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Truth Be Told: "Behind the Set"

Tony Orlando

Tony Orlando's personality is like that of an actor who is the lead character in a film that takes place in New York City. Picture this if you will, as you sit in the theater watching the big screen. The setting is a public place, perhaps a restaurant, a bar, whatever. In walks a jovial, friendly guy of, undoubtedly, Italian-American decent. Maybe even a little Hispanic origin can be detected. He is a man of large proportion who begins greeting everyone with a smile, a handshake and by saying, "Hey, how are you doin'?", or, "Nice to see ya". You can hear his voice carrying throughout the room, while his presence garners everyone's attention. Fact of the matter is it's no movie set. That IS the way he is. He is a regular guy, one of the guys, a great guy. Everyone feels good being around him, and he makes everyone feel good. Tony got there early and stood around talking, telling stories and laughing with everyone on the set. He did that before as well as after the taping. Bedrock of the situation, he is your basic nice guy.

From there, he and I walked over to the middle of the stage and sat down in the comfortable armchairs to get in position for the shoot. We discussed many different topics. We talked of he cosmetics and acoustics of the Cabaret at the Mohegan Sun (he hadn't appeared in this venue prior) and how it compared with those types of rooms in Vegas and Branson. We talked about our families, and he imparted memories about growing up in New York in the '50s. He told me stories about all the entertainers he adored, from Gleason to Sinatra to his dear friend Freddie Prinze, and all those performers he admired and respected, along with how and what he learned from them through working together. We chatted about his new book and his struggles with drugs. Tony was – and is – warm, revealing, vulnerable, and above all a fantastic person.

Here's a great story for you. We had some dialogue about interviews he had done in the past, and he told me his all time #1 favorite interview was the one he did with Dick Cavett or Bob Costas. I apologize; I can't recall which one. I do, however, remember the story. I told him that I would do my best to get as high up the totem pole as I possibly could. The cameras begin to roll.

Everything about the taping went outstandingly well. The camera angles looked great (stage setup, lighting, the questions, the rapport with the guest, etc.) I am most particular, a fanatic about every detail. Some shoots look better than others, and this one looked and was executed better than the norm to me. Everything felt good from beginning to end.

Truth be told, the very moment we finished the interview, Tony leaned forward, placed one of his hands on my knee and extended his other hand to shake my own, and quietly said these few words to me: "Cavett (or Costas) is #2." I believe you know how I felt.

We then got up, and what did Tony proceed to do? He went right back to the members of the crew to talk, laugh and tell stories. He is, after all, a regular guy, one of the guys, a great guy.

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