The Venetian Ball Delivers For a Worthy Cause
Submitted by Bill Delingat
Photo: Fabian, Frankie Avalon Lou Christie and music industry entrepreneur John Domonkos
The Villa Charities has grown over the past 41 years and provides a vast range of culturally sensitive program and services for the “improvement of the quality of life for seniors in the Italian community as well as assisting adults with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses”.
This year the 1000 invited guests were bedazzled by the Gala in Masquera -a celebration reminiscent of the Carnevale di Venezia. The evening started off with a cocktail reception, performance by Toronto’s “Simply Grand” and on to an elegant dinner. The evening’s entertainment hosted by Kevin Frankish (Breakfast Television) featured an incredible performance by Canada’s own Andre Philippe Gagnon. Gagnon is one of the world’s top singing Impressionists and with over 400 voices in his repertoire. Gagnon continues to learn and add new and exciting artists to his performance on top of his already famous impressions of the greats that includes Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Dylan, and Bowie and of course Mick Jagger. Gagnon has even added in “Moves like Jagger by Maroon 5”, did a great Axel Rose (Guns and Roses), added in Red Hot Chili Peppers and Black Eyed Peas to name a few. He is contemplating adding in LMFAO and is looking for the right time and place to launch that character. One of his most famous impressions starts off with the request for the sound of fingernails scratching on a blackboard. As the irritating noise starts, Gagnon contorts and twists and becomes the incarnation of Joe Cocker and breaks into the “With a Little Help From My Friends”, we knew this night was going to be something special.
Part of the 45 minute set included going into the audience and picking a guest to imitate. In this case it was Rudy Bratty, Co-chair of the Foundation, who introduced himself only as “Rudy”. Rudy actually had a good voice when handed a sheet of lyrics to sing. Gagnon then listened and offered to do a duet with Rudy. What happened next was quite incredible as Rudy sang a line, Gagnon would cut in and continue the lyrics in Rudy’s voice. This was a show of how finetuned his hearing and vocal abilities are, capable of instantly duplicating another’s voice pattern. After the cheers of the audience, Gagnon commented that Rudy would be great on a Vegas stage. On the marquis it would simply say appearing tonight “RUDY” live on stage. Gagnon told the audience when he first went to Las Vegas (for a start of what would be a 10 year engagement) they put Andre Philippe Gagnon on the Marquis and the first customers would come inside expecting to see a jazz trio. It wasn’t long before he became a must see show. After a saxophone rendition of the theme from the Pink Panther all done by the man of many voices without an instrument. Kevin Frankish invited Gagnon back to the stage and thanked him for an incredible performance and gave him the courtesy of being a true and incredible Canadian legend.
This set the mood for the mystery guests; Legends from the early days of Rock ‘n’ Roll The Golden Boys, Featuring Lou Christie, Fabian and Frankie Avalon. The trio hit the stage singing “Good Old Rock ‘n’ Roll”.
Lou Christie took over and revved the crowd up with his 3 octave range that made him famous. Christie was referred to by John Lennon as a ‘truly creative person”, with his ability to change almost effortlessly between his falsetto and normal registers. Christie’s “Lightnin’ Strikes” released in 1966 was a crowd favorite as well as other hits like ‘Two Faces Have I’ and. Rhapsody in the Rain".
Next up was the 50’s heart throb Fabian, banging out his hits from the 50’s and 60’s. “Hound Dog Man;”, “Kiss Daddy Goodbye” “Tiger” and “Turn Me Loose” made him a dance floor favorite. Fabian had a hit with “Kissin’ and Twistin’” and asked the audience if there were any Twisters in the house, not to be surprised he had no problem of getting a few anxious female guests up on stage and sang and twisted away with them as a crowded dance floor mimicked their moves.
Finally Frankie Avalon came out reminiscing the days of Dick Clark and American Bandstand and going through his repertoire of hits. Avalon hit the charts in the 50’s with “De De Dinah’, “You Excite Me”, ‘Why”,” Bobby Sox to Stockings” and “Venus”. Avalon moved from centre stage as the back screen lit up with a clip from Grease; here he is seen singing “Beauty School Dropout” decked in a white suit for a dream sequence to a pink haired star dazed hairdresser as he walks down an angelic staircase. As the audiences watched the clip Avalon gets up onto a riser as the screen darkened and when the spotlight lit up he continued in perfect pitch to finish off the song. Avalon ended his show by going into the audience and onto the dance floor singing and dancing with his fans of all ages.
The night ended with the trio back together center stage, ending the night with a tribute to Annette Funicello as the all sang the theme from The Mickey Mouse Club Show (M .I .C K.E. Y.) and waved good night to the cheers of generations of fans.