For Tony Orlando, an end is also a beginning

It’s likely there are countless people around the world who are saddened by Tony Orlando’s recent announcement that he is retiring from touring. Orlando isn’t one of them.

That, at least, is the takeaway from a recent phone chat with the 79-year-old show-business titan whose penultimate (sold out) performance is scheduled for March 16 at Resorts Casino-Hotel (his final set takes place March 22 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.).

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Not once during a 30-minute interview did he sound melancholy or regretful.

“The fire in the belly for (touring) is not where it was,” he admitted. “Instead, the fire in the belly is (for going) back to the basics. And one of the basics is, I love being a writer. I’ve always been a writer. I wrote many of the sketches on my television show, you know, the comedy stuff.

“And I’ve written screenplays,” Orlando added. “I’ve written two (book) musicals in Branson, (Missouri). So I’m going to continue flexing the writing muscle, which really excites me.”

Books, TV shows, a Broadway musical written with the intent of staging it in New York are all on the table. But it’s not the prospect of riches that is fueling this new chapter in Orlando’s life.

“I don’t care if the next book I write doesn’t sell five copies,” he insisted. “I don’t care if the next screenplay I write (doesn’t sell). I’m gonna write my butt off, because that’s exciting me. My writing is a new journey in my life.”

Orlando added he’s created a production company, Explosive Films & Entertainment, in order to expand his show-business footprint.

“It’s giving me a new energy,” he noted.

Despite his enthusiasm for what lies ahead, Orlando, who started his career as a 16-year-old in 1961, admitted factors beyond his control affected his decision to restrict his live performances to fundraisers for nonprofit, including Tribute to Valor, a military veterans’ organization he’s worked with for years.

He also cited the physical challenges and rigors of traveling and the ever-shrinking number of venues for artists of his vintage.

“There aren’t buyers out there that go, ‘We gotta book Tony Orlando,'” he acknowledged. “Some of these buyers out there, they’re 25 years old. They sit there and they go, ‘Who’s Tony Orlando?’ They don’t know. That’s what you’re dealing with.

“Those are the realities of the business today.”

While Orlando won’t miss talent bookers young enough to be his grandchildren and dashing through airports to make flights, he did identify the one thing whose absence he’s sure will have a lasting effect.

“The only thing I’ll miss is looking at those faces out there smiling, or meeting some guy afterwards who says, ‘Hey man, I just went through a financial disaster. You made my night.’ Or another guy who says, ‘I just went through a divorce. Thank you for making me forget my problems.’ Those are the people, the audiences. That’s the loss.

“The stage is not the loss – it’s the people.”

Thanks to ’70s hits like “Candida,” “Knock Three Times” and, of course, the iconic “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ’Round the Ole Oak Tree” – all of which were recorded with the vocal duo, Dawn – and a mid-decade CBS variety show, “Tony Orlando & Dawn,” Orlando has crossed paths with and befriended many of the legendary entertainers (and celebs in general) of the past 60 or 70 years, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

It’s a fact that still seems to amaze him.

“I played football with Joe Namath,” he recalled with a mix of awe and disbelief. “I played catch with Willie Mays. I told jokes with Jackie Gleason. I co-hosted the (muscular dystrophy telethon) for 33 years with Jerry Lewis.

“I worked with everybody from Jackie Wilson to Jackie Gleason,” he added. “How much more can a person even pray for and get? God has gifted me with this journey.”

And when the journey is long concluded, how does Tony Orlando want to be remembered?

“As a good man,” he replied. “I’d like to be remembered as a good person, a good human being who loved people. Just a good person.”

Ocean lights fuse on ‘Dynamite’ celebration

Break out the Tater Tots!

On March 9, three cast members of “Napoleon Dynamite” – the 2004 indie comedy about a socially awkward teen (Jon Heder) in a small Idaho town who finds purpose in helping a fellow outsider run for class president – will be at Ocean Casino-Resort to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a cult classic, a film made for $400,000 that has grossed more than $40 million.

According to Efren Ramirez, who portrayed Pedro, the candidate with the limited English vocabulary – who will join Heder and Jon Gries (Uncle Rico) at Ocean – this won’t be your father’s film retrospective.program.

“Normally, with tours like these, people will screen a film and then they just go up on stage and they do a Q-and-A,” offered Ramirez. “But my relationship (with Heder and Gries) …we’re brothers. And because we’re actors, we make it interactive.

“So it’s become sort of a vaudeville event where we sing on stage as an opening number,” he added. “And (Heder) shows up on a bike and we do a whole performance on stage. And then we talk about having to go back in time. I literally built an original time machine with lights.

That creation includes lasers, he noted, producing what he calls a spectacle.

“It’s hilarious,” Ramirez pointed out. “And then after that, it’s us having to really interact with the audience and talking to them about the making of the film, what it was like through our point of view, our experiences.”

For tickets, go to

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