Frankie Avalon


Singer
Frankie Avalon

About

Also Known As
Francis Thomas Avalone
Birth Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born
September 18, 1939

Biography

A pop crooner and teen idol during the late 1950s, singer Frankie Avalon transformed into a movie star via a string of surf-and-sand musicals in the 1960s like "Beach Party" (1963) and "Muscle Beach Party" (1964). Slight of stature and build but handsome and charismatic in an eminently safe and approachable way, Avalon wooed teenage girls with light romantic tunes like "Venus" and "Why,"...

Photos & Videos

Beach Blanket Bingo - Movie Poster
Bikini Beach - Movie Poster
Beach Party - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Kay Avalon
Wife
Sister of Gretchen Wayne; married in 1962.

Notes

"Venus" earned a Gold Record in 1957.

Biography

A pop crooner and teen idol during the late 1950s, singer Frankie Avalon transformed into a movie star via a string of surf-and-sand musicals in the 1960s like "Beach Party" (1963) and "Muscle Beach Party" (1964). Slight of stature and build but handsome and charismatic in an eminently safe and approachable way, Avalon wooed teenage girls with light romantic tunes like "Venus" and "Why," both of which shot to the top of the charts. When rock and roll took over the music business in the 1960s, he shifted fulltime to films, where he teamed with Annette Funicello for the silly but watchable beach party films. In ensuing decades, he was a familiar face on television and the occasional film, most notably 1978's "Grease" as the Teen Angel, and always happy to revisit the nostalgia of his career for new audiences. If his body of work was lightweight, it was also well loved, which ensured Avalon's place in pop culture history.

Born Francis Thomas Avallone in South Philadelphia, PA on Sept. 18, 1939, Frankie Avalon was the son of Nicholas and Mary Avallone and brother to older sister Theresa Avallone. From an early age, he displayed a genuine talent for music, but as a trumpeter, not a singer. Having learned the instrument from his father, he quickly developed into something of a child prodigy, playing at clubs and on television while still in grade school. A performance at a private party for singer Al Martino led to an appearance on "The Jackie Gleason Show" (DuMont/CBS, 1949-1957) and a 1954 record, "Trumpet Sorrento," for X Records, a subsidiary of RCA/Victor. By the time he had reached his teens, he was performing regularly in a local group called Rocco and the Saints, which featured one Robert Ridarelli on drums. Ridarelli would later follow Avalon into the teen idol scene under the name of Bobby Rydell.

Avalon was approached by Philadelphia music producer Bob Marcucci about singers who might be interested in recording some of his rock and roll numbers. He directed Marcucci to Andy Martin, frontman for Rocco and the Saints, but he passed on the Nordic-looking performer in favor of Avalon himself, whose dark Mediterranean looks would translate better with teen female audiences. After hearing Avalon perform a few songs, Marcucci quickly signed him to his label, Chancellor Records. His first record, a swooning pop song called "Cupid" was followed by "Teacher's Pet." Neither song made much of a dent on the charts, but they did earn him his first film appearance in 1957's proto-rock and roll movie, "Jamboree," where he promoted the latter tune. But his third release, "Dede Dinah" (1958), was a bonafide smash, reaching No. 7 on the pop charts, selling over a million copies. From that point on, Avalon was a certifiable teen idol, delivering five Top 20 hits between 1958 and 1959, including two No. 1 hits: 1959's "Why" and his signature tune, "Venus."

Blessed with boyish good looks, a capable voice and an abundant head of hair, Avalon found himself at the epicenter of teen fandom. He was unquestionably safe for adolescent consumption - Marcucci had shrewdly steered Avalon away from anything resembling rock and roll for that expressed purpose - and his clean-cut image passed muster with adults as well. His popularity on both fronts allowed him to transition smoothly into feature films as well. He played juvenile leads in mostly low-budget, drive-in films like "Guns of the Timberland" (1960) and "Panic in Year Zero!" (1961), with occasional forays into major features. He was a member of Davy Crockett's militia in John Wayne's "The Alamo" (1960) and a Navy seaman aboard Walter Pidgeon's nuclear-powered submarine in "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1961). Avalon was of course granted the chance to croon songs in both films, thus guaranteeing youthful ticket buyers.

