This week, Ira spoke with Fielding West. To listen to the interview click below.
Fielding West was introduced to magic by his grandfather who was an amateur magician. After high school, West put himself through college, paying for his degree by performing in a band as a drummer and doing magic shows for children.
In 1973 while selling cars and going to graduate school at night in Tallahassee, Florida, he met an unknown comedy magician named Steve Martin. After seeing Martin perform, West knew that he wanted to be in show business for the rest of his life. The concept of a comedy act began.
Three years later West moved to Jacksonville, Florida and started his own Saturday morning children’s show on television with a Post/Newsweek station, WJXT. The show. “Magic Gang,” was the highest rated kids show in its time slot for two years. Not being satisfied with entertaining only children, Fielding pursued a nightclub act.
A year and a half after leaving television, he put together a successful touring show called the Amazing Fielding And Company, which included illusions and hypnosis. The act, after two years, led him to Las Vegas. There, West met Liberace, who helped him get his first break by showcasing his act at the Sahara Hotel. Since then he has been working all over the world as a featured star in large production shows and as an opening act for major stars.
West’s career has now come full circle. He has appeared on a multitude of comedy specials and popular sitcoms. He is also a successful comedy writer for other magicians and comedians. He is well-known in the corporate market and for a course he created, called Stagecraft 101; he manages speaking seminars for young performers that teach how to speak more effectively.
This week, Ira spoke with Steve Binder. To listen to the interview click below.
Steve Binder, producer-director of the 1968 Elvis Presley Comeback Special, has written, along with Mary Beth Leidman, “Fade Up: 26 The Movers and Shakers of Variety Television,” a history of variety television as told by the voices of the men and women who were and are responsible for bringing these shows and stars into our homes for the past 65 years.
His work as an Emmy and ACE award winning director, producer, writer, educator and speaker, Golden Globes nominee and recipient of the 2008 Caucus award for directing, are just a few of Binder’s list of accomplishments.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Binder attended USC as a pre-med student, served in the US Army as an announcer for the American Forces Network (AFN) in Austria & Germany and was recently inducted into the “Legends of AFN” at a military honor guard ceremony in Lake Tahoe, California.
Beginning his professional entertainment career at KABC in Los Angeles at the age of 22, he landed his first job working in the mailroom. Less than a few months later, Binder became a full-time director for KABC directing the popular pie throwing “Soupy Sales Show” airing five days a week on the local KABC station and primetime on the ABC Network on Monday nights.
As television’s youngest network director, Binder chose to go free-lance and spent the next two years directing for Steve Allen. His first job was to direct twenty-six half hours of “Jazz Scene, U.S.A.,” hosted by Oscar Brown Jr. and distributed worldwide by Desilu Studios. Allen financed the production and served as the series executive producer. The series featured half hour mini-specials with 26 jazz giants including Stan Kenton, Shorty Rogers, Cannonball Adderley, The Jazz Messengers and Lou Rawls.
Before the series was completed, Binder doubled his duties by directing the popular late night syndicated show for Westinghouse Broadcasting, “THE Steve Allen Show” across the street from the Hollywood landmark, The Hollywood Ranch Market on La Mirada and Vine Street. It aired for 90 minutes, five nights a week for over two years. This prompted television critic, Cecil Smith, of the L.A. TIMES to devote his entire column about the young Binder, and the doors to a long career in Hollywood opened up.
While directing the Allen show, Steve directed his first feature film, “THE T.A.M.I. SHOW” (Teen-Age Awards Music International) hosted by Jan & Dean and starring James Brown and the Flames, The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore, Chuck Berry, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Barbarians. “Arguably, the T.A.M.I. SHOW is the greatest of all Rock films” … LA Times Magazine.
The list of Binder’s accomplishments as executive producer/producer/director/writer include: “Hullabaloo,” “The Danny Kaye Show,” “The Big Show,” “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” “Smokey Robinson’s Motown Revue,” four “Prime-Time Emmy Awards,” “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” Hallmark’s “Zoobilee Zoo,” multiple “Soul Train Music Awards,” “Desk Awards,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “It’s About Time,” “Shields & Yarnell,” “The Mac Davis Show,” (series and specials), “Norman Corwin Theater,” “Divas 2000,” “Super Bowl XXX” with Diana Ross and another feature film, James Whitmore’s brilliant Academy Award nominated performance in “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”
This week, Ira spoke with Tony Orlando. To listen to the interview click below.
Tony Orlando, who will be bringing his “Tony Orlando’s Christmas Show” to the South Point Casino, December 16-18, began hitting the national charts at the age of 16 with “Halfway to Paradise” and “Bless You” as the first vocal artist to sign with Epic Records.
