Six months ago, the Atlantic City Alliance launched a $20 million advertising blitz throughout the Northeast encouraging people to DO AC.
Big deal. Tony Orlando has been spreading a similar message for 51 years, ever since he first appeared on the Steel Pier in 1961 and had a Top 40 hit titled “Halfway to Paradise.”
“I was interviewed recently [in another market] and the reporter asked me where was my favorite place to play, and I immediately said Atlantic City,” Orlando says. “One of the great things about Atlantic City is that it’s like coming home. The audiences in Atlantic City and I have grown up together. It’s not like going to a city where they don’t know you. [In Atlantic City] it’s like ‘Hey, where’ve you been? Welcome home.’ I cut my [performing] teeth in Atlantic City.”
But Orlando’s love affair with Atlantic City even pre-dates his entry into the music business. As a kid, he and his dad would regularly visit southern New Jersey to fish for striped bass.
“Besides the fishing, the greatest part of Atlantic City, to me, is that Boardwalk,” he adds during a chat from his lakefront home in Hollister, Mo., a few miles outside of Branson. “When that Boardwalk is packed on a nice day and the ocean is roaring in, it’s just an amazing place to be.”
Orlando returns to the Boardwalk on Saturday, Oct. 13, to play a one-night-stand at the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel. There’s no point asking him for his set list, because he’ll let the audience dictate where the show will go.
Nearly 40 years ago, when Tony Orlando and Dawn hit the top of the charts with “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” — and used the massive hit to close his live shows — Orlando got a piece of friendly advice from Sammy Davis Jr.
“Sammy told me that you can always open with your closer,” Orlando, 68, recalls.
He took the advice of one of the world’s greatest entertainers. Rather than end his shows with his biggest hit, Orlando gets the song out of the way early rather than have people calling out for it through the performance.
Ditto for the rest of his hits. So within the first 20 minutes, his audience will hear “Candida,” “Knock Three Times, “Gypsy Rose” and “He Don’t Love You,” all of which topped the charts in the 1970s.
Once the hits are behind him, the fun really begins. Orlando has the ability to “read” an audience, gauge their mood and anticipate what they want to hear next. It’s much the same as a football quarterback who walks up to the line of scrimmage, surveys the defense and then adjusts the play accordingly.
“I have an opener and a closer, and wherever the middle goes, it goes,” he says. “It’ll go where the audience tells me where to go.”
Although he has all the work he needs, Orlando has broadened his reach into the business world. Last year, he became vice-chairman of the Franklin Mint, the private company that markets collectibles like commemorative coins, die-cast vehicles, dolls and sculptures.
This is more than just a commercial endorsement or ceremonial appointment. Orlando has become a very hands-on executive. He recently succeeded — where others have failed — in getting his friend Jerry Lewis to agree to allow the Franklin Mint to market a boxed set of his legendary comedy motion pictures along with memorabilia signed by the 86-year-old comedian, actor and filmmaker.
Orlando considers himself blessed to have enjoyed a career that’s seen him work with many of the giants of show business: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Jackie Gleason and other legends.
In addition to a helping of gold records, he’s starred in two Broadway musicals (Barnum and Smokey Joe’s Café), several motion pictures (including opposite Adam Sandler in 2011’s That’s My Boy), had a hit TV variety series in the mid-1970s and has performed at the White House for five presidents.
“If it all ended tomorrow, Tony Orlando is one grateful, happy, contented and blessed entertainer,” he says. “I’m very lucky to have been able to work with the people I’ve worked with.”
There’s only one thing left on Orlando’s show-biz bucket list.
“I want to live as long as George Burns and sign the same agreement he did when he turned 99,” he says with a laugh, referring to a contract Burns signed to play the London Palladium on his 100th birthday.
Casual conversations with the stars. Watch the Emmy-winning Curtain Call with David Spatz, Saturdays at 6pm on WMGM-TV NBC40.
Something is happening in Atlantic City’s main casino venues this weekend that — barring another hurricane or some other act of God — will probably never happen again this year.
Fourteen years after his eponymous sitcom left the television airwaves following a ratings-topping nine seasons, Jerry Seinfeld has finally reached the point where his art imitates his life, and vice versa.
“I love seeing new places, and I love going back to places I’ve been a hundred times,” he says. “I love staying in hotels. I know it sounds crazy, but I love the road.”
Chef Sal says: "Everyone will be getting a cookbook and a jar of Pasty’s sauce as part of the admission to the event. You have the food, you have the singing, and you have the dancing. It will be a wonderful night.”
Plus this week's new Drew Toonz cartoon, and the MLK Awards with Nelson Johnson speaking set for Jan. 14.
Check out Vegas this New Year’s Eve, for instance. They’ve got Tony Orlando, Kool & The Gang and David Copperfield. While we love when those guys play here, it just doesn’t come close to Atlantic City’s line-up.
“It’s one thing to have a moment of reflection, but it’s another to be reminded of how much work went into it all, and how much joy I really got out of it and how grateful I’ve been to survive the business, still headline and still work as much as I do.”
A comprehensive listing of entertainment coming to the Atlantic City casinos, Boardwalk Hall and Bader Field.
There are plenty of successful entertainers whose careers can be traced to a single song. But the rewards Tony Orlando has received from his 1973 anthem "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" h...