Dion & Lou Christie live in Concert
North Fork Theatre, Westbury, New York July 15, 2006
Review by Lady Jane Rushmore and Ray D'Ariano

LJ: Ok this is the artist formally known as Lady Jane, and I'm in a car with my old pal Ray. Say hello Ray.

RD: Hello Ray.

LJ: What do you call this car?

RD: Tommy. Many people think I named it after the rock opera Tommy, but, in fact, I named it as a tribute to Tommy James of Shondells fame.

LJ: (laughs) What kind of a car is this?

RD: This is what's called a Beemer, a BMW.

LJ: And what possessed you to buy a red Beemer? Is this part of your mid-life crisis?

RD: No, no, no, my mid-life crisis ended long ago. Now I'm just in permanent crisis mode. I don't know why I bought a red car.

LJ: Is it true that the police stop red vehicles more frequently?

RD: They haven't come after me yet. That's all I can say to that, but why don't we get on to the reason you are taping our conversation?

LJ: Ok, we are somewhere in Long Island. We're in Westbury, right?

RD: We just left Westbury. We're now in Jericho. We're heading toward the L.I.E.

LJ: Right, and it's ten past midnight and we just left the North Fork Theater, which for years and years was known as the Westbury Music Fair, but now they seem to have a corporate sponsor. What 's North Fork? Do you know?

RD: I don't know. I think it's a bank.

LJ: Sounds right, but anyway, we just left there, and for those who don't know, it's a theater in the round. It's been there forever and the stage actually slowly revolves as you're watching the performance. I myself found that interesting because I always wanted to see the star from the drummers' point of view.

RD: (laughs) Yeah, you did get that didn't you?

LJ: And tonight we saw I'll read it right from the ticket because I love the way they wrote this on the ticket "Dion and Lou Christie." It sounds like two guys who run a beauty salon.

RD: (laughs) Now that you mention it, Lou looked like a guy who ran a beauty parlor, didn't he?

LJ: (laughs) Perfect! He looked like cologne.

RD: (laughs) What's that mean?

LJ: I don't mean that in a bad way. He looked great, very cute! How old is Lou?

RD: Lou's gotta be in his 60's.

LJ: But we're getting way ahead of ourselves. First of all, I will speak for myself; I am, as they say, no spring chicken.

RD: But you look fantastic and you are healthy.

LJ: (laughs) Great, thanks for nothing.

RD: Hey, I'm 57. I make no bones about it.

LJ: Fine, well a lady never reveals her age, as you know.

RD: Why is that, by the way?

LJ: I'm just ignoring you, and it's easy to say that you and I are in the same ballpark, age-wise.

RD: Well if I admit I'm 57 and you say we're in the same ballpark, why won't you just say you're age?

LJ: Because, as I told you, a lady never does that and I am Lady Jane.

RD: Fair enough. My point is we are both in the ballpark of 57 years old and yet, with the exception of the two young female backup singers that Lou Christie had onstage, you and I were two of the youngest people in the audience.

LJ: Yeah, that got to me a little bit. I mean it really, really, really was an old crowd.

RD: That's why I guess, I mean, the big oldies station in New York was WCBS-FM for years, and they went out of business, or the format was pulled a little more than a year ago, and the reason corporate gave was that they didn't want the older demographic. When you sat there in the theater tonight and saw 2-3 thousand people who made us look young I mean everybody was in their 60's, and a good percentage of the crowd was in their 70's you had to kind of say hmmmm so this is who CBS wasn't interested in any more.

LJ: Yeah, but on the other hand every person in that room spent 50 or 60 dollars for their ticket. So they do spend money.

RD: Good point. So what are we saying?

LJ: It seems to me that you and I went to see the legendary Dion, who in my book is right up there with Roy Orbison, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and maybe even Elvis. He wasn't as big of course, but he's one of the true rock and roll pioneers and legends. And as for you&.

