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Singing the hits

Frankie Avalon still loves live shows

Frankie Avalon performs Friday at Powers Auditorium in Youngstown. (Submitted photo)

From teen idol to Teen Angel, Frankie Avalon has been entertaining audiences since the 1950s.

Avalon, who celebrated his 81st birthday last month, has no plans to stop now.

“It’s been my life for 60-some years,” he said during a telephone interview. “I look forward to it. I enjoy it. I love the reaction of an audience that’s been with me all those years from ‘Venus’ and ‘Bobby Sox’ through ‘Beauty School Dropout.’ To see the joy in their faces as they sing along with me, what’s better than that?”

Avalon’s had multiple careers in his 81 years. He started out as a trumpet player, but it was his voice — and his looks — that made him a teen idol. “DeDe Dinah” was his first top 10 single, and he had two number one hits, “Venus” and “Why” before his 20th birthday. Between 1957 and 1960, he released 12 singles that made the top 40.

Expect Avalon to sing the hits when he performs Friday at Powers Auditorium in Youngstown.

“What I try to do is exactly what they come to hear,” he said. “I don’t reach out, do new songs. I want to please the audience that’s there to see me.”

He parlayed the musical success into an acting career. Those surf and sand features like “Beach Party,” “Muscle Beach Party,” “Bikini Beach” and “Beach Blanket Bingo” are best-remembered, but Avalon also did movies like “The Alamo” (directed by and starring John Wayne) and worked with directors like Otto Preminger. And generations who weren’t born when Avalon was frolicking on beaches with Annette Funicello know him as the Teen Angel singing “Beauty School Dropout” in “Grease.”

Avalon said there were times he wanted to stretch his acting career, but he was typecast by his teen idol roles. He has no complaints, though.

“How many people have had that kind of success?” he asked.

Avalon isn’t a guy who talks about regrets, at least in short phone interviews. He also brushed aside a question about whether there were any songs he recorded that he believes should have been as big as his other top 40 hits.

“When I go into that studio, doing what I believe and feel and sing is my part. The rest comes from the people. Whether they respond, that’s up to the individual … You just never know.”

Like most entertainers, Avalon has gone without that audience response for most of the last 18 months. He normally does between 30 and 40 shows a year. He’s had three or four since the pandemic started.

“I played a lot more golf, and that’s about it,” he said. “I had more time with family and friends and just tried to keep busy.”

He also discovered the power of social media. One of his sons encouraged him to post a video on Facebook.

“We put it out there, and my son tells me, you have 580,000 views,” Avalon said.

He now posts regular videos and answers questions from fans. He even has a TikTok account.

But he prefers to interact with fans through his live performances and is happy those opportunities are returning.

“The last date I did was at Mohegan Sun (Casino) in Connecticut,” Avalon said. “There were about 6,000 attending, no masks, shoulder to shoulder. It did feel a little different, more reserved than normally. The last year and a half had to do something to you mentally. But toward the end of the evening, the show was as enthusiastic as they’d been the year before. They just had to relax a little.”

If you go …

WHO: Frankie Avalon

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Powers Auditorium, 260 W. Federal St., Youngstown

HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $48 to $78 and are available online at deyorpac.org and by calling 330-259-9651.

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