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Solomon follows his dreams

| Saturday, June 18, 2005

With a hundred dollars in his pocket and a million dollar dream, in 1975, George Solomon, of Monongahela, headed for the bright lights of New York City.

Solomon held many odd jobs, such as a gaffer and working in a gourmet deli shop among others, while pursuing his dream. His love of the theater, singing and entertaining preceded his love for academics. Solomon laughs when he shares that his picture hangs at Ringgold High School beside scholars and doctors.

"Mrs. Louise Anderson's drama class and Mrs. Esther Spadaro's choir were where I spent most of my high school years," Solomon said.

He has fond memories of growing up in Monongahela with seven brothers and sisters, all with musical talents of their own. Under the guidance of their late father, the Solomon children would dance and sing for family and friends.

Solomon's career started when he was only 15 years old. He remembers performing at the Twin Coaches in 1973. "That was my first paying job," he said, remembering how excited he was when he was asked to perform in "Annie Get Your Gun," "West Side Story," and "Guys and Dolls" at the Renkan Theater in Bentleyville,. "That's when I knew I could make it if I didn't give up."

Solomon's dream has taken him many places, meeting some of the most engaging celebrities of this generation. Solomon recalls the struggles and hardships that took him to his first break. He finally had a lead role in the revivals of "Hair" and "South Pacific" in 1976. There was no turning back. Solomon's dream was coming true.

That dream snowballed into numerous opportunities, and he wanted so much to make his family proud. Receiving the "Dramatic Critics Award for Best Actor" in Neil Simon's "Come Blow Your Horn" in Los Angeles in 1978 was the beginning of a long and productive career.

Soon after, Solomon moved to the west coast after he was scouted by an ABC television executive.

He played the lead role in the pop musical Stars on 45, which led him to star in the Las Vegas musical, "Dream Street." Solomon tells the story of how nervous he was while in his dressing room with all those celebrities in the audience.

"Big times had arrived. There was Shirley MacLaine, John Travolta, Diana Ross, Dean Martin and Barry Gordy Jr., all in the front row, all watching my every move," recalled Solomon. "This was either going to make or break me. The adrenalin was pumping. As I was leaving my dressing room, Sammy Davis Jr. comes in and looks at me, then says 'The kid has something people love'.

"I knew right then and there my moment in the sun was just starting. The night went great," Solomon continued, "And I felt that I had truly arrived. It was something to write home about."

After that event in Las Vegas, Solomon received the "Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year Award."

Solomon knew that he had to follow his dreams no matter what. Not only does he entertain, sing, dance and act, but he has become a creative consultant and appeared in the 1985 NBC summer series Motown Review along with Smokey Robinson and Arsenio Hall.

He has written and performed with Diana Ross, Bill Cosby, Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Harry Connick Jr., George Michael, Liza Minelli and many more. Solomon has also appeared in and written for Coca-Cola events, has hosted "Girls Want to Have Fun" and has been a master of ceremonies for the Chippendales. He has also made his way onto television, appearing in such shows as "The Carol Burnett Show," "Married With Children," "General Hospital," and "Santa Barbara," and being profiled in Show Biz Today and Entertainment Tonight.

Solomon comes home to Monongahela several times a year to visit his large family. Among the seven talented siblings, his brother David Solomon, a producer at WQED in Pittsburgh, received an Emmy Award for his documentary of the 1948 Donora Smog.

Last year, his family had the pleasure to see George Solomon perform in the Las Vegas production of "Tony and Tina's Wedding," an interactive theater production that ran for four months, in which he portrayed Danny DolchZ , the wedding singer.

"His performance in 'Tony and Tina's Wedding' made me so proud," said Jackie Pagoda of Craven Hill, a cousin of Solomon and an opera singer who has performed at the Pittsburgh Playhouse for many years. "To see how far he has come makes the whole family excited for him."

Solomon's mother and stepfather, Mary and Joe Acton have traveled to see him perform. He sends home tickets frequently because he enjoys having his family in the audience.

Currently, Solomon is performing his "One Man Show" on Norwegian Cruise Lines. He always mentions his family, friends and Monongahela in his monologue and jokes about his childhood in the Valley.

"Small town values, friendly neighbors and the love and support of family impact on who I am today, when I dream, I always dream that I'm in Monongahela," Solomon said.

"I can dream I'm with a celebrity and I will be walking on Main Street in my home town. No matter where my life has taken me, my heart always returns home, again to Monongahela, Pa."

Solomon says that he would love to perform some day for the people of the Valley, but for now, look for him in Las Vegas or on the Norwegian and Holland American Celebrity Cruise ships.

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