RD: As for me he's my favorite artist of all time, period. He is my favorite rock artist of all time. I can say that with ease. I mean I love so many. Dylan, forget about it, but Dion has always been my man, and I try to figure it out and, well, you cannot deny his voice and the vocal things he does, but I think a lot of it has to do with the Italian-American kid growing up in the neighborhood back in the 50's. He's older than me, but we both came out of that same neighborhood and somehow I guess I identify with that, but to me, especially after seeing him tonight with that sax player, it was The E Street band. I mean they took a lot from Dion. He invented that attitude and sound and I think he was a major, major, major player in the history of rock and roll. He's my favorite. We're getting way ahead of ourselves.

LJ: Yeah, but that was interesting. I mean the reason we went out to Westbury, Long Island is because you wanted to see Dion, and your lovely bride is visiting her family in London, and you had the extra ticket.

RD: And no one else would go with me and I knew you'd go.

LJ: (laughs) Yeah, right, 'cause you knew I had nothing else to do on a Saturday night in the summer.

RD: No, it's because I thought you would appreciate it, and I wanted to go with you.

LJ: I did appreciate it. So anyway, I think your saying our first observation is that the crowd was a very old crowd.

RD: Right.

LJ: And what I was starting to say earlier was I think you and I, and no doubt some other people in the audience, went to see the rock legend, Dion, and other people were just going out to an oldies show.

RD: I understand.

LJ: Got 'cha. Do you think we take all this way to seriously?

RD: (laughs) Well, it's our life, isn't it? Rock and roll is our life.

LJ: Yes I guess it is our life. It's just what we do. Other people watch tennis. We go to see Lou Christie at Westbury Music Fair or whatever the hell they call it now. Actually it's a nice theater. It's tucked away on this little country road in Westbury and there's banks, and pizza places, and then behind this office building you go way down a long driveway, and then way in the back there's a parking lot and in the middle of the parking lot there's this cool circular theater.

RD: Yeah, I think, I'm not sure, I think, like a hundred years ago it was actually a tent. You know it was the Westbury Music Fair and people like Steve & Edie played there.

LJ: I think they still play there.

RD: (laughs) I think you're right. Paul Anka is coming in soon, and Don Rickles with Tony Danza is a show I saw advertised there tonight. Maybe they were there already.

LJ: Did you see who's playing there New Years Eve?

RD: No.

LJ: Gregg Allman.

RD: You know what? If you lived within 30 minutes of the place, which we don't we made a special trip to see Dion but if you live within 30 minutes of the place, it would be cool to pop over there and see Gregg Allman and still be home in time for midnight and have a drink with some of your friends. It would be interesting. It's not the type of place you think of going to on New Years Eve, unless you live nearby.

LJ: Or unless you feel about Gregg Allman the way you feel about Dion.

RD: You're right. The Allman Brothers Band on New Years Eve is something else, but you are right his fans would schlep out there, but anyway it's a nice place, and it's air conditioned, and it's small and circular so if you sat in the worst seat in the house it wouldn't be bad. It would be like 30th row at the Garden. Something like that.

LJ: Our seats tonight were spectacular.

RD: They were. We were in the 6th row, very very close to the stage and the artists. You can't deny that it really adds to the enjoyment of the show.

LJ: It's always good to be up close I'm of the mindset that some nights you're in the first row and it's great and other nights you're in the last row and it's not as great, but at least you're in the room.

RD: Totally agree, but it is good to sit up close.

LJ: Agreed. So we get there and it's air conditioned and we sit in our seats and we're looking around and that's when we realized we were the youngest people in the place and there was no way to escape the conversation the people sitting behind us were having.

RD: They were a trip.

LJ: They were saying things like forget Connie Francis, she doesn't even sing her hits.

RD: (laughs) I know, that was a great comment. They'd hate The Allman Brothers.

LJ: The other guy said, you can't go wrong with Alan Jackson.

