thrilled that their love story worked out and is still going strong.
“He’s always holding her hand and when he gets up in the morning he tells her how much he loves her and how she makes his life worth while,” Lorna said. “She’s his biggest fan and they just keep each other going.”
Above; Ervin and Edith Drake, of Great Neck, have been married for 30 years, but have stories to tell about heartbreak and finding each other again. (Sept. 18, 2012)