Taking her new husband's name, Hellman then began playing her harp professionally, making her debut at New York City's Town Hall--because of her wealth, beauty and social status, the performance was the subject of much media interest, and even Time magazine covered the event, calling her "as curvesome as a treble clef." In time Hellman moved away from classical performance to jazz, beginning with an appearance at Le Ruban Bleu; in the years to follow she was a fixture of the Big Apple cabaret circuit, appearing at the Hotel New Yorker with Ving Merlin and His All-Girl Band and at Upstairs at the Downstairs with Blossom Dearie and Imogene Coca. In 1961, after her marriage to Geoffrey dissolved, Hellman married the writer and architect Hsio-Wen Shih, who mysteriously disappeared four years later--Hellman often toured his native China, but never saw him again. Over the decades her repertoire expanded to included contemporary pop and country songs, and in 1964 she and her trio Hellman's Angels--touted as the world's only jazz combo fronted by a harp player--made their first appearance at the Village Gate, where they played virtually every Tuesday night until the club shut down three decades later, making it one of the longest nightclub runs in New York City history. Hellman also appeared at unconventional venues like the pioneering punk club CBGB's; beginning in the 1980s, she regularly played on subway platforms and on city street corners, even collecting spare change from passers-by in spite of her considerable wealth.
Hellman maintained an active performing schedule into her 80s, and was appearing at New York's Firebird Café in the summer of 2002 when she was critically injured in a fall at her home; she died weeks later on August 4 in a Manhattan nursing home at the age of 86. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..