What does Victory mean to you? The A to Z Challenge staff has some ideas. Have a read and add your own!
I can see that some of you are getting restless as our day(s) trip draws to a close here on Memory Lane. In looking at the recording schedule I think we’re nearly out of visitors for today. BUT we still have five to go. And look who sneaked in the back door!
Frankie Avalon (born Francis Thomas Avallone; September 18, 1940) is an Italian-American actor, singer, and former teen idol. Avalon was born in Philadelphia, the son of Mary and Nicholas Avallone. In December 1952, he made his American network television debut playing the trumpet in the Honeymooners “Christmas Party” sketch on The Jackie Gleason Show. Two singles showcasing Avalon’s trumpet playing were issued on RCA Victor’s “X” sublabel in 1954. His trumpet playing was also featured on some of his LP songs as well. As a teenager he played with Bobby Rydell in Rocco and the Saints. In 1959, “Venus” (5 weeks #1) and “Why” went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. “Why” was the last #1 of the 1950’s.
Avalon had 31 charted U.S. Billboard singles from 1958 to late 1962, including “Just Ask Your Heart” (U.S. #7), “I’ll Wait for You” (U.S. #15), “Bobby Sox to Stockings” (U.S. #8), and “A Boy Without a Girl” (U.S. #10). He was less popular in the U.K., but did still manage four chart hits with “Why”, “Ginger Bread”, “Venus” and “Don’t Throw Away All Those Teardrops”. Most of his hits were written and/or produced by Bob Marcucci, head of Chancellor Records.
Avalon’s first film was a short appearance in Jamboree (1957), playing a trumpet and singing “Teacher’s Pet”.
In the late 1950’s, teen idols were often given roles in films, supporting older male stars in order to attract a younger audience, such as Ricky Nelson in Rio Bravo (1959). Avalon was a favorite of the daughter of Alan Ladd (<– Alana Ladd) who recommended him to co-star with her father in the Western Guns of the Timberland (1960). Avalon sings two songs, “The Faithful Kind” and “Gee Whiz Whillikins Golly Gee”; both were released as singles. Ladd announced he would reteam Avalon and his daughter in Six Steps to Freedom but the film was never made.
Rushes for Timberland were seen by John Wayne, who was looking for a young actor to play the (fictitious) role of “Smitty” in his passion project, The Alamo (1960). Avalon was cast in his second dramatic part. After making the film Wayne told the press “We’re not cutting one bit of any scene in which Frankie appears. I believe he is the finest young talent I’ve seen in a long time.” “Mr Wayne said I was natural as far as acting goes,” said Avalon. He added, “My ambition when I was ten years old was to have my own band like Harry James. I never expected anything like this… I’d like to be identified as a singer, dancer and actor. I don’t want to be just one thing.” “I like to appeal to teenagers and adults,” he said in 1960. “Everybody”.
Avalon was now in demand as an actor. He provided the singing voice for the lead character in the English language version of a Japanese musical anime, Alakazam the Great (1960), which was done at the behest of the US distributor, American International Pictures – the first in what would be a long association with that company.
For Irwin Allen he had a small role and sang the title role in the science fiction adventure film, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) (a perpetual favorite of mine!), a solid hit. He had a support role in a comedy, Sail a Crooked Ship (1961).
In 1976, Avalon updated his song “Venus” with a new disco treatment.Materializing as a character called Teen Angel, his performance of “Beauty School Dropout” in the hit 1978 film of the musical Grease introduced Avalon to a new generation of viewers.
The 1980 film The Idolmaker, written by Ed Di Lorenzo and directed by Taylor Hackford, was a thinly-disguised biography of Avalon (“Tommy Dee” in the film) as well as 1950’s teenage star Fabian Forte (called “Caesare” in the film), along with songwriter/producer Bob Marcucci (called “Vinnie Vacarri”). In the film, Dee clashes with the record producer and younger singer Caesare, who he feels threatens his career. Eventually, Dee and Caesare quit the label, but their record careers collapse just as the British Invasion begins. The real Fabian threatened a lawsuit, despite the filmmakers’ insistence that the film presented only fictional characters (though Marcucci was a paid consultant). Avalon denied most of the film’s events.
Avalon had the idea of returning to beach party films with Funicello. He hired several screenwriters and shopped the screenplay around town, eventually managing to set up the project at Paramount Pictures. Back to the Beach (1987) was a moderate success.
In 1989 Avalon and Funicello appeared as themselves in cameo roles out jogging the streets in Troop Beverly Hills. Not long afterwards, Funicello was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and retired. Afterwards, Avalon turned to marketing and created Frankie Avalon Products, a line of health and cosmetic aids. Avalon promotes his products on the Home Shopping Network with host Bob Circosta. He made a cameo appearance as himself with Robert De Niro in the 1995 film, Casino.
In recent years, Avalon has starred in stage productions of Grease in the role of Teen Angel and Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding as a caricature of himself. Additionally, in 2007, he performed “Beauty School Dropout” with the four remaining female contenders (Kathleen Monteleone, Allie Schulz, Ashley Spencer, and winner Laura Osnes) for the role of Sandy on the NBC television reality show Grease: You’re the One that I Want! On April 8, 2009, he performed on American Idol.
As part of a long-running concert tour, Avalon has toured with fellow Philadelphian 50’s teen idols Fabian and Bobby Rydell under the banner “Dick Fox’s Golden Boys.” A cookbook with over 80 recipes from St. Martin’s Press, Frankie Avalon’s Italian Family Cookbook, was published in 2015.
Avalon married Kathryn “Kay” Diebel on January 19, 1963. She was a former beauty pageant winner, and Avalon met her while playing cards at a friend’s house. He told his friend that Kay was the girl he was going to marry. His agent warned Avalon that marriage would spoil his teen idol mystique. They have eight children – Frankie Jr., Tony, Dina, Laura, Joseph, Nicolas, Kathryn and Carla. They have 10 grandchildren. Frankie Avalon Jr. is a former actor who appeared in the original The Karate Kid and is now a musician, and Tony, the second oldest son, plays guitar and taught at the Rock Nation School. Both sons play on tour with their father.
“Venus” wa written by Ed Marshall and Peter DeAngelis. The most successful and best-known recording of the track was done by Frankie and released in 1959 . “Venus” became Avalon’s first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it spent five weeks atop the survey. The song also reached number ten on the R&B chart. The song’s lyrics detail a man’s plea to Venus, the Roman goddess of sex, to send him a girl to love and one who will love him as well. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1959.
The song was covered in the United Kingdom by Dickie Valentine who spent a week at number 20 in the Singles Chart in May 1959, the week before Frankie Avalon reached the Top 20 with his original version.
In 1976, Avalon released a new disco version of “Venus”. This helped revive the singer’s career, as his success had been waning prior to its release and was Avalon’s last Billboard Hot 100 hit. The re-recording of “Venus” peaking at number forty-six on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at number one on the Easy Listening chart. Avalon was quoted describing the remake: “It was all right, but I still prefer the original.