Author Ben Bryant shares a funny celebrity story about Frankie Avalon


funny celebrity story

(one of many) about Frankie Avalon is excerpted from author Ben Bryant’s Hollywood Memoir, Three Stages

The summer of ’63 after my Dad’s untimely death I was back from Vegas and temporarily staying with my Mom. Here’s the funny celebrity story.

“Mom went back to her job at the bank. … She, of course, wanted me to live with her and I had a terrible vision of becoming one of those single men who lived with his mother and that was not how I wanted to spend my life. …

“After about a month I was going stir-crazy and had to get some breathing space. I called Dave Hubler [Musical Director at a San Diego theatre] and told him I’d even take a chorus job in San Diego if he could hire me, I had to get out of LA. Fortuitously one of the chorus guys had just given notice and Dave told me to be there the following Monday. I was rescued.

“We made some sort of an arrangement to get Mom to and from work and I was off to San Diego.

“I found a tiny furnished apartment in La Jolla a block from the beach and about fifteen miles from the theatre. The three shows I did were Paint Your Wagon with Frankie Laine, Can-Can with Ricardo Montalban and Wish You Were Here starring Frankie Avalon.

“Mr. Laine was a real mensch. By the end of rehearsals he knew everyone’s first names. Not only that, unlike Tony Martin [who tried to get me fired the previous season for singing too well], he was secure in his stardom to such an extent that he asked the choreographer to have me standing by him at the end of all the men’s group numbers. He told her. “If Ben is next to me they’ll think it’s me singing that high note.”

“The other Frankie was also a great guy and, like his old buddy, Bobby Rydell, a wonderful musician. We had a lot of fun together and he wanted to hear all about my TV Pilot with Bobby.


Frankie Avalon and Myownself

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“The show itself was a strange experience. The audiences were made up almost entirely of teenaged girls. Whenever Frankie was on the stage all you could hear was their screaming. Forget about the show. We could have been reading the phone book. You couldn’t even hear the orchestra. It was pandemonium.

“The adjoining dressing room building was, like the theatre, circular. The four entrances were evenly spaced around the circle with one leading into the theatre and the opposite one the official stage door. That entrance would be so mobbed with girls that it was nearly impossible for Frankie (or anyone else) to get out after a show. After the first couple of performances Frankie, his Manager, Bob Marcucci, and I devised a strategy for getting him out unscathed. We found a very large overcoat that I’d put on. Bob would have Frankie’s driver pull up to one of the other doors and Frankie would get into the coat behind me so we resembled a large, four-legged hunchback. Bob would open the limo door, we’d run out and dive into the back seat and the driver would roar away.

“The three of us went out to eat after the show several times and strangely, people would come to our table and ask Bob for his autograph thinking he was Bill Dana whose TV show was still very popular.


Bill Dana                                         Bob Marcucci

“A couple of times people were so insistent that Bob would give up and sign Bill Dana’s name. They knew each other and it was a kind of joke between them.”

I had worked with Bill Dana on his show but that’s another story.

Click here to get Three Stages

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