However, by the time of those film's releases, Avalon's stock in the teen music business was beginning to drop. Avalon's brand of smooth, brassy pop gave way to more rock-oriented acts like The Beach Boys and, eventually, The Beatles, though he continued to release songs until 1960. He wisely shifted his focus to acting, and found a second stardom as the lead in a string of light musical comedies for American International Pictures (AIP), a low-budget production and distribution company that specialized in genre films for teen audiences. The rise of the surf culture in California had begun to catch on with national audiences, thanks in part to The Beach Boys' music and the film "Gidget" (1959), AIP decided to exploit its growing popularity with "Beach Party" (1963), a harmless comedy about an anthropologist (Robert Cummings) studying the "mating habits" of Southern Californian teens while frolicking in the surf. Avalon was the "juvenile" lead, though by this point, he was well into his twenties and married to beauty pageant winner, Kathyrn Diebel. His onscreen partner was Annette Funicello, a former Mouseketeer who, like Avalon, was searching for her own niche after her initial teen stardom. "Beach Party's" mix of silly comedy, real surf music (courtesy Dick Dale and the Del-Tones), sunny locations and plenty of semi-unclad flesh, was a massive hit with young audiences. AIP quickly ground out seven more "beach party" films between 1963 and 1965, most of which featured Avalon and Funicello repeating the same storyline of break-up and make-up, between crooning disposable pop tunes. Though the pictures were limited in terms of plot or dialogue, they did afford Avalon an opportunity to flex some comic muscles, most notably in 1964's "Bikini Beach," where he took broad potshots at the British Invasion as "Potato Bug," a bespectacled and bewigged English rocker who bore a remarkable resemblance to Terry-Thomas.

When the beach party films ran their course, Avalon continued to work for AIP on several other features - all forgettable. By the 1970s, he was a staple on television as a guest star on episodic series and variety shows, playing up the nostalgic aspects of his celebrity. In 1976, he hosted his own variety program, "Easy Does It. with Frankie Avalon" (CBS, 1976), a musical comedy show that also featured Funicello. Two years later, he experienced a career boost when he played the Teen Angel, heavenly guardian to the wayward Frenchie (Didi Conn), in the film version of "Grease" (1978). Reportedly, the character was based on Avalon's stage presence and audiences' responses to his charms. Avalon would reprise the role in numerous stage productions of the play, and performed the song along with contestants on the reality series "Grease: You're the One that I Want!" (NBC, 2007), which sought out new cast members for the national productions.

In 1980, Avalon's pop career and relationship with Bob Marcucci was the uncredited subject of Taylor Hackford's film "The Idolmaker." The Avalon figure, called "Tommy Dee" and played by Paul Land, was groomed by Ray Sharkey's avaricious manager. Peter Gallagher played a fictitious Fabian, who devolved into a monster due to the pressures and glories of fame. When pressed for his take on the picture, Avalon dismissed it, stating that most of the incidents in the film were untrue.

Avalon celebrated his third decade in show business by hitting the road in 1985 with fellow former teen idols Rydell and Fabian in a package tour called "The Golden Boys of Bandstand," which saw the principals - now in their fifties - reprising their greatest hits for an adoring audience. Two years later, Avalon had his first starring role in nearly two decades with "Back to the Beach" (1987), an amusing tribute-cum-parody of his beach party films that featured Funicello and a host of '60s-era stars in cameos. Avalon and Funicello played the adult version of their beach party characters, wrestling with parenthood, middle age and the glories of the past. A fizzy, silly delight, it pleased audiences and critics alike, and gave Avalon his first credit as producer.

Avalon continued to play the oldies circuit throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, while selling health and cosmetics to his demographic via his web site and the Home Shopping Network. Still full of abundant good health in his sixth and seventh decade, he enjoyed a cameo opposite Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's "Casino" (1995) and made frequent appearances in show biz documentaries and specials, most notably in "Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project" (2007), which honored his frequent beach party co-star. In 2009, he performed "Venus" on "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16), where he showed that he had lost none of his ability to charm audiences with a gentle pop tune.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Casino (1995)
Himself
A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story (1995)
Himself
The Stoned Age (1994)
Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
Himself
Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
Self
Back To The Beach (1987)
Grease (1978)
Teen Angel
The Take (1974)
Danny James
Horror House (1970)
Chris
Skidoo (1968)
Angie
The Million Eyes of Su-Muru (1967)
Tommy Carter
Fireball 500 (1966)
"Fireball" Dave Owens
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965)
Frankie
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
Frankie
Ski Party (1965)
Todd Armstrong/Jane
Sergeant Deadhead (1965)
Sgt. O. K. Deadhead/Sergeant Donovan
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
Craig Gamble
I'll Take Sweden (1965)
Kenny Klinger
Bikini Beach (1964)
Frankie/The Potato Bug
Muscle Beach Party (1964)
Frankie
Drums of Africa (1963)
Brian Ferrers
The Castilian (1963)
Jerifan
Operation Bikini (1963)
Seaman Joseph Malzone
Beach Party (1963)
Frankie
Panic in Year Zero! (1962)
Rick Baldwin
Sail a Crooked Ship (1962)
Rodney
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)
Chip Romano
Alakazam the Great (1961)
Alakazam
Guns of the Timberland (1960)
Bert Harvey
The Alamo (1960)
Smitty
Jamboree! (1957)

