Frankie Avalon show travels from beach parties to ‘Beauty School Dropout’
BY BRUCE INGRAM For Sun-Times Media May 16, 2014 1:46PM
Frankie Avalon performs at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace May 19 and 20.
When: 1:30 p.m. May 19 and 20
Where: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
Info: (630) 530-0111; Drurylaneoakbrook.com
Updated: May 16, 2014 4:44PM
More than 50 years after the young trumpet prodigy Frankie Avalon switched to singing and became a hit-making teen idol, with a nice side career in beach-party movies with Annette Funicello, he’s still out there entertaining.
We caught up with Avalon, whose touring schedule includes a stop Monday and Tuesday at Drury Lane Oakbrook, for a few questions about what’s kept him successful for more than half a century.
Q: What sort of show are you doing these days?
A: There’s a lot of music I’ve recorded through the years and a lot of film stuff. Home movies about my family and me as a young boy, growing up in South Philly. Also footage from “The Dick Clark Show” and the beach-party movies and “Grease.”
Q: Why do you think you’ve lasted so long in this business where so many have brief success?
A: When I first arrived on the scene, way back in 1957, the reviewers said, “This kid’s lucky if he lasts a year.” Well, it’s been a lot of years now. [Laughs] I think the reason for that is that I’ve had a good choice of material, recording-wise, that’s really lasted. And I’ve been in some pretty major films that people are still interested in.
Q: Things changed so much, though, so fast after you established yourself. Did you ever go through a phase?
A: Oh. You mean my lean years? [Laughs] Things were great from 1957 to around 1967-68, when everything really started to change. The Beatles hit around 1964 and that started to change the look of the person in front of the camera or on stage or whatever. Different hairstyles, different clothes. Another was that the type of material I performed was stemming from the 1940s and into the ’50s. The innocent romantic years. Then, suddenly, things weren’t that way so much anymore. Those beach-party movies were also so innocent. Sure, they were about wanting to go to bed with Annette Funicello, but she always said, “Not until you put a ring on my finger.” [Laughs] Then, all of the sudden, the rules changed and that wasn’t in style.
Q: Did you ever question your approach or think about changing to fit the fashion?
A: No, I never did. I didn’t really care that I was playing to 400 or 500 hundred people when I had been playing to 5,000. You know, when you’re a hit, you never really have a chance to learn. But if you come down that ladder a bit, you have a chance to work on your craft if you’ll take it. I’ll never forget what Jimmy Stewart told me about that. We were at a party and he said when you first get on the bus, you might be up in the front for a while and then you suddenly find yourself in the last seat in the back. But the important thing, no matter what, is to never get off.
Q: And here you are, all these years later, still on the bus.
A: It keeps me alive and on my toes. And I love it. It makes people happy; how could you not love that?