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Tony Orlando on his last live performance after 6 decades

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade
The Truth Network Radio
March 24, 2024 12:00 am

Tony Orlando on his last live performance after 6 decades

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade

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March 24, 2024 12:00 am

Legendary Grammy nominated singer-songwriter and host of 'Saturday Nights with Tony Orlando' on 77 WABC.

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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We're truly excited to be here tonight.

For those of you who don't know who I is, my name is Tony Orlando. And Dawn happens to be two very lovely young ladies, so I'd like you to meet them right now. On my right, Mrs. Joyce Vincent Wilson. Sorry about that, fellas. She's married.

Guess who's not? This is Thelma Hopkins. By the way, this confuses people sometimes. The name is Thelma, not Thelma.

Well, it used to be Thelma, but my mama kept telling me to get the H out of there. People sometimes ask how we happen to find each other. We just lifted his mustache and there he was. And that is Tony Orlando introducing himself and Dawn on the first Tony Orlando and Dawn show in 1974.

And guess where we're playing that? Because in studio is the great Tony Orlando with a big announcement, but first you're impressed. You did not know that was you. No, you know, my voice was so different then. A little higher.

Higher and nasally. And I didn't sound like I was from New York at all. I rehearsed that. I remember- Do you remember being nervous?

Nervous. That's an understatement. Yeah, because I mean, there I was, that was 36 million people watching. Wow. Remember, there was only three networks. That was it. There was no cable. There was no, none of that.

So it's just ABC, CBS and NBC. What led up to you getting that show? Do you remember who gave you the break? Yeah, I do.

I would do it. It's funny. I was filling in for Sonny and Cher at Westbury Music Theater. My manager then, Mark Gordon managed the Fifth Dimension. They were the opening act for Cher. She got sick.

They canceled. He managed us as well. He put me and Dawn in front. Freddie Silverman, who was then head of CBS, right before NBC, sees us thinking he's going to see Cher.

She was sick. He comes backstage and he goes, how would you like to do a television show? I said, I'd love it. He says, how do we block this when you walk through the audience and have people sing along and you do jokes? How do we block that?

I said, what do you mean by block? How do we rehearse that? I said, well, how do you rehearse a football game? I said, you follow the ball, right? He goes, yes.

We'll say hello to the ball. And we shook hands. And when I got the show, my first guest was Jackie Gleason. Now remember, Brian. Did you know him?

No, but Jackie Gleason was bigger than life. And there we were, three kids. I was 28 years old.

I look back on it now and I give thanks to the good Lord for that opportunity. How did you meet Don? I met Don when I was producing Barry Manilow. I signed Barry Manilow and produced his first records. And in the studio, I hired them. They were hot-butted sold with Isaac Hayes at the Apollo Theater.

Where did the name Don come from to name both? You remember? Yeah, I was working for Clive Davis at the time. I was running the music division for Clive. I figured my days were over.

I was behind the desk. And I did the favor for a friend of mine who said, I broke, Tony. Can you put your voice on this song called Candida? I said, I can't do that. I work for Clive Davis. He says, please, Tony, I'm broke.

Please. I said, I'll tell you what, I'll go in the studio with you. If you get it in an hour, it's yours. But don't call it Tony Orlando. And I went, I did it.

To make the long story longer, I finished it in an hour. And the record comes out as Don. And I call him up and I said, what is this name? And your daughter's name is Don, right?

No, my wife. Your wife's name is Don. So similar story because the president of the record company's daughter, her name was Don. So he figured he'd get in good sights with them. So he named the group Don after the guy's daughter.

And then Tony Orlando, Don didn't happen until the TV show. That is incredible. And you guys had great chemistry together and you like working, you like working the audience. I do. Yeah. You know, this is six people. I do. I do, Brian. In fact, that's the one, that's the, uh, saddest part of, of calling it a day as a concert performer is the people, is the live performance.

There's nothing like it. To hear that sound of laughter, to see those faces, I'll miss it. I've been doing this since I'm 16 years old. My first hit record was in 1961 with Carole King. It was a song called Halfway to Paradise before you were born.

Okay. And that's 64 years ago. And here I am now at Mohegan Sun, uh, on the 22nd of March, closing it out after 64 years in this business. It's been a, so this week, this week, man, and it's, it's, it's bittersweet, but it's time.

I saw that, uh, Laddis Knight retired, Elton John retired, Kenny Loggins retired, Oak Ridge boys retired, Bill Medley retired. It's time. It's time. There's a whole new audience that's come on. Times have changed.

But you look fantastic. And also what I was just saying before to close out yesterday's show was don't say the eighties old, don't say we're putting down the president because he's 80. There's nothing to do with being 80. It's how you act when you're 80.

