A birthday celebration became a hot ticket at a cool nightclub when Ariana Savalas performed recently at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato jazz club in Bel Air. The lovely songbird was also celebrating the completion of her first jazz album Sophisticated Lady, and signed her CDs after the show. The renowned pianist Corky Hale, who has been a mentor to Ariana, took the stage for accompaniment for one number and led the happy crowd of friends, family, and fans in singing “Happy Birthday” to Ariana. The great composer Mike Stoller, Corky’s husband, was in the audience too, along with Ariana’s mother Julie Savalas and uncle Constantine.
She’s a grownup blonde bombshell now, but I remember Ariana as a cutie-pie toddler running around the room when I was interviewing her famous dad, the late great Telly Savalas (Kojak) at the Universal Sheraton more than two decades ago. And what a wonderful voice she has, along with the persona of a young Peggy Lee, but with a contemporary flair and a distinct style of her own. Ariana has a sultry voice that’s not afraid to whisper, demanding your attention. And yet when she belts out a tune, I wouldn’t be surprised to see grown men quiver.
I don’t want to simply categorize Ariana as a cabaret singer, because with her amazing voice she could wow the back rows at the Hollywood Bowl. But the intimate Vibrato cabaret was a great spot for her to do the smoldering songs from Sophisticated Lady. The CD’s collection includes a couple of classics, such as the title tune and “Peel Me A Grape,” but it also has several she wrote, including “One Man Show,” “Shotgun,” and “Perfect Man,” which have sexy and playful lyrics that will have you begging for more from this talented and sophisticated lady.
Now let’s put the spotlight on another talented performer I met as a youngster. Ricky Schroder was doing the sitcom Silver Spoons in the ’80s when I talked with him on the set. The kid who shot to stardom in The Champ remake, has grown up and gained respect in the industry for his impressive dramatic performances in Lonesome Dove, The Lost Battalion, NYPD Blue, 24, and other TV shows and movies. Now he has Wild Hearts, premiering March 9 on the Hallmark Movie Channel, and the two-hour original production is a family affair starring Ricky Schroder, his wife Andrea, and his four children — Cambrie Schroder, Luke Schroder, Holden Schroder, and Faith Schroder. The film is directed by Ricky Schroder, as well as executive produced and written by him and his wife.
The story is about a reluctant father and professional mustang wrangler who is reunited with the sophisticated daughter he has never known. “Wild Hearts was created as a starring vehicle for my daughter Cambrie. She is a great young actress who did a beautiful job,” Ricky told me at a Hallmark dinner party. He had just completed another Hallmark Movie Channel film playing a villainous character opposite Luke Perry’s Judge Goodnight in Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts. The western aired in January scoring the network’s second highest ratings for an original movie. Schroder hopes to top that with Wild Hearts, which is certainly in keeping with Hallmark’s sterling family-friendly reputation.
I learned about another western coming to the Hallmark Channel at the network’s event held at the Huntington Library. Shadow on the Mesa, airing March 23, stars Wes Brown (Deception), Kevin Sorbo (Hercules), Gail O’Grady (NYPD Blue), Meredith Baxter (Family Ties), and Greg Evigan (After the Fall). It’s a story about a hidden family history that compels a lone gunfighter to meet his long-lost father in the midst of a violent range war. It all leads to a colossal final showdown in the rugged American West. So saddle up and tune in.