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Philadelphia has long been known for its breeding of singers and entertainers, starting with Mario Lanza, the great opera singer who was born in South Philly, followed by Eddie Fisher, James Darren, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Freddie Bell, Buddy Greco, and The Sacca Twins. Sherman Hemsley, aka The Jefferson's, Hall and Oats, Jack Klugman, Ed McMann, Chubby Checker, David Brenner, and many more including our great Mayor Oscar Goodman, also hail from the “ City of Brotherly Love .”

Frankie Avalon and Tony Sacca

Frankie Avalon, James Darren and David Brenner , are a part of an elite group of rotating headliners that appear here annually. These truly great entertainers have influenced my career while I was growing up and learning to become an entertainer, and it is with great honor to be have spoken with them about their life, career and influences. I recently interviewed Frankie Avalon, James Darren and David Brenner for my television show, so I thought I would share with the La Voce readers an intimate look at these great performers.

Frankie Avalon aka Francis Thomas Avallone was born September 18, 1940 . As a child, he would perform from time to time on the trumpet, which he was tutored and encouraged by his father. Frankie tells me that his father gave him the opportunity to study his instrument and learn the business in order for his son to become the professional he was not.

“It is very important to accumulate as much stage time as possible in order to learn your craft - do it all,” states Frankie Avalon. Talented Showcases , Contests, Local Club Appearances, Parish Bazaars, Weekend Sock Hop - whatever it may be, you need stage time to learn the craft.

In 1957, with the rise of “American Bandstand” a number of Philadelphians entered the music business. Among those were Peter De Angelis and Robert Marucci, two Italian songwriters and music publishers. Avalon signed with Marucci and De Angelis becoming his managers. Marucci and De Angelis had Avalon record “Venus” a song written by Ed Marshall. This song was completely different from the songs he had recorded in the past. The combo was replaced by an orchestra, female vocals, bells and chimes over a soft calypso beat. “Venus” was Avalon's biggest hit selling more then a million copies in the spring of 1959. Over a two-year period, Avalon had seven songs in the top ten.

In the early sixties there was a nationwide surfing craze and Hollywood did a number of movies on the subject -Avalon and Annette Funicello, were leading stars in these movies.

In 1978 Avalon had a cameo role in the musical “Grease” playing Teen Angel and singing “Beauty School Dropout.”

In the summer of 1985, Avalon began touring with Bobby Rydell and Fabian as “The Golden Boys of Bandstand.” Today, Frankie Avalon is a show business icon. He is recognized as one of the first and most successful of the teen idols from Philadelphia . He has also become a successful movie and television star and, to this date, offers a line of Frankie Avalon products.

James Darren, born, James Ercolani, is an accomplished singer, motion picture, television actor, director, writer, and producer. He was raised only two blocks from my home in South Philly. James states that being raised in Philadelphia , was the foundation that he needed for achievement. By the way, you might remember that James Darren played Moondoggie in the classic beach film “Gidget,” co-starring Sandra Dee, The Guns of Navarone , as well as the television series, The Time Tunnel , T.J. Hooker , Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , as Vic Fontaine, and many more. James tells me he is now dedicating himself to where it all started, as a singer. Darren's singing career encompasses an impressive roster of musical credit's including 14 albums and five Top 10 singles, including the 1961 Grammy-nominated “Good-bye Cruel World,” which held the No. 1 spot on the billboard charts for six weeks. In 1976 he landed another hit with “You Take My Breath Away” from the Oscar-winning film “Rocky.”

David Brenner & Tony Sacca

David Brenner, one of the most successful brilliant comedians of our time, states that growing up in the streets Philadelphia gave him the drive to achieve, and that Philadelphia has influenced his life as an entertainer and a comic. He was also a successful television documentary producer. He will be appearing February 17, at The Cannery on Craig Rd. off of I -15.

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