St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

'Itsy Bitsy' songwriter finds great big error in obit

Published September 28, 2006

The man who co-wrote the song Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini had the unsettling experience this week of reading his own obituary - the result of an impostor who went through life claiming to be the author of the 1960s hit.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Paul Van Valkenburgh, 68, of Ormond Beach had died. Citing the man's wife, the obituary credited him with writing the song under the name Paul Vance.

But the music industry's real Paul Vance, 76, from Westbury, N.Y., is alive and well, and says the other one made it all up.

The Paul Vance who wrote the song - and provided proof of royalty payments he still receives - said he was inundated with calls from people who read the obituary.

"Do you know what it's like to have grandchildren calling you and say, 'Grandpa, you're still alive?' " he said in a telephone interview from Coral Springs.

Rose Leroux, the widow of the man who died, said she was "kind of devastated" by the disclosure. She said she had no reason to doubt that her Paul - who apparently had some sort of music career when he was younger - wrote the tune.

She said her husband told her he never got any royalties because he sold the rights when he was young, around 19. She said when they met almost 40 years ago, he was working as a salesman. He later became a painting contractor.

The living Paul Vance estimated he has made several million dollars from the song, which was recorded by 16-year-old teen idol Brian Hyland, surged to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in August 1960 and has been pop culture staple ever since.

The song - about a bashful young woman in a skimpy bathing suit - has been used in such movies as Sister Act 2 and Revenge of the Nerds II and was recently revived in a yogurt commercial. "It's a money machine," Vance said.

Vance said his first hit was Catch a Falling Star, recorded by Perry Como, and he went on to write numerous songs for Como, Johnny Mathis and others.

Vance's songwriting partner, Lee Pockriss, who shares credit on Itsy Bitsy, lives in Bridgewater, Conn., and is recovering from a stroke, his wife Sonya said.

[Last modified September 28, 2006, 01:11:35]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters