FAIRGROUNDS Lena Prima to honor father at Italian Festival

At a young age, she and her brother would join their dad on the stage.
Lena Prima, daughter of the late, legendary Louis Prima, will be back in Canfield to sing and dance a tribute to her father. Louis died of a brain tumor in 1978. Lena created this show in 2000. She will perform for the Italian Festival at the Canfield Fairgrounds today and Sunday in her second trip to the area."My dad had performed in the area quite a lot," Prima said. "The audience here is amazing. I had so much fun here last year; I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again." Much of the show will be the same as last year, but she always adds new songs. She will be accompanied by a six-piece orchestra.
She has released one CD, which includes her father's old favorites plus five of her own songs. She performed one, "Silly in the Middle," when she was here last year and was surprised to hear people singing along, very touched by the loyalty of the area folks. She says she loves doing Italian Festivals. Since she is of Italian heritage, she says it just seems natural.
Prima, of Las Vegas, does most of her performing in two-week runs every other month at the Sahara, where her dad first performed when he came to Vegas. During the off months, she travels around the country to perform. She says she hasn't done any international tours yet.
Family history
Prima's dad was born in New Orleans in 1910 and was part of the big band era, but his style changed with the times. She said her parents had a "fairy-tale" marriage. Her mom, Gia Maione, was 32 years younger than her dad. "My mom was a singer and big fan of my dad," Prima said. "She had all his records. She auditioned for him in Cherry Hill, N.J., as a featured singer in 1962 and got the job." They were married in 1963. Prima jokes that she was born "nine months and two days later." Prima's mother now lives in Florida, and she has a brother who is just getting involved in show business.
Prima's memories of her dad are fond, happy and larger than life. "He touched so many over the decades," she said. "He gave such a gift. He was so cool, I wanted to be with him all the time. He was mellow, funny. One time I needed help with math homework. My mom told me to ask my father. When I did, he said, 'I don't know what you need this for -- go practice piano.' He died so young. I wish he was around today so we could have bonded as adults."
A tight-knit family
She also said that even though he was a performer, her dad was always around for the important things. "I was fortunate," said Prima. "He performed locally, so he was always here for holidays, birthdays. He did his traveling in the summer, so the whole family would travel together." As children, Prima and her brother would go onstage with their dad to dance, tell jokes, or play the drums or piano.
They had homes in both Las Vegas and New Orleans and would alternate between the two places, very different in personalities. "It was a positive experience," Prima said. "It taught me a lot, and I feel connected to both places."
Prima has stories she will share with the audience. One in particular is about a penny bank she had as a little girl. Her favorite song is "It's Impossible," which her dad recorded in the early '70's. "I suddenly go to a different place when I hear that song," she said. Other favorites include "Sing, Sing, Sing," "That Old Black Magic," "When You're Smiling" and "Pennies From Heaven."
XFor info on the Italian Festival and Prima's performance: (330) 758-6208.

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