RD: (laughs) Did you hear when they were talking about Willie Nelson?

LJ: She was saying something like, she didn't mind hearing him on the radio, but he was really getting old in person and how he, as she said, blended all the songs together. Well it's true, he does. They come out and they go, you know Whiskey River and then they go for forty minutes without a break. Yeah, she wasn't fond of that presentation. They really ripped Kenny Rogers, said he didn't look good after his face-lift.

RD: Tough group, very opinionated, but are we wrong talking about these people who were behind us? I mean, reporting on their conversation?

LJ: No, we paid for our ticket and these are things we heard at the show. You know what I liked? They were talking about seeing oldies shows at high schools. Apparently a lot of high schools do oldies shows as fund raisers and one guy was saying he went to a show at 7 and it didn't end till 11, there was no intermission and it was great, spectacular.

RD: He loved it. I like to go to shows like that. I'll go to anything. (laughs)

LJ: I know that.

RD: All right, all this time and we haven't reviewed the show yet.

LJ: Ok, now we went to see Dion and Lou Christie was the opening act.

RD: And you hate Lou Christie, right?

LJ: No, I don't hate him. He never how can I explain it he never even came up on my radar. I mean, when I was a little girl in junior high school he had some records on the radio, you know, I never thought much about him.

RD: Well he had a great band, basically a rock band, keyboards, oh by the way I did a show with that keyboard player last October.

LJ: What? You sing?

RD: (laughs) No, I emceed this Sock Hop up in White Plains.

LJ: Yes, now I remember.

RD: He was there and he backed up The Shangri-La's and I think he backed up The Regents. I don't know his name, but he's very good.

LJ: The bald guy.

RD: Yeah and this must be what he does, you know, back up oldies acts.

LJ: He and the band were good and they had a horn section and they also had two attractive young ladies who sang backup. So Lou comes out and he had on black pants and Cuban-heeled boots, and a big golden/yellow kind of shirt. (laughs) He really reminded me of, like, a cruise ship entertainer.

RD: Have you taken a lot of cruises?

LJ: (laughs) No, but this is what I imagine the entertainment on a cruise ship is like.

RD: (laughs) Anyway he did his hits. He did "The Gypsy Cried," and he did "Two Faces Have I." I forgot about that record, but he has this falsetto voice and he really sounded like The Four Seasons. They could have had a hit with that one, but he was workin' and he hit the high notes. He did a little comedy bit about how he hit the high notes.

LJ: We could have done without that.

RD: The old folks loved it. It won't sound good in print, but it was kind of funny.

LJ: It was cruise ship funny. It was pathetic.

RD: He did a little thing where he reached down in his pants, you know&

LJ: And grabbed his groin and that's how he hit&

RD: (laughs) It was a joke.

LJ: Lost on me.

RD: Then he did another hit "Rhapsody In The Rain." Then he talked about the film "Rainman."

LJ: Oh that was great. That was my favorite part of his show.

RD: Really?

LJ: He talked about how the producers of "Rainman" called him up and they said that Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise were sitting there and how they all wanted to use one of his recordings in the film. He said, Why not? And then he sang this song that was in "Rainman." Did you see "Rainman?"

RD: No.

LJ: (laughs) Neither did I. We must be the only two people in the world who haven't seen it, but he did "Beyond The Blue Horizon." And it just was fantastic. I just loved it. I'd love to get a recording of that.

RD: Maybe it's on the "Rainman" soundtrack.

LJ: Did you dig it?

RD: I was off in screenwriting mode. I was just thinking that Lou was such a great character. I mean, he has a very unique look. He's intense. He has this falsetto voice; he's really a wonderful character. I don't know, this is how my mind works, if I was writing a TV sitcom I'd love to have one of the characters be one of the two girls who was a backup singer for Lou just so he could appear in the TV series every now and then. I think he'd be fantastic, but he couldn't play a character he'd have to play himself.