I mean, I looked in here, I would swear you're, you're 60 or 70. I want you to hear another moment that Pete Paul, Pete's your new friend, uh, one of our great producers. Here's you and Freddie Prinze going out at each other and imitating each other.

Cut for it. And now I want to present brilliant young comedy talent from Chico and the Man, one of the truly great and outstanding young men that's ever been my pleasure to see on any stage in America. Did I say American?

Nay, the world. Let's have a warm welcome for a man, credit to his race, good to his folks. Great, great comedy.

Genius. Mr. Freddie Prinze. Hello. Well, it's wonderful to be here. Yes, indeed.

For the birth of a new act. Tony Orlando and Dawn has just become Chico and the Chiclets. Man, the girls didn't even notice it was me out here. You girls. I mean, you really can't tell the difference between Freddie Prinze and myself. Frankly, guys, you all look alike to us. Can't get away with that stuff today, boy. But you know, the funny thing is, that's Freddie posing as me in the opening, introducing me as him.

Right. You guys went over that? Yes, because he said to me, hey man, hey man, can I open sync? Can I sing?

I said, why don't you open the show? Because we had that mustache, the whole thing, right? The long hair. And he came out as me. And for the first few minutes, the audience thought that was me, it was Freddie. Let me tell you something about Freddie Prinze, Brian. He only was in this business for two years.

Think of it. How old was he? 22 years old when he died.

Chico and the Man was only two years. And yet people still to this day remember the comedy, the genius, the timing of this kid, who by the way, was hosting the Tonight Show at 21 years old. It's insane.

It's insane. Imagine what he could have been. You know something, Brian, there's no telling. In fact, when Freddie died, here and I, we did a sketch that we wrote together, by the way, for my television show called Road to Puerto Rico. And it was a takeoff on the Hope and Crosby movies, which were road movies. It was Hope and Crosby, singer and comic. So we did a sketch and Hope calls and said, hey, can we continue the movie thing?

And we were about to sign a deal with I think Paramount Pictures to do 10 road movies. If Freddie Prinze would have lived, there's no telling because he was an incredible actor, as you saw on Chico and the Man. And he was an impeccable comic. And he was an amazing singer, which people didn't know. He was an eclectic performer. And you guys hit it off right away. He was like my younger brother.

That's unbelievable. So I always watched the Jerry Lewis telethons at Labor Day all the time. To me, it was a show. I forgot sometimes you were raising money for a great cause till the very end. Here's a little of you at the Jerry Lewis Toewitz, you co-hosted with Jerry Lewis.

Here's some of those moments, cut five. Hello to Ticero, namely Atlantic City and my dear friend, powerful performer, probably the single most talented one entertainer in show business. I would like to have you. Are we going to New York or to Atlantic City? Well, I'm changing the introduction because this isn't the most singly greatest one entertainer that you ever saw in your whole life. He may be the second, but it's my dear friend, Mr. Tony Orlando in New York, ladies and gentlemen. Tony. Thanks, Tony. How is it in New York? It's fantastic. The enthusiasm, the city is like it always is every year here for you.

As you can hear from the studio audience, that's been applauding. So you did it for 33 years. How much money did you guys raise?

Do you have any idea? You know something? I think about Jerry all the time and I became very close to Jerry Lewis.

We became very close. And the one thing that people didn't realize about Jerry is that he single handedly created the NBA telethon and he single handedly created the NBA telethon and he single handedly raised billions with a B. But what he did do, he didn't see the day because he passed away. But without the telethon, there would not have been money for those science of DNA. Just think, because DNA was the only trailblazer to find a cure, the whole science of DNA, because of that money that was donated, made DNA what it is today.

And we know what it is today. Jerry never got credit for it. Jerry never got credit for creating what is now known as a telethon. What an incredible way to raise money for any organization.

I think Jerry Lewis is one of the great, great, great people in our country who gave back his great talent to raise money for those people who had that neuromuscular disease or muscular dystrophy. From the Fox News Podcast Network. Hey there, it's me, Kennedy. Make sure to check out my podcast, Kennedy Saves the World.

It is five days a week, every week. Download and listen at or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. And one of the great things on YouTube is I get a chance to see or remind me of some of these great performers in the past. One guy that pops up all the time, anyone being profiled is Jackie Gleason. You started to, yeah, you started to tell me a story about him. Brian, I don't know if you have the time for this story, but I'll give it a shot, okay?

And I'll try to make it as concise as possible. My first guest was Jackie Gleason. Now, anybody listening to this show, I know your demographic- That's where we left off. I know your demographic goes from young kids to old ages, to Biden's age, okay?

