Friday, December 27, 2019

Tony Charmoli, early television, and the memoir "Stars in My Eyes"

Note about a correction, appended
 
The picture, below (from the television program Your Hit Parade), appears in the 2016 book Stars in My Eyes, by Tony Charmoli.  I had not seen the picture (a picture I like a great deal) prior to reading Mr. Charmoli's book.

The book, about Mr. Charmoli's life and work, covers his career in entertainment from the 1940s until the 1990s (including his extensive work as both a choreographer and director for television). Today, Mr. Charmoli is 98, and lives (as he has lived for years) in California.

Photograph by Roy Schatt, 1952, from 2016's Stars in My Eyes, by Tony Charmoli

The above picture is seen in the chapter of Stars in My Eyes about Charmoli's work in early television.  He first gained notice, in early TV, as choreographer for the ABC program Stop the Music; he became the show's choreographer in 1949, while dancing in a Broadway show.  In 1950, he joined the new NBC show Your Hit Parade, as choreographer, and remained with the program for several years.  

Charmoli, however, was not only the Hit Parade's choreographer. He was also--as noted, here, in previous posts--the show's stager.  The songs on the Hit Parade, each week, were not simply sung, in a straightforward manner; they were dramatized. It was Charmoli who--in addition to choreographing the program's dance routines--staged all of the show's song dramatizations; he staged the movements of the featured singers and supporting performers, whether the numbers contained dance routines or not. 

Charmoli received a 1956 Emmy Award, for his choreography during the show's 1955 season.  In the 1970s, he received two additional Emmy Awards for choreography, for specials starring Shirley MacLaine (1976), and Mitzi Gaynor (1974).  From the 1950s until the 1990s, he received a number of other Emmy nominations, for his work both as a choreographer and director.  Singer Snooky Lanson, who starred on Your Hit Parade from 1950 until 1957, told me, in a late-1970s interview, that Charmoli was "one of the greatest talents I believe I ever knew."

The 1952 Hit Parade picture, above, is not captioned, in Charmoli's book. It features (from left-to-right, front row), singer Eileen Wilson; a pianist whose name I do not know; my mother (singer Sue Bennett); singer Dorothy Collins; and the show's director, Clark Jones. Charmoli is seated behind the pianist. I don't know the identity of the man standing next to Charmoli, in the back row.

The singers and the pianist (as can be seen by the sheet music on the piano's music stand) are rehearsing the song "A Guy is a Guy," which was a hit, in 1952, for Doris Day. There is also, one notes, what looks like a folder, on the table in front of Dorothy Collins and Clark Jones. The name Bob Kitsis is printed on it; Mr. Kitsis, at this time (and for much of the 1950s), was the pianist on the Hit Parade telecasts, as part of the Lucky Strike Orchestra, led by Raymond Scott. The pianist in the photograph, however, is not Bob Kitsis.  

In that the setting of the photograph does not appear to be that of a standard rehearsal studio, I am guessing the photo was taken at Manhattan's Hotel Woodstock, where some of the Hit Parade's rehearsals were held each week, during this period.

Stars in My Eyes is published by TurningPointPress, of Teaneck, New Jersey.  Paul Manchester edited and designed the book, and is a friend of Mr. Charmoli; it was Mr. Manchester, Charmoli writes in the book's acknowledgements, "who insisted this book should be written, then took it upon himself to persuade me to get a computer at the age of 90 and start typing out my memories."  Mr. Manchester kindly provided me with a high-resolution file of the above photograph.

The picture, from Mr. Charmoli's photo archives, was taken by Roy Schatt, who worked on the Hit Parade as a still photographer.  (Mr. Schatt later became particularly well-known for photographs he took of the actor James Dean.)

Here is the amazon.com page for Stars in My Eyes:

https://www.amazon.com/Stars-My-Eyes-Tony-Charmoli/dp/0997382902/

Below, too, is additional information about Mr. Charmoli's television career, at the website IMDB.com. (Near the end of the IMDB page, in a section titled "Other Works," under the "Personal Details" category, some of Mr. Charmoli's work on Broadway is also listed.)

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0153346/?ref 

Paul Manchester, editor (as referred to above) of Tony Charmoli's 2016 memoir--and a two decades-long friend of Mr. Charmoli--has told me that despite online references to the contrary, Mr. Charmoli is 98 years old, not 97, as I had written.  My thanks to Mr. Manchester; the post has been corrected.