Frankie Avalon, Lou Christie will share The Palace Theatre stage
Frankie Avalon has displayed his talents as a singer and an actor over the years with some enviable film roles. Who can forget his fun times on the beach with actress Annette Funicello in such memorable ’60s movies as “Beach Blanket Bingo,” “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini” and the rest?
Interestingly enough, his favorite portrayal was not in one of his popular beach movies, but rather as heartthrob Teen Angel singing “Beauty School Dropout” in the 1978 movie version of “Grease” – a role that almost never took place.
Avalon, who will perform at 6 p.m. Sept. 15 at The Palace Theatre, Greensburg in a concert with special guest star Lou Christie, said in a phone call with the Tribune-Review from his home in California that he nearly backed out of the offer.
“Paramount Pictures wanted me for the role, but I’d seen the show on Broadway and Teen Angel was portrayed as an extension of Elvis,” he says. “I told my manager I was not interested because I had my own style.”
As it turned out, Avalon was given full rein to play his character his way.
Many more movies were part of his career, which also spans three generations of television appearances and musical performances that preceded his acting. One of his most famous songs, “Venus.” became his first No. 1 single in 1959.
Avalon actually started in show business as a trumpet player as a child, appearing on “The Jackie Gleason Show” and making records for an RCA Victor Records’ subsidiary. He later played backup trumpet in a local band until he was discovered as a teen by a local producer.
These days the performer and his wife of 56 years, Kathryn (Kay), live not far from Malibu Beach, where his beach movies were filmed.
He still misses his friend, Funicello, who passed away in 2013 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. After her diagnosis, “she went through life not very nicely as she fought that debilitating disease,” he says. Avalon still keeps in contact with her first-born daughter, Gina, who is his goddaughter.
Back on the road
The singer is back on the road for his concert appearances that number about 35 to 40 a year after taking some time off this summer to spend time with his family, which includes eight children and 10 grandchildren.
“We enjoy getting together for pasta on Sundays and going up to the mountains and on our boat,” he says.
He also plays golf and says he enjoys spending time with his friend, fellow actor and Philadelphia native James Darren.
Avalon says he’s had offers to perform on Broadway, but “at this point, I have no desire to commit to doing something for a year — that’s not my cup of tea.”
Avalon and Christie are both Pennsylvania-born boys, with Avalon hailing from Philadelphia and Christie from Crescent Township in Allegheny County.
Special guest star Lou Christie
Christie, who attended Moon Area High School, had his first million-selling record as a teenager with “The Gypsy Cried,” followed by “Two Faces Have I,” two songs that spotlighted his high-pitched falsetto voice, and another million-selling recording, “Lightning Strikes.”
Avalon said he looks forward to returning to Greensburg, where “the people are great there,” and to working with his good friend, Christie. Avalon’s Sept. 15 appearance will be three days before his 79th birthday.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.