Tony Orlando: 1944—: Singer
Returned To Show Business
After a long recuperation, that included a six-month stay in a psychiatric hospital to help him kick his drug addiction and a brief period as a born-again Christian, Orlando decided to pursue a solo career. He became a staple in Las Vegas showrooms—25 weeks a year in his heyday—and recorded a solo album, Sweets For My Sweet, for Casablanca in 1979. He also dabbled in acting, debuting in the TV movie Three Hundred Miles For Stephanie, and making a guest appearance on The Bill Cosby Show. In 1980 he briefly took over the lead role in the Broadway show Barnum. Orlando has continued to perform regularly since then, including a 1988 reunion with Dawn in Atlantic City. He also teamed up with his friend Jerry Lewis for a series of shows in the early 1990s at the Las Vegas Hilton and Riviera hotels.
In 1993 Orlando moved to the Ozarks to perform in a variety show in Branson, Missouri, where he opened his own theater, the Yellow Ribbon Music Theater. It was grueling work—he would do 400 shows a year from April to December—but he enjoyed the enthusiastic audiences and change of pace that Branson offered his family. The Missouri residency also gave him time to produce two themed musicals with original songs, including a show based on the life of his grandfather, musician Leon Stanley.
Orlando hit the road again in 1999, taking another Broadway turn in Smokey Joe's Café. This came soon after he ended litigation with former friend and business partner Wayne Newton over a failed joint venture in Branson. Orlando's suit, which asked for more than $15 million and accused Newton of damaging his reputation and wrongly throwing him out of the theater they once shared, was settled with a gag order on both sides. He has been working on an album's worth of new songs with an autobiographical theme. One of the songs, "Carribean Jewel," is a nod to his Greek and Puerto Rican heritage. Another, "Papito Played the Trumpet," is about his grandfather. While his old hits with Dawn continue to sell records, Orlando realized that it may be difficult to sell another solo album.
Orlando married his second wife, Francine Amormino, in 1991. They have a daughter, Jenny Rose, and a son, Jon, from his first marriage. He continues to tour, performing about 150 nights a year. As Orlando told Entertainment Tonight, "Everybody has that new time in their life when they are the new act and hot. That moment in your career only comes once and you're probably not as good in your craft until you get to the point in your career where you say this is my 43rd year. So right now when I do a show I know what I am doing, and I have the same enjoyment now as I did when I had the dream. So how bad could it be? As I say in the book I am Halfway to Paradise."
Candida, Bell, 1970.
Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando, Bell, 1971.
Dawn's New Ragtime Follies featuring Tony Orlando, Bell, 1973.
Prime Time, Bell, 1974.
He Don't Love You … Like I Love You, Electra, 1975.
Tony Orlando and Dawn's Greatest Hits, Arista, 1975.
I Got Rhythm, Casablanca, 1979.
(Solo) Sweets For My Sweet, Casablanca, 1979.
The Best of Tony Orlando and Dawn, Rhino, 1994.
Big Hits, Intersound, 1995.
Tony Orlando and Dawn — The Definitive Collection, Arista, 1998.
Knock Three Times: The Encore Collection, Arista, 1999.
Halfway to Paradise, St. Martin's Press, 2002.
Tony Orlando and Dawn, 1974-1976.
Chico and the Man, 1976.
The Johnny Cash Christmas Special, 1976.
Bob Hope Presents a Celebration with Stars of Comedy and Music, 1981
Three Hundred Miles for Stephanie 1981.
Lynda Carter: Street Life, 1982.
Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story, 1982.
The Cosby Show, 1985.
Barnum, St. James Theater, New York, NY, 1980.
Hey, Look Me Over!, Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY, 1981.
Smokey Joe's Café, 1999.
Las Vegas Review, January 25, 2002.
New York Daily News, December 29, 2002.
News-Press, December 6, 2002.
"Larry King interview with Tony Orlando," CNN-Transcripts, www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0212/15/lklw.00.html (June 16, 2003).
"Tony Orlando: 'Halfway to Paradise,'" Entertainment Tonight, www.etonline.com/celebrity/a127 05.htm (June 16, 2003).
"Tony Orlando Takes Wayne Newton to Court," CNNShowbuzz, www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/News/9904 /29/showbuzz/#story4 (June 16, 2003).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through transcripts from The O'Reilly Factor, broadcast by Fox News on November 8, 2002, and The Today Show, broadcast by NBC, October 14, 2002.
—Kelly M. Martinez
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerTony Orlando: 1944—: Singer Biography - Had Short First Music Career, Teamed Up With Dawn, Released Megahit, Hit Low Point In Career