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Tony Orlando:The Dawn of a New Career

Tony Orlamdo makes his last Vegas appearance at the South Point
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Tony Orlando may be retiring from the live performance arena but not to worry – he’s just setting the stage for a new venture.

The beloved entertainer’s last appearance in Las Vegas is next weekend, January 19-21, at the South Point, and will mark 52 years of his performing in the city and 25 years of being on the roster of one casino owner, Michael Gaughn, who owns the resort casino. Gaughn used to own such properties as the Orleans and Suncoast where Orlando performed. Then, following his appearance in the 10,000-seat arena at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut on March 22, where he has played to more than 100-000 fans over 23 years, Orlamdo will move on to embrace the dawning of his new phase of show business.

“I’ll continue with Tony Orlando Productions and my new Explosive Films and Entertainment,” he relates. “I’ve already written two screenplays that have generated great interest. I’ll spend the rest of my career as a writer/producer.”

“Touring today is agonizing,” he continues, explaining his reason for his retirement from concert performance. “The huge overhead and getting through airports and waiting for flights is exhausting. As I told my wife, Frannie, I can still hit the ball but I can’t run the bases. But the juices are still alive and well in me. I’ve had an incredible career.”

During his 62 years of being in show business, Orlando’s feet have touched every genres of entertainment, He wrote a movie called “300 Miles for Stephanie” that was an NBC Movie of the Week and he's acted in movies such as "That's My Boy" starring Adam Sandler. He starred on Broadway in two shows, “Barnum” and “Smokey Joe’s Café.” He was a record producer and he had his own TV show with Dawn. And he wrote a book. Since 2020,  he has hosted "Stturday Nights with Tony Orlando." his hugely successful radio show on iconic 77WABC Music Radio in which he interviews legendary names in the music/entertainment industry from the past and present.

Orlando was only 16 years old when he came on the scene with his first hit record, “Halfway to Paradise.” The song, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was also the somgwriting duo's second hit following "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by the Shirelles.. In 1971, as a 23-year-pld vice president for CBS Music under Clive Davis, Orlando produced Barry Manilow’s first hit, “Could It Be Magic,” That’s when he met and hired Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent as backup singers for the recording and the three of them subsequently went on to become Tony Orlando and Dawn. And the rest is show biz history.

Orlando, who will turn 80 on April 3, admits that there are things about live performance that he will miss.

“I’m going to miss the people, the audiences,” he reveals. “I’ll miss the smiles on their faces, the tears on their cheeks, and their warm standing ovations.”

Still, some lucky individuals may get a glimpse of him walking around Vegas or eating in his favorite restaurants because he and his family live here in his late mother’s house all winter. In the summer, they go back to their home in Branson, MO.

Of course, in 52 years, Orlando, who has won Entertainer of the Year five times in Las Vegas, has had many memorable times here, including one that no other entertainer has ever experienced.

“Back in 1978 or 1979, there was a Culinary Union Strike,” the star recalls. “All the hotels locked their showrooms except for the Riviera where I was performing. The Riv was not part of the union so it turned out that for the two weeks of the strike, I was the only show people could see. I performed three shows a night, seven days a week, for three weeks. I used to joke to the audiences that the only place they could eat was Dunkin’ Donuts.”

As for what he is proudest of in his career, it is having raised over $100 million for Veteran causes and also helping to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy for Jerry Lewis. .Most recently, he was presented with the "Lee Greenwood Patriot Award" for his work with veterans since 1973.

There is no denying that the list of awards, honors, and accolades Orlando has received as both an entertainer and humanitarian during hisi iconic career is overwhelming. It all goes to show that when one ties a yellow ribbon ‘round the ole oak tree, the branches just never stop reaching towards the sky and growing.

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