When I noticed a Tony Orlando song n the Top Ten @ 10 for this week’s pre-Labor Day weekend edition of “The Grooveyard”, it brought back memories of a different side of the performer than most people know about. As a volunteer for the annual MDA telethon each Labor Day weekend for 15 years, I got to see many things. There was the night I broke the rules and suggested the caller–the owner of an escort agency–increase his donation to the cost of an hour with one of his girls. (It was $200, in case you were wondering.) There was the time that–against any rational odds–the person on the other end of the line was an ex-girlfriend from high school. There were the waitresses from Hooters who got out of their sweatpants to answer the phones in their orange shorts in spite of the fact that a table would make it impossible for anyone to see that part of the uniform on TV. There was longtime local host Denise Richardson, who I enjoyed many conversations with and somehow found an excuse to get me on the air without my asking for it each year I was assigned to the WWOR-TV studios in Secaucus, NJ. And there were many more fun conversations with the staffers, volunteers and celebrities who were helping out.
Among all my telethon memories and stories, Tony Orlando was special. For many of the years I volunteered, he was the New York anchor, meaning he spent much of the 20 hours hosting 15-minute segments from the channel 9 studios. Unless you’re involved with the production or a late-night telethon viewer, you probably don’t realize that the both the live national and local segments were replaced by pre-recorded segments for a few hours during the overnight period. That gave the on-air talent, staff and volunteers a chance to take a nap and a quick shower. For most people working at the channel 9 studio, that meant a walk through a large parking lot to a nearby hotel where we all had rooms waiting for us.
Having the pressure of being the anchor, Tony Orlando was as deserving of that break as anyone. The only difference was he often chose not to take it. Instead, he got in a car to visit the other phone centers in the area to surprise the volunteers who were were working the overnight shift and thank them for their efforts. There were many stories about volunteers being shocked by the singer walking into their phone center and taking the time to shake hands and chat with everyone there in the middle of the night. He then made it back to the studio without a break to finish the Telethon. So echoing the words of his song in this week’s Top Ten @ 10, “Bless You” Tony Orlando for your heart and dedication. It is remembered and appreciated many years later.
Tony will be one of the artists on this week’s Top Ten @ 10 on “The Grooveyard”, which will feature the songs popular on August 30, 1961, Along with the Thursday night show Bobby G, one of the regular Thursday night hosts on “The Rock Show” will be guest host while Alan Seltzer takes the week off. (Bobby is also hosting the Wednesday 7 PM edition of “The Rock Show” this week, featuring a celebration of Michael Jackson’s birthday.) As always, you can hear “The Grooveyard” Thursday night at 9 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island, the 88.1 FM link on wcwp.org or the TuneIn app on your SmartPhone.
And join Alan on next week’s edition of “The Grooveyard for the announcement about an upcoming event on the show.