The one and only Frankie Valli was a huge draw for the last Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters luncheon of the year on October 6. PPB members wanted to see the music legend and hear his story unfold in tributes from a distinguished panel of friends and colleagues.
PPB president Alan Parris welcomed everyone and introduced an entertaining video highlighting Valli’s abundant artistic achievements. The treasure trove of musical clips was masterfully created by PPB member Jhani Kaye, who got the vintage clips in sync with great recordings to capture the high quality of Valli’s signature voice.
‘His best advice was— find something you love and go after it tenaciously,’
–Richard Palmer on Frankie Valli
The crowd at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City was treated to a flashback of Valli’s lengthy career spanning more than 50 years, from performing as lead singer with the Four Seasons, then as a top selling solo artist in concerts and record sessions, up to embracing Broadway with his bio-musical Jersey Boys.
On the dais to honor Valli, 83, were Wink Martindale, Robby Robinson, Bruce Charet, Jim Gosnell, Kenny Nolan, Richie Palmer, and Joey Reynolds, along with Perris who presented Valli with the prestigious Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award.
“Oh, what a gig,” gushed Robby Robinson who has been Frankie Valli’s musical director for more than four decades. Certainly no one in the room knew him better. Robinson said, “It’s always been about the music, on stages and studios, working 40 years together, and it’s a testament to old school loyalty.” Robinson offered greater insight when he noted, “In 1953 he made his first record. Did you know that Frankie loves jazz? Yeah, especially Stan Kenton, and he loves jazz singer Diane Schuur who is here today. The Beach Boys opened for Frankie, and when Mike Love was late, his excuse always was ‘I was backstage kissing Frankie Valli’s ring.’ The secret to Frankie’s ‘Jersey genius’ is his talent along with his work ethic. And he’s not done yet. He’s still rolling. After 40 years with him, I’m still in awe. Thank you, boss.”
Another longtime friend of Valli’s is Bruce Charet, Vice President at RatPac Entertainment. Charet joked about “maybe” knowing some mob guys, and said, “I’m from the streets of Brooklyn, and Frankie’s from the streets of Newark, so the highest praise I can give him is that Frankie is the kind of guy who would hide me in his basement. That’s a compliment. He’s the guy you want to have your back. He’s a good soul. And, from my grandmother, I have the greatest blessing for him—May you live 1,000 years.”
Jim Gosnell, the head of the talent agency (APA) that represents Valli, praised his friend and called Frankie his hero. “I am honored to represent one of the greatest voices of all time. It is a signature voice, unmistakable. He gives us great songs, and his word means something. It’s the highest compliment telling you he’s the ultimate standup guy.”
Richard Palmer, the Mulberry Street Pizza honcho, got choked up when talking about his “friend, mentor, brother, father—Frankie has been all of that to me. His best advice was— find something you love and go after it tenaciously. He tells you when you’re stupid, but he tells you when you’re right. He’s as American as hot dogs and apple pie.”
Longtime friend Kenny Nolan, the singer-songwriter who co-wrote “My Eyes Adored You” with Bob Crewe, revealed that Valli’s big hit was originally called “Blue Eyes in Georgia.”
Another longtime friend, radio host/disc jockey Joey Reynolds flew in from New York just to have lunch with Valli and brag, “I was the first to play ‘Sherry,’ and I locked myself in the booth and played it for four hours.”
Broadcast legend and humorist Wink Martindale paid tribute to Valli’s hit song “Dawn” by handing him a bottle of Dawn detergent. It was silly but funny. Then seriously, Wink described his friend’s contribution to the American songbook as “feel good music.”
This reporter is a Jersey girl, and my husband was a Jersey boy, and I was thrilled to meet the celebrated “Jersey Boy.” He makes us proud.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.