Dunes Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas 1992 Sahara Hotel and Casino -1956
photo courtesy of singing star Lisa Donovan, who worked with us at the Dunes.
I spent 30 joyous years working, laughing and playing with the legendary, true triple threat, DONALD O'CONNOR. He was my mentor, teacher of life and career and, most of all, family. He was and will always be, a true inspiration in all facets of my life. Donald had such an incredible life that, after 30 years, I was still hearing stories that I had never heard before.
What most people, outside of the business, don't know is that Donald was also a very fine dramatic actor, as demonstrated by his role as a reformed drug addict in an episode of "Police Story". His dramatic skills were an even match for his flawless comedic timing.
It was always a joy to take the stage with Donald. His musical talent made him a favorite of musicians around the world. Dancers would come and stand backstage to watch him tap and were mesmerized by his unique style. Gene Kelly simply referred to him as "The O'Connor". One of my favorite periods, in our time together, was conducting the "Donald O'Connor/Mickey Rooney Show". The two of them, together on stage, was comic genius at it's best and was always a challenge for the orchestras and myself, as they never did the same show twice. Every night was a treat, watching these two comic giants work their magic on stage.
I was reminded of a story that happened in Denver Colorado, in 1980, at the Fairmont Hotel. We had finished the late show and had gone to our rooms. Around 2:00am my phone rang and it was the hotel operator asking me if I would accept a call from Donald. The switchboard was set so that people could not call room to room after midnight. Donald told me that the "Buster Keaton Story" was coming on and to turn on the TV. I did and began to watch it. The phone rang again and it was Donald telling me to watch for a certain scene and the trick that Buster used to do the stunt. This went on for about an hour, with a call coming in every 15 minutes or so. Finally, the operator, who would hear the beginning of each call said "Why don't you guys stay on the phone until the movie is over and leave me alone. So we did. We watched the rest of the movie together, he in his room, me in mine and I got some wonderful insights to that great movie and how the stunts were done.
A show we did in Las Vegas in 1991 was responsible for me meeting the mother of my beautiful daughter, Solange. Soli knew Donald for as long as she can remember. He was always a part of her life and she loved to talk with him, whenever we were on the phone. She would say "Daddy, can I speak to "My Donald". They had a bond that was truly family. She hated the fact that I had to go on the road, but when it was for Donald, it was fine. She would say "It's O.K. Daddy. My Donald needs you". We were extremely blessed to have he and Gloria in our lives.
I was often asked if Donald was as nice in person as he was in the movies. My response was "No...he is much nicer".
The life of a working entertainer, with a family, is hard at best. Your absence is ever present. Even though Donald spent his life traveling and working, his love for his family was endless. At Donald's funeral, his sons, Kevin and Fred, came up to me and told me that they thought that I may have known their father better than they did, "because Dad let very few people in, but you were there". We did have a very special bond, because, when we were on tour for most of those years, it was just the two of us---him and me against the world, as they say. I know, from all our years together, that his wife, children and grandchildren were the joy of his life and he was extremely proud of every single one of them.
These images and sounds are dedicated to Donald, my other mom and friend, his lovely wife, Gloria O., and their children, my brothers and sisters at heart, Donna, Alicia, Fred and Kevin.
The child actor Francis the Talking Mule Singin' in the Rain
Donald and Marilyn Police Story Honorary Doctorate Donald and Gloria
Donald and Judy Garland Star/Hosts of the "Colgate Comedy Hour" 1952
Colgate Comedy Hour
Movie - Anything Goes Donald and Chita Riviera Donald as Buster Keaton
from "Bring Back Birdy" - Broadway 1981
Make 'Em Laugh Before "Fit As A Fiddle"
Walkin' My Baby Back Home Francis Joins The WACS
VIDEO - THE TONIGHT SHOW
THE ACADEMY AWARDS (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)
ANAHEIM CONVENTION CENTER
For some great clips while you wait, click here:
(click on a song name to hear an MP3 lo-fi sample)
AUDIO - WITHOUT A SONG
NOTHING CAN STOP ME NOW
CHRISSY THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE
with Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds
(click on Chrissy to hear an MP3 lo-fi sample)
REFLEXIONS D'UN COMIQUE
In 1956, Donald was commissioned to write a symphony for the "Doctor's Symphony" in Los Angeles. Below is a snippet of a performance, recorded several years later, by the Brussels Symphony, directed by Fernand Terby.
click on speaker to listen to Symphony sample
August 28, 1925 to September 27, 2003
"The likes of you will never be seen again"
"Rest well, you've earned it"
Donald's entire musical archives have been donated to Chapman University, in Orange California
and are now added to the
They were delivered to the university, by me, on December 27th, 2006
Special Thanks to Myron Yeager of Chapman University
CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY Orange, California
Travels with Donald O'Connor
(Photos and Stories)
Opossum Sally's Donald O'Connor page
A marvelous new site
A site honoring those who have fallen along our nation's roadsides.
Their monuments their stories..visitor submissions
MAIN I O'CONNOR I FISHER I BERLE I MEKKA I BARTY I RADIN I JAZZ FEST I PHOTO GALLERY