Dust Up Those Squeals, Venus: Frankie Avalon At the Flagler Auditorium Tonight
FlaglerLive | April 12, 2011
It was a tiny filler on a buried page inside the March 14, 1959 New York Times, barely a paragraph long, at the end of a series of brief entertainment articles led by the news that CBS had signed William Shatner to star in an obscure series seven years before Shatner’s big break on Star Trek. The filler read: “Frankie Avalon will start a new show on American Broadcasting Company radio April 11. The singer’s program will be heard Saturdays from 7 to 7:30 P.M. in a format that features songs, guest stars and interviews with teen-agers.”
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You can still read the quaintness all over those lines. That was back when Frankie Avalon was just 18 years old—the Frankie Avalon of “Venus,” the very last Number 1 hit of the 1950s, “Just Ask Your Heart” and “Why”—when he was a teen idol himself, when ABC still went by its full name, “P.M.” was capitalized and people still tuned in to a radio show on Saturday evening to listen to “guest stars and interviews with teen-agers.” It was a national show, so chances are that if you were a teen-ager back then, you may well have been among those who listened to Avalon’s show one of those Saturday nights—and may be among the 60-somethings who may be flocking to Avalon’s one-evening performance at the Flagler Auditorium this evening (April 12, at 7:30).
Consider yourself lucky: Avalon’s stop at the auditorium is one of just 12 on his 2011 tour, one of 15 concerts he’s giving this year (only Vega gets him for more than a night), though Florida must be rife with Avalon memories: his five April dates are in this state, ending with Flagler before Avalon takes a break.
Coincidentally, the man to whom Avalon owes much of his early fame (and gigs like that ABC radio show), Robert Marucci, who launched and managed Avalon’s rise in the 1950s, died just last month, at age 81. Like Avalon, Marcucci was a Philadelphian. Avalon was a 16-year-old trumpet player and singer in a band called Rocco and the Saints when Marcucci discovered him and signed him to Chanceller Records. In 1957, Marcucci and his partner, Peter DeAngelis, wrote “DeDe Dinah” for Avalon, his first big hit. They also wrote “Why.” And Avalon’s stardom was off. It was Marcucci who choreographed a few early dance moves for Avalon and suggested what became an Avalon trademark before Bill Cosby adopted the shtick on his show: those sweaters.
“It seems like every young kid in Philadelphia wanted to be a singer,” Avalon, who was born in 1940, says (according to the one-page biography distributed by his publicist). “I started as a musician…a trumpet player in the beginning. But, when I picked up the paper one day and read about Jimmy Darren who was from my own neighborhood and school, making a successful career for himself, I decided that I could do it just as well.”
So he did, but Avalon had the slight misfortune of launching his solo career after Elvis Presley and right before the British Invasion: when The Beatles hit American shores, crooning took a bit of a dive. One-hit wonders wrecked all over the place. Avalon proved his mettle. He turned to movies. He starred in some 30 of them. So along with his more famous hits, expect a few songs from those tonight—from “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “California Sun” or “Back to the Beach,” for instance.
Avalon is also fond of mingling with his audience, who may no longer squeal and quiver and fantasize about having his babies, at least not outwardly (watch this performance of Venus to get an idea), but whose memories are not yet so ravaged as make them forget that they once did.
Frankie Avalon, The One and Only, April 12 at the Flagler Auditorium, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $42 for adults, $32 for youth. Call the Flagler Auditorium box office at 386/437-7547 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.