CVIndependent

Mon07222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Tony Orlando is best remembered for recording and performing with Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson—best known as Dawn—in the 1970s and 1980s.

Today, the trio is back together for a Christmas tour—which will include a stop at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino this Saturday, Dec. 1. During a recent phone interview, Orlando said that a holiday album the group released back in 2005 inspired the tour.

“We cut an album in Nashville many years ago; it was called A Christmas Reunion,” Orlando said. “I spoke to Telma, and she said, ‘Why don’t we go out and do a little Christmas tour? It’d be fun!’ The reaction has been unbelievable. Christmas was the right thing for us to do, and it was our favorite album that we ever did.”

Orlando explained why he has such fond memories of the album.

“We love the music. Michael Omartian was the producer for that album, and the history of him as a producer and writer—he’s iconic,” Orlando said. “To work with him on that album was a joy and a privilege. The music is Christmas-related, but we went a different route. A lot of the songs were new and different at the time.”

Tony Orlando, now 74, grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan.

“Growing up in New York City, it certainly gives you a glimpse of the world in a composite. In a one block or a 10-block area, you could really be experiencing the planet,” he said. “(There is) every single background and every single point, from poverty and homelessness to the most wealthy in the penthouses. … You have peripheral vision when you cross the street, because if you don’t, you’ll get hit by a taxi. There are all kinds of benefits to growing up in New York that you wouldn’t imagine if you’ve never lived there. New York has given me a basis of respect for humankind and a respect for all cultures. It came out of that city, and thank God it gave me that as a performer, working all around the world for the past 50 years in show business.”

As a young man, Orlando asked a legend in the business for some advice.

“Groucho Marx’s remarks to me were pretty awesome,” Orlando said. “I asked him, ‘Mr. Marx, I’m 15 years old, and I just had my first hit record. I need the great Groucho Marx’s advice. What should I remember, Mr. Marx?’ I was expecting a joke, and he turned to me and said, ‘Never lose the ability to say thank you, Tony.’ I never forgot that.”

During the heyday of variety television in the ’70s, Tony Orlando and Dawn made their mark—but it wasn’t easy.

“I look back on that now with great respect, and I’m proud of the work we did,” he said. “I didn’t realize how good of a show that was. It was a period of our lives when we did 16 hours every day, and then filming and taping. We always taped it live and never stopped tape. What you saw from the beginning to the end was really a live show. I think that was a glorious time for us, for Sonny and Cher, for Carol Burnett, and for the Osmonds. We all had a great run during that time of variety television.”

Orlando lived in the Coachella Valley as a young man, and shared a holiday memory from that time.

“I remember living in Palm Desert, and it was Christmas Eve. I had just come off the road, and I had my son John with me, who at the time was just a little boy, and we had no Christmas tree,” he said. “We couldn’t find anywhere that had any Christmas trees. It was too late. I’m driving down Highway 111, and I look, and right in front of a yogurt place that was closed, there was the top of someone’s Christmas tree that had been chopped off. I looked at my son, and I said, ‘Well, it looks like that Christmas tree needs a family.’ We took it home, and it was only about 2 feet long, but we put it up—and it was probably the most beautiful Christmas tree, because it found a home.”

Tony Orlando and Dawn will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $79. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

The Christmas season is upon us! It’s a magical yet busy time of the year—so be sure to escape the hustle and bustle, and take in some great events.

