Frankie Avalon, singer and actor
Frankie Avalon was born Francis Avallone on September 18, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At an early age, Frankie showed much promise on the trumpet - so much so that he was picked out by a producer to appear on "The Jackie Gleason Show" when he was just 13. In his teens he began playing in bands in the Philadelphia and New York City area, but was generally disappointed with his lot in life. When he was asked by friend and producer Bob Mariucci if he wanted to take part in the new rock 'n roll fad, Frankie agreed.
After his first single "Cupid" managed to break onto the charts, Frankie released a slew of songs from 1957 to 1959 - 13 in a row which cracked the Top Ten. He also released a slower, jazzier album entitled The Young Frankie Avalon, which featured covers of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Frankie showing off his trumpet prowess. But his biggest hit was "Venus", which sold over a million copies and became his signature tune.
In 1960, Frankie made his movie debut, appearing in a bit part in John Wayne's Texas epic The Alamo. The following year he appeared in the Irwin Allen disaster film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea alongside Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden in a doomed atomic submarine. He also released his most-considered album, A Whole Lot of Frankie, which featured most of the his earlier singles in addition to "Venus."
Frankie is perhaps best known for his on-again/off-again relationship with Mouseketeer Annette Funicello and the series of beach pictures he did for American International Pictures in the mid-60s. Films such as Beach Blanket Bingo and Operation Bikini had Frankie essentially starring as himself - a handsome young singer and surfer who got the girl in the end. All in all, he and Annette made 6 movies together - and become forever linked in American pop culture.
In 1965, Frankie starred alongside Bob Hope in the father-of-the-bride comedy I'll Take Sweden. By now, though, both the beach movies and the teen idol ships had sailed, and Frankie was 26, adrift. He appeared in the 1968 gangster spoof Skidoo with his old pal Jackie Gleason, and then spent several years singing in nightclubs and touring throughout the early 70s. In 1976 Frankie was given a chance to host a summer replacement called "Easy Does It" alongside the lovely Annette, but the show only lasted 4 episodes, becoming a minor cult classic along the way.
In 1978, the 33 year old Avalon took on the self-deprecating role of "The Teen Angel" for the 50's flashback musical Grease. Crooning "Beauty School Dropout", Avalon proved once again why had he been so popular in the first place - funny, talented, and effortlessly charming, Frankie stole the show with the goofy doo-wop number.
Since Frankie's fall from the public eye, he has continued to make a name for himself performing on oldies reunion circuits at nightclubs across America. He still makes an occasional appearance on television, from "Happy Days" to "Full House" to "The Rosie O'Donnell Show", usually as himself to play off his old teen idol persona. He also runs Frankie Avalon Products, which produces and sells a number of health supplements.