Producer (Feature Film)

Back To The Beach (1987)
Co-Executive Producer

Music (Feature Film)

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Song Performer
The Rules Don't Apply (2016)
Song Performer
Jersey Boys (2014)
Song Performer
Deuces Wild (2002)
Song Performer
Betsy's Wedding (1990)
Song Performer
Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)
Song Performer
She's Out of Control (1989)
Song Performer
Back To The Beach (1987)
Song Performer
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Song Performer
Shifshuf Naim (1981)
Song Performer ("Why")
Yotzim Kavua (1979)
Song Performer ("Why?")
Yotzim Kavua (1979)
Song
Grease (1978)
Song Performer ("Beauty School Dropout")
Hound-Dog Man (1959)
Composer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story (1995)
Other
Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
Other

Cast (Special)

Bobby Rydell: Wild About Bobby (2001)
Interviewee
Connie Francis: Sweetheart of Song (1998)
Ballyhoo: The Hollywood Sideshow! (1996)
The Life and Times of the Everly Brothers (1996)
Interviewee
American Bandstand's Teen Idols (1994)
More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace (1993)
MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon (1992)
American Bandstand 40th Anniversary Special (1992)
Freedom Festival '89 (1989)
Festival At Ford's Theater-salute To The President (1989)
Opryland Celebrates (1988)
Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1988)
Jackie Gleason: The Great One (1988)
THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER PAGEANT (1987)
Spring Break Reunion (1987)
The Drug Knot (1986)
America Picks the No. 1 Songs (1986)
Co-Host
The American Music Awards (1986)
Performer
The 1986 Miss Teen USA Pageant (1986)
Liberty Weekend (1986)
The Golden Boys of Bandstand (1986)
American Bandstand's 33 1/3 Celebration (1985)
Fabian's Good Time Rock 'n' Roll (1985)
The Real Trivial Pursuit (1985)
Frankie and Annette: The Second Time Around (1978)
Frankie
Dick Clark's Good Ol' Days: From Bobby Sox to Bikinis (1977)
Host
Saga of Sonora (1973)
Who's Afraid of Mother Goose? (1967)
Jack

Producer (Special)

Spring Break Reunion (1987)
Executive Producer

Music (Special)

Festival At Ford's Theater-salute To The President (1989)
Song Performer ("Bandstand Boogie" "Venus" "Let'S Put The Fun Back In Rock 'N' Roll")

Life Events

1957

Made first appearance on "American Bandstand"

1957

Made film acting debut in "Jamboree"

1957

Signed a recording contract with Chancellor Records

1960

Had dramatic roles in "Guns of the Timberland" and "The Alamo"

1963

First teamed with Annette Funicello in "Beach Party"

1976

Starred in summer series "Easy Does It..." (CBS)

1987

Served as co-executive producer (with Annette Funicello) of "Back to the Beach" (also actor)

1995

Appeared as himself in "Casino"

1995

Played himself in "A Dream is Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story" (CBS)

2001

Made guest appearance as the bride's godfather in the Chicago stage production of "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding" (summer)

