Born Francis Thomas Avallone, September 18, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Avalon was the first of the manufactured teen idols, before Fabian and Bobby Rydell and the host of others to become popular while Elvis, in the Army, did his time in Germany.
Avalon, unlike the other teen idols of the time, Avalon had a real musical background to go with the pretty-boy looks and was playing trumpet and singing backup for Andy Martin in a local band. In 1968, impresario Bob Marcucci was more impressed with Avalon than with Martin and quickly had Avalon sign a management contract.
It was another six to eight months before Avalon's first single, "Cupid," came out on Marcucci's Chancellor label, and it wasn't until his third release, "Dede Dinah," that he had his first Top Ten hit. From there, it was an unprecedented run of hits, starting with his first number one in 1959, "Venus." Six more of his singles hit the Top 40 in that year alone. Marcucci worked the formula, easing Avalon away from rockers into more "adult," oriented fare.
By 1962, Avalon's four-year run of hits was coming to an end, but his career wasn't. He was teamed up with Annette Funicello and reinvented himself as a clean-cut, pretty-boy surfer in a wildly successful serie of beach party movies that got him through the '60s in far better shape than most of his colleagues. The series was big enough to bring him and Funicello back for an update in the '80s called, Back to the Beach.
He also had straight dramatic parts in The Alamo (1960) as well as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) with Barbara Eden. 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 national television spokesperson for Sonic Drive-In.
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), as well as songwriter/producer Marcucci (called "Vinnie Vacarri"). In the movie, Dee clashes with the producer and younger singer Caesare, whom he feels threatens his career. Eventually, Dee and Caesare quit the label, but their record careers collapse as the British Invasion begins. The real Fabian threatened a lawsuit, though the filmmakers insisted the film presented only fictional characters (though Marcucci was a paid consultant). Avalon denied most of the movie's events.
He stared in stage productions of Grease in the role of Teen Angel (a role he also played in the 1978 film adaptation) and Tony n' Tina's Wedding as a characterized version of himself. Additionally, in 2007, he performed the song "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!
Avalon married Kathryn Diebel on January 19, 1963. She was a former beauty pageant winner, and Avalon met her while playing cards at a friend's house. Marcucci 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 Jr. is a drummer and Tony, the second oldest son, plays guitar and teaches at the Paul Green School of Rock; both tour with their father.
Today, Avalon divides his time between touring, hawking pain medicine on home shopping networks and appearing on the Golden Boys of Rock'n'Roll oldies show with Bobby Rydell and Fabian, looking handsome as ever.
_____________________________________________ [a]John Herbert "Jackie" Gleason, (February 26, 1916–June 24, 1987) was an American comedian, actor and musician who had his own variety/comedy show and was known for his brash visual and verbal comedy style, especially by his character Ralph Kramden on the sitcom The Honeymooners[b]. His most noted film role was Minnesota Fats in The Hustler.
[b]The Honeymooners was an influential situation comedy television show that was created by Marvin Marx, and shot before a live audience. It debuted as a half-hour series on October 1, 1955. Although initially a ratings success—it was the #2 show in the United States its first season. It faced stiff competition from the popular Perry Como Show in an era when many North American homes had no television, and with the prevalent broadcast technology, those that did were lucky to receive any stations beyond the three major networks. The show eventually dropped to #19, and production ended after 39 episodes (now referred to as the "Classic 39"). The final episode of The Honeymooners aired on September 22, 1956.
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