The McCallum Theatre has an excellent December schedule. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2, country icons Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen will be performing. While Lovett may be best known for once being married to Julia Roberts, he’s actually one of the best things to come out of Texas’ country music scene. Robert Earl Keen is also a fantastic singer-songwriter, known mostly for his Americana style. Tickets are $45 to $85. Are you a fan of the Boss? While Springsteen himself won’t be coming to the valley, here’s the next best thing: At 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, the Desert Symphony with various guests will be performing Bruce in the USA. This should be a great show. Tickets are $65 to $125. Sometimes during the holidays, you just need to laugh, so it’s good that at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, comedian Rita Rudner will be stopping by. She’s performed for audiences in Vegas for a long time. Tickets are $38 to $88. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great December events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, the reunited Tony Orlando and Dawn will be performing a special Christmas-themed show. When Tony Orlando and Dawn had their television show in the mid ’70s, they were a big hit. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, the legendary Tony Bennett will be returning to the Fantasy Springs stage. Trust me: It’s amazing to watch Bennett, now 92, still performing shows that last 90 minutes and beyond. Tickets are $49 to $109. Ready to spice up your December with something a little different? At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, Latin pop star Paulina Rubio will be performing. Rubio is a huge star in Mexico and is beginning to enjoy success worldwide. She recently released a new album, Deseo, and is ready to rock. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is offering a rather varied December schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, José Feliciano (right) will be performing. He opened the doors for many Latin artists to cross over into the American market—and gain success around the world. He’s also one of the best guitarists alive. Tickets are $55 to $75. Do you love game shows? If so, you’re in luck (no pun intended), because at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 14 a live version of The Price Is Right with guest host Jerry Springer will be coming to The Show. Remember, this is The Price Is Right, not the Jerry Springer Show, meaning there will be no chair-throwing. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, the local-resident legend himself, Barry Manilow, will perform two Christmas-themed shows. While the shows should be great, they aren’t cheap: Tickets are $100 to $250. How about dancing on New Year’s Eve? At 9 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, pop-variety cover band Pop Vinyl will provide the soundtrack as the calendar turns to 2019. Tickets are $35. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of events worth noting. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, comedian Bill Engvall will be performing. He’s one of the Blue Collar Comedy guys (with Jeff Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White), best known for his “Here’s your sign!” routine. He’s genuinely hilarious. Tickets are $40 to $60. From Friday, Dec. 7, through Sunday, Dec. 9, Spotlight 29 will be holding its Annual Winter Gathering Pow Wow. Indigenous people from the United States, Mexico and Canada will be attending this huge event featuring handmade regalia, dancing, songs, arts, food and so on. Admission is free. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has some holiday events worth considering. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 15, enjoy the Morongo Holiday Show featuring the George Shelby Orchestra. George Shelby was a member of the American Idol house band for seven seasons and has worked with Toto, Elton John, Sting and many others. Tickets are $99. Looking for something wacky and fun for New Year’s Eve? Well, here ya go: At 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, rock ’n’ roll into the new year with Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries. This band has been playing classic rock and Motown since 1972. Tickets are $45. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is rocking throughout December. At 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 3, it’s going to be a country-rocking Christmas good time when Old 97’s performs. Old 97’s is a noteworthy alt-country band with a lot of great songs—and the group recently put out a Christmas album. Tickets are $25. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13, dark-wave band The Soft Moon will take the stage. After checking out the group’s most recent release, Criminal, and some live videos, I have concluded: This band kicks ass, reminding me a bit of 1990s Nine Inch Nails. Be adventurous, and go see this one. Tickets are $16. New Year’s Eve at Pappy and Harriet’s is always an awesome time, and this year should be no exception: At 9 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31, indie-rock band Black Crystal Wolf Kids will help ring in 2019. Don’t expect to be standing still—this is a band that forces you to move around and sing along. Tickets are $20 to $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has some shows that will help you break the holiday blues. At 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, enjoy Lee Squared’s An Evening With Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee. That’s right: You get two Lees for the price of one, as David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney put on a musical-comedy show in tribute to the two huge stars. It’s a musical performance with some camp! Tickets are $30 to $40. At 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, actress and singer Joely Fisher will be performing. You might remember her from the sitcom Ellen in the ’90s; she’s also sang on Broadway. Tickets are $50 to $60. There are a lot of Elvis impersonators, but at 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 28, enjoy a special treat—songs from Elvis’ early years, with Scot Bruce. Bruce is a top-notch Elvis performer who is a true dead-ringer for the King himself. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret has started to book some great shows—including some Christmas themed events in December. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Monday, Dec. 14, 15 and 17, music-comedy duo Amy and Freddy will be performing their Very Divalicious California Christmas. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 22, country star Ty Herndon will be performing his Not So Silent Night holiday show. Herndon is known for falling apart in the early 2000s, getting his life together and then coming out in 2014. He’s a fantastic country performer and has three No. 1 singles to his name. Tickets are $25 to $35 Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; reactionshows.com.

Published in Previews

As of Jan. 1, the holiday season is over—but the tourist/snowbird season is cranking into high gear, meaning there are a ton of fabulous events to take in across the Coachella Valley.