And mine and Paul McCartney, because Paul's two years older than both of us. He is, okay. Yeah. So Gleason comes in. Now, there's a happy ending to this story, so it's going to sound terrible as I tell it. But when Gleason comes in and he says, who were the two... in the amateur night in Dixie? Now, the... in Yiddish is the N-word. Wow.

And we know that both ladies tell Mike and Joyce, black women. And I'm sitting right behind him and I never met him. My first guest, right? CBS is excited.

He doesn't do ever a show. And I walk up, I'm 28 years old. I don't think I'd handle it the same way today as I did then, but I got mad. And I walked up and I said, Mr. Gleason, I'm appalled by what you said. You owe those two girls an apology.

If you don't think they'll know what... means you're wrong. And by the way, I am your amateur night in Dixie. My name's Tony Orlando. He goes, I'm out of here, pal. And he walks out, Brian, and leaves. Well, the president of CBS comes down, what are you crazy? We got Jackie Gleason as your first guest and you're going to have him leave? I said, listen, what would you do if he said, how is the amateur night in Dixie and these two... what would you do? Would you stand up for them?

Would you stand there and just take it? He said, no, you're right. He said, but I'm going to fix it. Just shut up. This is your first show.

It'll be fixed. I go on. Next thing that happens is Gleason says, now listen, we do the cue cards, no ad libbing. You understand that? No ad libbing.

Only the great one ad libs. So I go, yes sir, Mr. Gleason. We get on stage. The first piece of business is, I'll teach you everything I know, even how sweet it is. I'll teach you everything. One of these days to the moon, all of his Gleasonisms, right? He goes, camera one, pull back. Let's start again.

I'll teach you everything I know, even how sweet it is. Camera three, he's yelling. Why you want a closeup? He's directing from the stage. The audience is sitting. Wait, is this live? This isn't live. This is live off the stage. No, this is live to tape. So he then goes, the third time, camera one, get back 15 feet. And I say, tape is rolling.

What is your problem old great one? You mean you can't ad lib? And prior to that, he said to me, no ad libbing kid. But I had had it up to here. I still was crazy. So Freddie Silverman, the president of the company comes down and goes, Tony, what are you doing?

Are you crazy? He said, Mr. Silverman, I can't take this. This is ridiculous. He hasn't apologized. He's directing the show. I can't take this.

Please just shut up. Next scene. It's a scene in which we're supposed to hit each other on the head and he hits me with a shot. Brian put me through the floor.

I'm not kidding you. My eyes went boom, boom, boom, boom. Nancy Walker was on the show with us and she gives him a shot and his eyes go boom, boom, boom, boom. Comes to the end of the show.

I'm making the long story longer. Comes to the end of the show and he goes, Tony, buddy, give me a cigarette. Right in the middle of the show I said, tape is rolling. Come on, no more smoking here.

If we can't smoke, you can't smoke. Now I got this guy crazy. Comes the very end of the show. I get a knock on my door.

It's this guy that's with him. He says, Mr. Gleason, we'd like to see you in the dressing room immediately. Show's over. I said, yes, sir. I walk in and I can hear Gleason mixing his drink.

The ice is clinking and he goes, in a Gleason way, hey, pal, sit down. Yes, sir, Mr. Gleason. Does that script belong to me? Do I take it home? Yes, sir, Mr. Gleason. What does it say in the first page? And I opened it up and he goes, dear Tony, I sincerely apologize.

I was wrong. So sorry, Jackie. And it ended to the point where we got so close that he called me every single weekend and say things like, why are you wearing a black pair of pants with a silver zipper?

What are you, crazy? You know, he was part of the show every week. So we ended up being friends. Awesome. So as you close out my last closing out this segment, as you close out this weekend, what do you want people to remember about you, the performer? Well, Brian, is that I really gave everything I had for them, that I love them, that I'll miss them. I'm not leaving the business. I'm going to, you know, flex some muscles creatively. You're on WABC still too?

On WABC doing my radio show on Saturday nights, but at 10 o'clock. But, and I'm grateful for that. But I want to, you know, write a couple of screenplays. I want to write a play, a Broadway show. I'm always itching to write a novel. It's all part of something I want to do.

So in my eighties, I'm going to focus on that energy and that, and to the people out there who are listening, listen, I started on 21st Street here in New York City on a rooftop. It was a dream. The journey has been unbelievable. The dream has come true. The dream continues on. And I just want to thank everybody listening to your show.

And I know it's in the millions. Thank you so much for this journey that you've blessed me with. And if you're there on the 22nd, he's going to run through the tape.

Expect a great show. Don't worry about it. Tony Olano, it's been a privilege. Thanks so much for sharing some great moments. God bless you. And thank you for everything you do. You got it. Thank you, Tony.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-24 00:25:40 / 2024-03-24 00:33:20 / 8

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