Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Life and career
Avalon was born Francis Thomas Avallone in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Mary Loretta and Nicholas J. Avallone. By the time he was 12, Avalon was on U.S. television playing his trumpet. As a teenager he played with Bobby Rydell in Rocco and the Saints. In 1959, "Venus" (5 weeks #1) and "Why" went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. "Why" was the last #1 of the 1950s. Avalon had 31 charted U.S. Billboard singles from 1958 to late 1962, including "Just Ask Your Heart" (U.S. #7), "I'll Wait For You" (U.S. #15), "Bobby Sox to Stockings" (U.S. #8), and "A Boy Without a Girl" (U.S. #10). Most of his hits were written and/or produced by Bob Marcucci, head of Chancellor Records. He was less popular in the U.K., but did still manage four chart hits with "Why", "Gingerbread", "Venus" and "Don't Throw Away All Those Teardrops".
Teamed frequently with Annette Funicello, Avalon starred in a number of popular "beach party" comedy films during the mid-1960s. The wholesome and romantic coupling of "Frankie and Annette" in summer movies such as Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo became iconic figures in American films during that era.
Avalon also had straight dramatic parts in the John Wayne historical western film The Alamo, as well as the science-fiction story Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) with Barbara Eden.
Materializing as a character called Teen Angel, his performance of "Beauty School Dropout" in the hit 1978 film of the musical Grease introduced Avalon to a new generation of viewers.
Avalon appeared in nearly two dozen TV episodes, including ABC's The Bing Crosby Show and The Patty Duke Show, appearing often as himself. Later, he became a national television spokesperson for Sonic Drive-In. In 1965 he appeared in the Combat! episode "Brother, Brother" as a childhood friend of Pfc.Kirby, played by Jack Hogan.
The 1980 film The Idolmaker, written by Ed Di Lorenzo and directed by Taylor Hackford, was a thinly-disguised biography of Avalon ("Tommy Dee" in the film) as well as 1950s teenage star Fabian (called "Caesare" in the film), along with songwriter/producer Bob Marcucci (called "Vinnie Vacarri"). In the movie, Dee clashes with the record producer and younger singer Caesare, who he feels threatens his career. Eventually, Dee and Caesare quit the label, but their record careers collapse just as the British Invasion begins. The real Fabian threatened a lawsuit, despite the filmmakers' insistence that the film presented only fictional characters (though Marcucci was a paid consultant). Avalon denied most of the movie's events.
Avalon married Kathryn "Kay" Diebel on January 19, 1963. She was a former beauty pageant winner, and Avalon met her while playing cards at a friend's house. He told his friend that Kay was the girl he was going to marry. His agent warned Avalon that marriage would spoil his teen idol mystique. Still together, they have eight children - Frankie Jr., Tony, Dina, Laura, Joseph, Nicolas, Kathryn and Carla. They have 10 grandchildren. Frankie Avalon Jr. is a former actor who appeared in the original The Karate Kid and is now a musician, and Tony, the second oldest son, plays guitar and taught at the Rock Nation School. Both sons play on tour with their father.
In 1987, Avalon and Annette Funicello returned to movies with Back to the Beach. In 1989 they also appeared as themselves in cameo roles out jogging the streets in Troop Beverly Hills. Not long afterwards, Funicello was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and retired.
Afterwards, Avalon turned to marketing and created Frankie Avalon Products, a line of health and cosmetic aids. Avalon promotes his products on the Home Shopping Network with host Bob Circosta. He made a cameo appearance as himself with Robert De Niro in the 1995 film, Casino.
In recent years, Avalon has starred in stage productions of Grease in the role of Teen Angel and Tony n' Tina's Wedding as a caricature of himself. Additionally, in 2007, he performed "Beauty School Dropout" with the four remaining female contenders (Kathleen Monteleone, Allie Schulz, Ashley Spencer, and winner Laura Osnes) for the role of Sandy on the NBC television reality show Grease: You're the One that I Want! On April 8, 2009, he performed on American Idol.
He was mentioned in the System of a Down song "Old School Hollywood". The song supposedly is about Daron Malakian's experience in a celebrity baseball game, where he and Avalon were both ignored.
Avalon is also mentioned in "It Takes Two", a song from the hit musical Hairspray, sung by the character Link Larkin, and in a song by the Wu Tang Clan called "The City" which refers to his experiences of being a big part of the beach party film genre ("Ride the wave like Frankie Avalon").
One of numerous obscure cultural references present in Midway's video game Mortal Kombat 3 was a lo-res image of Frankie Avalon's face that would dart up in the lower right-hand corner of the screen when Goro killed his opponent by knocking him into the spike pit on the Bridge level.
His song "Venus" was featured in Cranium Command (1989–2005), an attraction at Epcot's Wonders of Life Pavilion (now closed) at Walt Disney World. In the attraction, a 12-year-old boy named Bobby (Scott Curtis), tries to survive the pressures of life and falls in love with a beautiful girl named Annie (Natalie Gregory) at school.
He and his song "Venus" are mentioned in Wendy Wasserstein's 2005 play Third. The main character, English professor Laurie Jameson, watches a PBS reunion show featuring Avalon singing the song, and sings a line of it to her daughter. In stage productions of the show, part of the song is played and a portion of the supposed PBS special is screened as part of the scenery.
He is also mentioned in Adam Sandler's 2008 comedy, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, for his haircut, which the Zohan (Sandler's character) thinks is the latest hairdo. He is also numerously referenced in the 1994 film, The Stöned Age, in which he makes an ending scene cameo appearance.
His song "Venus" additionally appeared in season 4 of the TV series Dexter in which John Lithgow's character, Arthur Mitchell, plays it to remember his deceased sister.
Avalon is also mentioned in The Vaccines song 'Teenage Icon'. Where they claim they are no teenage icon, "no Frankie Avalon".
Posted by Courtney K at 4:30 PM