He later routed his musical career to the nonperformance side and became one of the youngest vice-presidents for CBS Records, heading their April-Blackwood music label.
Through no plans of his own, Orlando was coaxed into putting his voice on a demo record for a song titled “Candida,” for his friends Hank Medress and Dave Appell at Bell Records. The record was released under the name of the record promotion director’s daughter, Dawn.
“I think it is really the rule of show business that every big break you get, you back into it without knowing it at the time. A few weeks after recording Candida. I had forgotten all about it. And then Hank Medress calls me and says, ‘Hey man, we’ve got a hit.’ The crazy thing was, the song kept climbing the charts till it hit number one,” said Orlando.
Hoping lightning would strike again, Medress had Orlando record “Knock Three Times.” The song not only became number one, it was the top song of 1971, selling over six million copies worldwide.
Realizing it was probably safe to give up his successful career at CBS Records, Orlando decided to jump full force into what was already a meteoric rise to the top. Along with Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, Tony Orlando and Dawn became an international sensation.
In 1973, he recorded “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree.” The song was number one for the year, became Orlando’s theme song and grew into an American anthem of hope and homecoming, reunion and renewal.
A string of hits continued including “Sweet Gypsy Rose,” “He Don’t Love You,” “Who’s In The Strawberry Patch With Sally,” “Cupid,” “Steppin’ Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight)” and “Mornin’ Beautiful.”
Orlando then set his sights on television which resulted in his highly rated weekly variety series on CBS. Breaking new ground, it was the first multi-ethnic variety show on television. Orlando, of Hispanic and Greek origins, and Hopkins and Wilson, African Americans, were an instant hit. The show, which ran for four seasons from (1974 – 1976), welcomed the biggest names in show business each week as Tony’s guests, including his boyhood idols, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Lewis.
The friendship forged by Orlando and Lewis was a strong one. He has guested on Jerry’s Labor Day Telethon for 25 years, nine of those as the New York host. Orlando and Lewis also teamed for an unforgettable series of shows in the early 1990’s, taking the stage at the Las Vegas Hilton and Riviera hotels. Only two other entertainers share the distinction of performing with Lewis: Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Orlando has been a recipient of three American Music Awards and a People’s Choice Award. For outstanding achievements to the entertainment industry, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This week, Ira spoke with Charles Pignone. To listen to the interview click below.
Charles Pignone, senior vice president of Frank Sinatra Enterprises, has been associated with the Sinatra family for more than 30 years, including many years as the archivist.
He is the producer of “World On A String,” a new 4CD/DVD box set that collects over four hours of previously unreleased audio and video footage and spotlights Sinatra’s charity work for children around the world.
Pignone is also a writer and author of the New York Times bestseller “The Sinatra Treasures,” “The Copa” and “The Sinatra Family Photo Album.” He has produced numerous albums, including Sinatra: Nothing But The Best and Ultimate Sinatra.
Pignone also produced the 2011 television special, “Sinatra Sings” and the 2015 HBO documentary, “Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All.”
His new book, “Sinatra 100,” is published by Thames & Hudson.
This week, Ira spoke with Rick and Sasha Reichart. To listen to the interview click below.
Rick and Sasha Reichart, owners of cakelava, an award-winning custom cake studio in Las Vegas that makes one-of-a-kind wedding cakes, sculpted 3D cakes, and celebration cakes. The couple first opened cakelava on Oahu, Hawaii in 2005 and spent 10 years there before relocating the cake studio to Las Vegas.
Rick Reichart is cakelava’s designer and has more than 25 years experience making custom cakes in Los Angeles, Seattle, Hawaii and Las Vegas. He is originally from New Jersey but spent his adult life on the West Coast, and it was there in Los Angeles that he discovered his passion for making cakes.
Reichart has a background in both fine art and pastry and uses art techniques like painting, sculpting, and airbrushing on his cakes. He makes his own handcrafted flowers, decorations, and custom figurines. Reichart was a competitor on Food Network’s cake show, “Challenge” in the episode “Spongebob Birthday Cakes.” His cakes are regularly featured in magazines and on the internet.
Sasha Reichart is in charge of the front of the house and business side of cakelava. She handles the sales, customer and media relations, marketing, and social media for the business. Reichart grew up on Oahu, Hawaii and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend college.
She spent eight years cooking professionally alongside a number of star chefs in Los Angeles and Seattle before moving back to Hawaii with her husband to open cakelava. In addition to her culinary background, Reichart has marketing and public relations experience.