Reunion of Tony Orlando & Dawn … a true Christmas gift
I cannot tell you how many people say to me (on a daily basis), "Boy, I wish I had your job!"
My usual response is, "It's great, but you only see the 3 percent of it on stage. The other 97 percent is what it takes to get the stars there."
But I can honestly say, after Tuesday's Tony Orlando Dawn Christmas Reunion show, that 3 percent became the 97 percent as the experience for me was nothing short of magical.
In my 30-plus years in the biz, Tony Orlando has become a treasured family member. He is such a rare individual when it comes to a warmth and sincere love for people that you don't see much of in this business. At least not to his level.
This is a guy who flew in for the night when he found out about the opening of my new restaurant in Evanston, Rock 'N Ravioli. He came in just to congratulate and support me.
This is a guy who has raised over $50 million for American War Veterans' causes.
This is a guy who NEVER says no to fan, and makes it explicitly known to the audience just how appreciative he is of their love and support.
"I know you all have attended many shows over the years, and have experienced many performances," he says. "But I promise you there is no entertainer out there who appreciates you more than the three of us up here on stage right now."
I can't tell you how many celebrities are jaded when it comes to fan interaction. If I suggest going to a restaurant for dinner the night before a show, for example, so many entertainers want the "back entrance" and the private room.
Mr. Orlando, however, is just the opposite. He enters a room, not as if to say, "Look at me, I am a big celeb!" Instead, he quickly surveys the clientele of the restaurant, and as they realize who IS in their midst, he removes the awkwardness of the situation and warmly introduces himself.
He gives everyone their "time," sincerely listening to the other person's account of when they first heard, "Knock Three Times," or about how much they enjoyed his weekly variety show. He thanks them with a monstrous smile and offers to pose for a pic with them. All class.
And even though he and the rest of the cast and crew of the show had to hop onto their tour bus and hit the road right after their show, he agreed to a question-and-answer session immediately after the show.
"Great idea, Ron," he said. "Any chance we can give a bit more to the audience, I am all for it!" That's the kind of guy he is.
He told the story of how he met "Dawn," Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent.
Orlando had just hit the charts with his group "Dawn." There were other background singers on his first hit songs, but when they did "hit" and he had to tour, he needed to hire bonified touring backup vocalists. He remembered a talented beauty by the name of Telma Hopkins who was part of Isaac Hayes' group, "Hot Buttered Soul."
Orlando pursued her and would not take no for an answer.
"I have never been to Europe, so if you get a European tour, I'm in," she said. "Oh, and my cousin Joyce Vincent is a fabulous vocalist, and she has to be a part of it too."
Orlando went to work, got the tour AND a television show. The girls were in!
"We rehearsed all week, but when we taped on Fridays, we did it live, from start to finish as you saw it on TV," he said. "Most variety shows at the time would tape certain scenes and audience reactions separately. Not us. We wanted it natural and real."
All the while, as compliments flew toward Tony, he immediately deflected them and sent them the way of Telma and Joyce.
"Without them, I would absolutely not be who I am today," Tony said. "Their talent is beyond anything I have ever seen, and they have been my family for over 40 years."
There was just so much love in the air at the Tony Orlando & Dawn show at The Arcada. The expressions on the faces of the audience were something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Whatever troubles anybody had before they got to the theater left the audience members as the legendary threesome serenaded with Christmas favorites.
A "Yellow Ribbon" First Prize goes to Tony Orlando & Dawn. They are true American heroes and continue to spread a sincere joy so badly needed during these trying times.
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.