Ron Onesti: What's MY favorite show?
What's MY favorite show? Man, this is probably the most common question asked of me. And the most difficult for me to answer. Although "my music" is classic rock of the '70s, I am truly one of those people who say, "I like ALL music!"
But I mean that! Aside from popular music from the '50s through today, I will turn on the glorious group harmonies of gospel music on Sunday mornings, Latin beats on a Saturday night, the centuries-old revival of Klezmer music from the Jewish community, Middle-Eastern chants and a host of other ethnic musical presentations I find interesting and entertaining.
I was fortunate to have produced many ethnic events for past Illinois Governors Thompson, Edgar and Ryan, both at the State of Illinois Center in Chicago and at the Executive Mansion in Springfield. That experience truly widened my musical spectrum. Asian, Polish, Balkan, Hungarian -- I love it all! And need I even bring up Italian?
So back to that "question." I could take the easy way out and respond with, "My favorite show is the last one I put on!"
With my speak-easies going full force, I have also found a deep appreciation for the Jazz Age of the 1920s and 1930s. The ragtime selections from Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton get me off my chair every time one of our "Prohibition Era" bands kick into high gear.
Recently, the Glenn Miller Orchestra made its annual appearance at The Arcada. Each time the band comes, we remove the center seating in the theater and turn it into a dance floor for this show. As I was sitting in my box, watching the audience more than the act (as I often do), I realized what my "favorite" would probably be.
This show, featuring some of the top musicians in the country, utilizes the original music charts of the songs from composer/bandleader Glenn Miller that propelled the "Big Band Era" into a music form still popular, some 80 years later.
"Moonlight Serenade," "String Of Pearls," "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and so many World War II favorites filled the room of dancers and listeners, of all ages.
For me, it is a very personal experience. This is a show I dedicate to my WWII hero and father, Sgt. Albert J. Onesti, U.S. Army. The sounds of Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and others were always playing in his tailor shop while we were growing up.
So as I grew up jamming to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, there was rarely a Sunday that went by when I wasn't subjected to "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree," "Little Brown Jug" or another Swing-era classic.
Back to my box in the theater. I'm looked down on the dance floor to see grandfathers dancing with their granddaughters, sons dancing with their 85-year-old mothers, WWII veterans in suits proudly wearing their military caps. There were several younger couples swing dancing, one of them obviously expecting a child. But that didn't stop her from enjoying those swingin' sounds. It really represented a new generation of Big Band lovers, as well as the next one about to come.
I usually sit alone at this show, as I get quite emotional, remembering my parents and the war stories my dad would share with us on a regular basis.
Compounding that emotion was the memories I witnessed being created for those who were sharing special moments on the dance floor, or of those who simply watched the show with their special WWII someone, either living, or in the past.
So that would be my answer. What is my favorite show? The one that brings generations together, relives the past and creates lasting memories.
Wait a minute, most of the musical presentations we host do just that, no matter what era the music is from!
So that brings me full circle as to the fact that ALL music is my favorite! It brings me back to the Climax/Righteous Brothers tune I frequently quote, "If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand. If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, well you know they've got a hell of a band."
I look at my favorite band consisting of thousands of members, and the concert began about 50 years ago for me. It is still going on, with no intermission. Each tune is on the Greatest Hits album, and I dance to each one. I don't believe this concert will end any time soon, because this huge band is only the opener before the show in "Rock 'n' Roll Heaven." Although I am in no hurry for this opener to end and for that "big" show to begin, that is a show, however, that I cannot wait to experience!
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email email@example.com.