Photo Collections

Beach Blanket Bingo - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Bikini Beach - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Bikini Beach (1964). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Beach Party - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Beach Party (1963). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Bikini Beach (1964) - Gimmie Your Love Testing video for ticket 1394 with clip Gimmie Your Love from Bikini Beach, 1964.
Muscle Beach Party (1963) - Surfer's Holiday Arriving at the beach, Frankie (Avalon) and Annette Funicello (as Dee Dee) lead the gang in a song by Roger Christian, Gary Usher and Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Dick Dale’s Del-Tones featured, opening the second American International Pictures “Beach Party” feature, Muscle Beach Party, 1963.
Muscle Beach Party (1963) - I Would Keep That Quiet Italian zillionaire-ess Julie (Luciana Paluzzi) choppers in from her yacht, Buddy Hackett her assistant, hunting the hunkiest body builder (Peter Lupus, here billed as Rock Stevens) at Don Rickles’ gym, Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) observing, in the second “Beach Party” feature, Muscle Beach Party, 1963.
Muscle Beach Party (1963) - Little Stevie Wonder The gang, featuring Annette Funicello as Dee Dee, catch “Little” Stevie Wonder, backed by Dick Dale’s band, for “Happy Street,” by Beach Party series songwriters Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner, Frankie (Avalon) joining to apologize for his latest misadventure, in Muscle Beach Party, 1963.
How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (1965) - You Navy Boys In the opening, Frankie (Avalon), largely absent from this 5th picture in AIP’s “Beach Party” series, has been explaining his Navy Reserve gig to a sexy islander (Irene Tsu), but he’s worried that girlfriend Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) might stray, inducing Buster Keaton’s cameo, in How To Stuff A Wild Bikini, 1965.
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) - Jaws Of The Deep Frankie (Avalon) and the gang have rescued singer Sugar (Linda Evans), who’s replaced the stunt double who parachuted into the surf, her PR man (Paul Lynde) hustling for columnist Earl Wilson, biker villain Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) spying, and girlfriend Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) steamed, in Beach Blanket Bingo, 1965.
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) - Title Song A couple minutes into the picture, after comical character introductions, Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) tumble to the title song, from series songwriters Jerry Styner and Guy Hemric, with Buster Keaton’s cameo at the end, in the 4th “Beach Party” movie, Beach Blanket Bingo, 1965.
Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965) - Day After Tomorrow Joining the title song by The Supremes, with as intense a use of Lombard Street in San Francisco as you'll see, Susan Hart is the robotic female lead and Frankie Avalon is failing to impress an (uncredited) girl, opening Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine, 1965, starring Vincent Price.
I'll Take Sweden (1965) - This Lobster Trap Biker and boyfriend Kenny (Frankie Avalon) delivers single dad Bob (Bob Hope) to the ill-appointed trailer where his daughter JoJo (Tuesday Weld) awaits, in I'll Take Sweden, 1965.
I'll Take Sweden (1965) - He's Only Mr. Right Widower dad Bob (Bob Hope) introducing himself, arriving home to find daughter JoJo (Tuesday Weld) partying with the kids, especially Kenny (Frankie Avalon), opening I'll Take Sweden, 1965.
Beach Party - Swingin' and 'A-Surfin' Dueling scene-stealers as Dick Dale leads the band in "Swingin' and 'A-Surfin'" until Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and pals are distracted by waitress Ava (Eva Six) in Beach Party, 1963.
Beach Party - Open, Frankie & Annette Long stretch of So-Cal coast from the opening of Beach Party, 1963, leading into Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and Dolores (Annette Funicello) in a convertible singing "Beach Party" by Gary Usher and Roger Christian.

Trailer

Drums of Africa - (Original Trailer) Frankie Avalon trades the beach for the jungle as an adventurer opposing the slave trade in Drums of Africa (1963) co-starring Mariette Hartley.
Beach Blanket Bingo - (Original Trailer) Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello play Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) with guest appearances by Paul Lynde, Don Rickles and Buster Keaton.
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini - (Original Trailer) White witch doctor Buster Keaton teaches the Beach Party gang How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965).
Grease - (Original Trailer) A prim Australian exchange student (Olivia Newton-John) falls for a high school gang leader (John Travolta) in the hit musical, Grease (1978).
Panic in Year Zero - (Original Trailer) Ray Milland (who also directed) stars as the head of a family trying to survive after nuclear war in Panic in Year Zero (1962).
Alamo, The - (Original Trailer) Davey Crockett (John Wayne) and Jim Bowie (Richard Widmark) join the fight for Texas' independence from Mexico in The Alamo (1960), a Western epic directed by John Wayne.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine - (Original Trailer) Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) sends beautiful female robots to ensnare the world's richest men in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965).
Ski Party - (Original Trailer) Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman pretend to be English girls during a Ski Party (1965).
Bikini Beach - (Original Trailer) [Widescreen] The original theatrical trailer for Bikini Beach (1964) starring Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello.
Muscle Beach Party - (Original Trailer) The second "beach party" movie, Muscle Beach Party (1964), features guest appearances by Dick Dale and Stevie Wonder.
Beach Party - (Original Trailer) In the first of the series, Beach Party (1963), anthropologist Bob Cummings studies surfers Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

Companions

Kay Avalon
Wife
Sister of Gretchen Wayne; married in 1962.

Bibliography

Notes

"Venus" earned a Gold Record in 1957.