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Another fond memory, was back in the early 1980's when close friend and associate Don Phillips, Vice President of American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) invited my colleague Guy Galante and me to attend a guest invitation at the world renowned Friars Club, located at 57 East 55th Street in New York City.

While at this dinner engagement, stopping by to say hello were numerous entertainers that included comedians Dick Shawn, Henny Youngman, and Jackie Mason. Don's association with many entertainers and musicians ranged from the small- time comics and variety acts to the biggest names in show-business plus all categories of musicians from the big bands to especially his favorites in the jazz community such as Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Arthur Prysock, Woody Herman, Bobby Short, Count Basie and a countless group of jazz legends that included female vocalist's Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and his longtime friend Ella Fitzgerald, who he often referred to as "Miss Ella." Don Phillips became a well-known personality in Atlantic City from the many years presenting the above acts and many others while serving as emcee and manager of the LeBistro Club, located on the corner of Pacific and Missouri Avenues next door to the famous 500 Club owned by "Skinny" D'Amato. His career began as a teenager singing and dancing which gave him the opportunity to perform on many stages on both the East and West coasts.  My association with Don was not only as a friend but we worked on many promotions and fund-raising community affairs for Atlantic City and surrounding areas-where Guy Galante directed and Don would emcee the events, which I had the opportunity to produce.  "The Big Band Explosion" was an event that filled Wildwood, NJ Convention Hall on July 4th, 1985.

 The show was a memorable happening that featured The Count Basie Orchestra, Directed by Thad Jones and Maynard Ferguson and his band on stage for this one-time event. To get these two bands together for a one-time appearance was an arduous task, because of their prior booking commitments that involved re-routing of their traveling schedules.

During the telephone conversations Don, Guy and myself had with Thad Jones and Maynard Ferguson, they assured us that there would be no problem in making the play date.  Maynard Ferguson had a few days off from his work schedule and The Basie Band was returning to the states from an engagement being played in Europe. An un-forseen incident occurred when the Basie Band had problems clearing Customs in New York City as they entered the USA.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend agent Larry Bennett who was able to secure an Executive Attache in order to escort the band through Customs on such a short notice. All-in-all the show was a success in drawing a large crowd that enjoyed the performance of these two legendary bands that ended with a jam session between Thad Jones and Maynard Ferguson sharing the spotlight of center stage as they rocked Wildwood's Convention Hall for "The Big Band Explosion."  Whenever, Don Phillips was in need of assistance with his promotions he knew he could depend and rely on Guy Galante and myself to lend a helping-hand whenever necessary. He also produced a sell-out concert with pianist Bobby Short at the Rainbow Room in New York City in which he was in need of television exposure in order to promote the show. Guy was a big help in securing the necessary exposure that was needed and I was able to help with the print media.

I happened to know that Don had a secret desire to go to Hollywood to make it in the movies. Well, he did make it to Hollywood and he was in a movie. His friend, comedian Jackie Mason was instrumental in getting him a part in CaddySack II. Before his sudden illness of heart problems in the early 1980's we were in the negotiating process with Sam DeStefano, Executive V.P. of the Playboy Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, to produce a television series of 13 shows that was to eminate from the Playboy Casino.  The show was to be called "JAZZ ...One More Time" which was to feature many jazz legends such as Woody Herman, Thad Jones, Mercer Ellington, Buddy Rich, Sarah Vaughan and many others performing and talking candidly about the future of jazz and the music industry. During this period, Don also contacted another one of his colleagues, radio personality William B. Williams who was a longtime friend to Frank Sinatra. William B. agreed to make scheduled appearances on the show throughout the series to share interesting anecdotes and friendly stories about Frank Sinatra plus some of his own personal experiences as a radio personality.  Unfortunately, the timing, scheduling and ill-fated illnesses of occurances happened to many of the key-players that the project was never able to see the light of day. To this present day . . . I still get inquiries from some of the interested investors that were to take part in the financial backing of such a project.  They want to know if the possibility of resurrecting the production is feasible. Well, my reply has been, that I firmly believe it is virtually impossible to produce such a quality package since the music business and jazz has changed drastically and most of the traditional jazz legends male and female are no longer with us.  So consequently, the project has been put on hold for the time being. But, the intentions of producing a quality series package still remains.  The consideration of a multi-media computer project utilizing vintage jazz film footage and personal interviews with some of the greats in jazz has been discussed and negotiated with these potential investors who have a warm feeling in their hearts for this American Art Form called ... JAZZ - in "Keeping Mainstream  JAZZ Alive."

Stay tuned ... 

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Reader Comments (2)

Don & Lenny, were very good friends of mine. At 64 now, He knew me throughtout my life. My mother, Mary Korona, Trenton, NJ Furrier,( along with dad, Korona Furs of NJ) . and fashion model for Hess of Allentown, and WFIL TV, Philadelphia, PA , was hospitalized in Trenton's Mercer Hospital for surgery sharing her room with Don's mother! Don was only a teenager at the time and would visit the hospital and seranade his mom and mine singingly beautifully in Italian! .... they had kept in touch through the years and in my adulthood I was fortunate to become best of friends with Don, Lenny , and Sister Janet & Frank, her husband. We were so close. I cherish all our times together at the Club LeBistro and 500 Club in A.C. and the many wonderful times we spent together at their home in Pleasantville..... not to mention our rowdy nites at Zaberer's on the Black Horse Pike! Don was truly a wonderful loving perfect man who remains in my heart forever!
March 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlarry korona
Thanks for the visit to the website. As you know Don was a true gentlemen a friend in every way. Whenever possible I always asked him to emcee & perform at our events. During those years Don, Sonny Schwartz, Guy Galante and myself were always involved with production. We often met at Skinny's house. Unfortunately those times will never return. Stay well and please spread the word.

March 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterDanny Luciano

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