DONALD and MICKEY
THE DONALD O'CONNOR/MICKEY ROONEY SHOW
"TWO FOR THE ROAD"
THE FUNNIEST SHOW ON EARTH
You have never seen a funnier live show in your life, as was the case with the "Donald O'Connor/Mickey Rooney Show. This was a fast paced, rib splitting hour and a half of nonstop energy. These two masters of timing and legendary entertainers had as much fun as the audience did. Every night was a love fest and a joy to behold. As the conductor of this three ringed circus, I had the joy of a lifetime. There was a basic script that was adhered to and all the cues for the next musical entrance were there, but getting from Point "A" to point "B" was always different and always hysterical. They would constantly go off on tangents and then veer back to the next cue, just at the right moment. It is very rare to have two entertainment legends on the stage together, let alone have them compliment each other so well. Mickey was nonstop energy and Donald was the calming effect that held this whirling dervish together. The best part was watching them try to out do each other. Mickey would use a line and Donald would come out with a topper. The next night, Mickey would throw out Donald's topper line from the night before and Donald would have to top himself again. They were like fire and gasoline. Put them together and they would fuel each other. Every night was a treat and every night was a joy to behold.
We played the major showrooms in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and most of the major venues around the US and Canada. The only reason the show ended, was that Mickey thought it would be fun to do a book show, so they did "The Odd Couple" in Florida. The problem was that they "were" the odd couple and their different approaches to a book show were so opposed that they almost came to blows, at one point, and that was the end of the act. A major loss to the live entertainment community.
This was truly a once in a lifetime event and having the privilege of conducting this show was one of the happiest times of my career.
With the show, we always carried Sam Kriger, a brilliant pianist, who was a dream for the two of them since he had ears so big that he never missed a cue and a repertoire that was so large that they could literally sing any song and Sam was right there. Sammy is a great guy and is married to one of the sweetest people I have ever met. We also carried our drummer, Tony Tedesco, who I went to Berklee with and was my main drummer on the Roy Radin Show. Tony was a joy for any conductor, as he would watch, listen and follow better than most any drummer I had the privilege to work with. After working with Milton Berle, on the Radin Show, Tony could catch just about anything that would happen on stage and is one of the nicest people and one of my personal favorite people to have traveled with. He was a very quiet guy, but when he came out with something, it was always hysterical. Tony and Sam made my job so much easier, no matter who the local band was that we had...and we had a few stinkers. When we did have a great orchestra, the orchestra had as much fun as we had and these two guys made them swing like crazy. We also occasionally carried another drummer, on our west coast gigs. His name is Paul Johnson. I worked with Paul, in L.A., doing tons of shows at the Shrine Auditorium and the Anaheim Convention Center, as well as the Billy Barty Golf Tournaments and many other shows. Paul is one of those dream drummers, for a conductor, as he watches so closely that he follows your slightest moves and after playing for the Woody Herman Big Band for many years, is one of the finest Big Band drummers I ever got to work with and I will always call him my friend.
We also had Kevin Pawley. Kevin was one of the most efficient Road Managers I have ever seen. He made the road as smooth as anyone could possibly make it, covering all the bases and staying several steps ahead of anything Donald and Mickey might need or want. He could organize and even weasel, when he had to, anything at any time. He was also one of the funniest and most sarcastic people I have ever had the pleasure or sometimes displeasure to meet...depending on his demeanor that day. Kevin came to this show through Mickey. He started out as Mickey Rooney's stunt double in New York and stayed with him after that. One of the funniest stories I can remember about Kevin was, after he watched a show at the Dunes in Las Vegas, Kevin approached my dear friend Larry White, who was Robert Goulet's conductor at the time and said "We are following you in here next week. I am Kevin Pawley... Mickey Rooney's manager". Larry looked up, did a quick double take on Kevin and said "Of course you are". I have lost touch with Kevin in the past few years and I consider that a loss as he was always fun and quite entertaining. Wherever he is, I wish him well and I am sure that with his talent, he is doing well.
Here is a great review from our show with the London Symphony, London Ontario Canada
THE KENNEDY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
This backstage photo is from our appearance at the KENNEDY CENTER in Washington, DC on 8-31-1989
from left to right: Donald O'Connor, Kevin Pawley, Kelsey Marshall (of the Kennedy Center and friend from the Billy Barty Golf Tournaments), Sam Kriger, myself and Tony Tedesco
other great sites we enjoyed, while in Washington DC
The White House
President John F Kennedy grave site and eternal flame
A TRULY HISTORIC OLD THEATER
The Rialto Theater, Jolliet, Illinois
It was a gorgeous old theater with a lot of history to it. The acoustics were amazing.
OUR OPENING ACTS
We had a couple of opening acts with the show. Two female singers named Jenifer Green, from Australia and Lisa Donovan.
Jenifer is a sweetheart and an extremely dynamic singer, who was also quite gullible. We always had her in a tizzy for one reason or another and were always pulling her leg, since she was so innocent. We always had fun with her English, as the Aussies have a different vocabulary than we did. I worked with Jenifer on many dates and shows, including opening for Fred Travolina in Atlantic City and produced her one woman video show "Jenifer, Just for My Friends". Jenifer always wowed the audience and always left them wanting more. Her charts were done by some of the greatest arrangers in the business and I was honored to add a few of my own arrangements to her book. One night, she was introducing an Australian Medley, featuring songs by the Little River Band, Olivia Newton John and Peter Allen, among others. She mentioned that there was a small Aussie invasion going on and mentioned a young actor named "Yahoo Serious". Now Yahoo had just done a movie called "Young Einstein", but Jenifer got confused and said he had just completed the movie "Young Frankenstein", which of course sent Kevin, Sam, Tony and myself into a laughing frenzy that was so bad that we couldn't look at each other the rest of the way through the show or we would break out laughing again. She was an amazing talent and always a joy to tour with. Just before we debuted the act in Andover, Mass., Donald and Mickey did the "Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson". Mickey got things a little confused and told the audience and the world that we would open the tour in Andover, Maine and with our wonderful singer "Tiffany Greenwood" opening the show. Well, Jenifer got her name mentioned on the "Tonight Show", but now her name was "Tiffany Greenwood". That was just the start of the ribbings this poor woman got, while with us. But, she was quite the sport about it and gave back almost as good as she got.
Lisa, on the other hand, is a very savvy and sophisticated American singer from the TV show "FACE THE MUSIC". She was an extremely versatile singer and had a voice and a stage presence worth a million bucks. Her arrangements were always top notch and she always put on one hell of a show. She has just recently moved to Las Vegas and is once again a welcome addition to the talent pool in town. I truly hope to get a chance to work with her again. We didn't get to hang out much, as she was on tour with us for a short time, but she was always a welcome addition to the mix.
Check out Mickey's new movie. It's loads of fun.
Two of the biggest men in the business, Billy Barty and Mickey Rooney
I will be adding more stories and more photos as time permits.