How often does one get to hear three former teen idols in concert singing their hit songs? For me it has been twice. Thirty years ago I saw the Golden Boys – Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell – in concert at the Circle Star Theatre in San Francisco. That night I was completely in awe of their vocal prowess.
On August 3 at Pala Casino Spa & Resort it was déjà vu for me when I saw the Golden Boys in concert once more. The venue held 2,000 seats and was sold out. As I was waiting in line, several people without tickets were turned away. The Golden Boys were still golden!
Their voices were as vibrant as ever and the concert was electrifying. The years have sharpened their wits and brought something extra to the show – something I don’t remember from thirty years ago – a deeply grateful attitude. This wasn’t just a show, it was a time of giving back to the audience some of what the audience had given them over the years by buying their records, watching their films, and writing fan letters.
The three entertainers are not only friends, but have a shared history. They are all Philadelphia boys. Avalon and Rydell were actually in a band together before their teen idol days. All three appeared on Dick Clark’s television show, “American Bandstand.” Both Fabian and Avalon have appeared in films starring John Wayne.
One difference between this concert and the concert thirty years ago was the use of video on two large screens flanking the stage. Clips were shown of all three on “American Bandstand.” Clips from Fabian’s appearances generated gasps, particularly one showing Fabian attempting to exit a car. Mad throngs of girls pressed into him – tearing at his clothes. Fabian told the audience that some of the girls would even tear out his hair; and he thought at times he might even be killed.
Avalon’s delightful song, “Beauty School Dropout,” from the film “Grease,” was shown as a clip, generating an energetic response. Clips from Avalon’s “Beach Party” movies with Annette Funicello also brought claps and cheers from the audience.
Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell opened with the song “American Bandstand,” which was played on each segment of the fifties television show.
Bobby Rydell was the first to take the solo spot with his million-seller, “Wild One,” followed by the lilting tune, “Forget Him,” that he sang in the same rich, caramel tone that thrilled the audience thirty years ago in San Francisco’s Circle Star Theatre.
Rydell gestured with outstretched arms when he sang his second gold record, “Volare.” “No wonder my happy heart sings, your love has given me wings… PEOPLE… your love has given it wings.”
A poignant moment came when Rydell shared how his life was saved by an organ donor just two years ago. He challenged the audience to “Be an organ donor – it is the gift of life.”
Before Rydell left the stage he told the audience, “I thank all of you for the Gold records.”
Fabian took the stage with his #3 record, “Tiger,” and the audience went wild. After Fabian belted out his hit, “Turn Me Loose,” he said with a smile, “That was a big hit for me in the 1900s.”
The audience was delighted when Fabian mentioned his famous head of hair, “I miss my pompadour – I have a couch made out of it.”
As he left the stage Fabian waved and said, “God bless you – I love ya!”
In an impressive gesture, which delighted the crowd, Frankie Avalon walked the aisles, singing and shaking hands as he sang his melodic ballad, “Why.” This song was the last #1 hit of the 1950s. Another top-charted song, “Bobby Sox to Stockings,” had the audience singing along with Avalon just as if they were on stage with him. But the song that rang though the large hall generating the loudest response was his #1 hit – “Venus.”
A surprise came when Frankie Avalon introduced the talented drummer who happened to be his oldest son – Frank. The younger Avalon then took to the drums with a rousing solo.
The Golden Boys sang songs as tributes to some of their compadres who are no longer with us. As a prologue to singing an Elvis song, Fabian told the story about the first time he met Elvis. Fabian’s phone rang – it was Elvis – and he said to Fabian, “I’d like to meet you.” Fabian humbly replied, “Why?”
Avalon sang a Ricky Nelson song and then shared a story of Nelson’s kindness to him when he first arrived in Hollywood. Avalon didn’t know anyone and Nelson took him home, introduced him to his family, and, from then on, Avalon was no longer alone in Hollywood.
I have attended many concerts in my life, but this had a different aura about it. It wasn’t just a concert with wonderful music, it was a step back in time with three of the most popular entertainers of the late fifties and sixties. It was also a glimpse into the character of each of these talented singers. They were genuinely happy to be there and genuinely grateful for the support of their fans, not just tonight but throughout their long and illustrious careers.