The McCallum Theatre is hosting a lot of sold-out events in January, but there are still tickets left for a few great shows. At 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 22, operatic baritone singer Nathan Gunn will be performing from the Great American Songbook, as well as songs by Leonard Cohen and … Pearl Jam. Operatic Pearl Jam? Whoa! Tickets are $27 to $87. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 25, Broadway legends Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune will take the stage. These greats have 12 Tony Awards between them! Tickets are $37 to $67. At 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 29, piano virtuoso Jeffrey Siegel will be performing his variations on classical piano pieces, all while offering commentary. Siegel has played with some of the world’s best orchestras, so this is one you won’t want to miss. Tickets are $22 to $42. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino had a rocking holiday season and is sailing into January with a great schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12, Motown R&B and soul legend Smokey Robinson will be performing. Smokey Robinson is an icon—even Bob Dylan listed Smokey Robinson as one of his favorite singers. His list of awards and honors is endless. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 19, if you’re a man wondering where your wife is, she might be at the Michael Bolton concert. Bolton is a good sport and hasn’t been afraid to poke fun at himself, as seen in Netflix’s Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Special. Oh, he’s won two Grammy Awards and has sold more than 65 million records, too. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26, witness the spectacle of Adam Sandler going back to standup comedy and performing his comedy songs. It’s been years since he’s performed these types of shows; given his massive Netflix contract; he certainly doesn’t need the money. Tickets are $79 to $139. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is going to be sizzling in January with hot events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 13, our favorite show is coming back: It’s Thunder from Down Under! That’s right, the all-male Aussie review that makes women scream will return to the Coachella Valley. Tickets are $15 to $25. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, crooner Burt Bacharach (right) will perform. The “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” scribe is always popular when he comes to the Coachella Valley, which is no wonder, considering Bacharach has written some of the greatest songs ever—plus he performs them beautifully. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, comedy great Howie Mandel will be performing with Preacher Lawson. I’ve always found Mandel a little odd, with his fears of germs and his refusal to shake people’s hands, but he’s an icon. Tickets are $35 to $55. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has some fantastic weekend shows coming in January. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12, comedian and actor Mike Epps will do his thing. You might remember Epps for performing opposite Ice Cube as Day-Day in Next Friday and Friday After Next. One of Epps’ funniest moments in my opinion was when he told the story of Baby-D and her “Y2K snacks” in Next Friday. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26, recording artist and television star Tony Orlando will be performing. I had a chance to interview Orlando last year, and it was a pleasurable experience. Growing up, I remember seeing him on many television shows, and hearing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon,” which received heavy airplay on the radio. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has a January event with a limited number of tickets still available as of our press deadline. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 5, comedian Sinbad will bring the funny. Sinbad seemingly disappeared for a while … until he had financial problems. However, he seems to be finding his groove and is getting good reviews for his “family friendly comedy.” Tickets are $29. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a ton of events in January, featuring acts both national and local, so be sure to check the full schedule. Here are a few highlights. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 19, punk/rockabilly band The Flesh Eaters will take the stage. The Flesh Eaters have some dark themes in their music and were a hit in the Los Angeles punk scene. Also on the bill are Sean Wheeler and the Reluctant Messengers. Tickets are $25. At 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21, Monkees guitarist/vocalist Michael Nesmith will be performing with his band, The First National Band. Fun fact: During the ’70s, Nesmith wrote and performed country music. Just a heads up: Nesmith usually avoids performing Monkees songs. Tickets are $30 to $40. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, country and rock singer/songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield (below) will be performing. Mayfield has shared the stage with rock contemporaries such as Ryan Adams, and has collaborated with The Black Keys. Given she’s from Northeast Ohio like me, I’m rooting for her. Tickets are $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs is always a popular place during season. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 6, jazz singer Jonathan Karrant will perform. The Arkansas native has been on stages since he was a young child and says that he cherishes the storytelling aspect of performing. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12, Tony Award-winner Levi Kreis will be performing. The Broadway singer and pianist from Tennessee is quite popular, and overcame personal beliefs and issues to embrace the fact that he’s gay. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26, Barbra Streisand impersonator Steven Brinberg will be doing his show Simply Barbra. Considering Streisand is unlikely to be performing locally anytime soon, these types of shows are a great way to celebrate Bab’s music and style. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Copa has one event in January worth noting: At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, get ready for Lee Squared: An Evening With Liberace and Miss Peggy Lee. This show will be performed by David Maiocco and Chuck Sweeney, who are both dazzling and acclaimed performers. Tickets are $25 to $40. Copa Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.copapalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

He was a kid from New York, N.Y., with just an eighth-grade education—yet Tony Orlando has had an incredible music career, both as an executive and a recording artist.

While he hasn’t released any new material since 1979, he continues to perform across the country to sold-out audiences. He’ll bring his current tour to Spotlight 29 on Saturday, Jan. 14.

During a recent phone interview, I asked him if there was anything he would change.

“Nothing,” Orlando said. “What would I change? I’ve been in this business for 56 years. I started when I was 16 in 1961 with Carole King. I think that’s a pretty good run. I don’t think I’d change anything. I’ve worked for six presidents. I’ve had a television show, and I have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I found myself as a vice president of CBS for four years, running the music division at 23 years old, and me and the girls sold 150 million records in the ’70s. How could I want to change anything? God bless me!”

Orlando’s experience as a music-company executive helped him fully understand how the music business worked.

“I only have an eighth-grade education, so for me to find myself in that position with a company like CBS, representing some very talented people like James Taylor and Blood Sweat and Tears, and signing Barry Manilow and producing his first records, I enjoyed that. It taught me that sometimes, you can’t sign a talent, and the talent walks away thinking that they’re not talented, but it had more to do with where the company is going, what can the company really afford, and: Would it fit within the structure of where the company wanted to go? You can honestly pass on a talent that’s a great talent, because it might not fit within your company. Young people don’t realize that; they get depressed and go, ‘Oh my God! The guy didn’t sign me!’ In essence, it had nothing to do with their talent. I always tell young performers that 99 percent of this business is getting turned down, and 1 percent is the part where they say, ‘Sure, we’ll sign you.’”

However, Orlando stressed that in the end, the music business is all about talent—not image, and not gimmicks.

“When you look at some of the young artists who were on American Idol, they were amazing,” Orlando said. “Imagine you go on television and face 50 million people, and you have to sing live. You can’t goof up. Talk about nerve-racking! They were performing songs that weren’t even in their growing-up years. Most of those songs were old ’70s songs, and they went out there and slayed people! We got some great artists out of that experience.

“The truth is, it’s always about talent in the end,” Orlando said. “Take someone like Nick Jonas—the progress and his growth from the Jonas Brothers to now. … People don’t realize he was on Broadway when he was 10.”

He credits the many hits he had throughout the 1970s to his producer.

“I didn’t really pick them,” he said. “I had a record producer named Hank Medress who had an incredible song sense. I had an awesome respect for his knowledge and instinct when it came to songs. … My role was to listen to my producer and deliver that as an artist. The song sense and song picking didn’t come from me, except ‘He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)’ by Curtis Mayfield, because my basic heart is for rhythm and blues, and I always loved Curtis Mayfield.”

Orlando has worked with many great musicians, he said.

“My band has been with me for 21 years,” he said. “My keyboard player, friend and only female in the band, Toni Wine, she has been with me for 56 years. She was married to Chips Moman, who produced all the ’70s Elvis songs, as well as Booker T. and the M.G.’s, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and BJ Thomas. Her husband is a legend in the business and just passed away.”

I asked him which current stars he, as a former music executive, thought would still be big in the future.

“There’s a pretty wide selection. I really think Nick Jonas is a raw, incredible and well-rounded performer,” he said. “He’s the only one I know of at his age who has done five shows on Broadway in the last 10 years. If you listen to songs like ‘Jealous,’ I told Steve Wonder: ‘Hey, Stevie, wouldn’t you have liked to have written this one?’ He’s a very soulful young boy. Lady Gaga will probably be around for the next 50 years. Madonna has already been around forever. You have Britney Spears, who has been around for 20 years already.”

What can fans expect from Orlando’s performance at Spotlight 29? Don’t anticipate anything surprising.

“I hate to tell you this, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Orlando said with a laugh. “It’s working too well!”

Tony Orlando will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, at Spotlight 29, 46200 Harrison Place, in Coachella. Tickets are $25 to $45. For tickets or more information, call 760-775-5566, or visit www.spotlight29.com.

Published in Previews