LJ: That's what you were thinking?

RD: (laughs) Yes.

LJ: (laughs) Didn't I once see a photograph of you with Lou Christie in it?

Ray with Lou Christie
and Ben E. King
RD: It's one of my favorites, and you know I'm not a big fan of my own pictures, but one that I do like is Lou, Ben E. King, and I.

LJ: How did that come into existence?

RD: We did a Christmas oldies show at Radio City Music Hall and I was on WNBC at the time, and I emceed the show, and we had Lou, Ben E. King, Ronnie Spector and Paul Shaffer drop by, and I think we had The Grassroots. It was a big extravaganza.

LJ: When was this?

RD: Late 80's, 87 or 86, somewhere around there, but up till then I never thought much of Lou Christie. I didn't dislike him. I just was never a big fan and that night there were two things I liked about him. First he really worked hard and busted his butt to put on a great show for the audience and second he was a really nice guy.

LJ: Did he wear a lot of cologne?

RD: (laughs) I don't remember, but he was well groomed, let's say that.

LJ: I have to admit most of the audience loved his hits, but I was digging the other stuff, the "Beyond The Blue Horizon," "The Wayward Wind," that original song, I think it was called "I Sure Fell In Love With You." (laughs) He was charming. I don't know, he won me over. I was in the moment sitting in the 6th row enjoying the performance. Then he did "The Things We Did Last Summer." It just put me away.

RD: He really got to you didn't he?

LJ: (laughs) He's a good entertainer. Look, I would have been fine sitting out at the bar waiting for Dion, but I'm so glad you dragged me in there. What are we talking about here? A guy who had 5 or 6 hit records in the 60's and he does them well and in the middle of it he almost does this whole other show that I never though I would find interesting, but I loved it.

RD: I'm glad. I liked when he did The Drifters song "Save The Last Dance For Me," and then he ended it up with two more of his hits "I'm Gonna Make You Mine, " and "Lightnin' Strikes." If you asked me before tonight, I mean, if you mentioned Lou Christie, I'd say, yeah "Lightnin' Strikes," but he also had all those other hits he did tonight. I agree with you. I really got a kick out of him and I like him a lot, and I wish I were a TV producer because I would definitely put him in a show.

LJ: (laughs) It just kills me that that's what you were thinking. Maybe he should have a reality show.

RD: I'd watch it. VH1 Lou Christie, check him out. He's great. He should have his own show.

LJ: Ok, enough. It was a surprise and we both enjoyed him. If Metallica, jam bands, punk or whatever are you're thing you'll hate him, but if you just want to have a good time and he's on an oldies show lineup, go and enjoy. So, anyway, then there was a short intermission. Were you surprised that it was the same band?

RD: I know the keyboard player was the same but were the rest of the guys the same?

LJ: I think so minus the horn section.

RD: True, but he had a sax player who wasn't with the other group.

LJ: That's right. So anyway, they were all dressed in black and the thing I did notice was that the keyboard guy who is as bald as Stone Cold Steve Austin wore a hat (laughs) and he didn't wear a hat during Lou's set.

RD: Was it so people wouldn't know he was the same guy?

LJ: I know Dion wears a hat. He has for years. He used to wear one of those newsboy caps. Now he wears some other deal backwards. (laughs) I think he looks kind of silly. What is he bald? Who cares? So I figure the keyboard guy's hat must have been some kind of respect to the star or something.

RD: So you knock me for thinking Lou would be cool in a sitcom, and you're all concerned about these guys hats?

LJ: (laughs) Whatever, so anyway, the band is out there all in black and then Dion shows up all in black. You're the big Dion fan, how do you think he looked?

RD: Me? I was in the 6th row. I couldn't believe I was that close to Dion. He looked great to me. His birthday is in a day or two. He'll be 67, but right off the bat the difference between Dion and Lou Christie is that Lou had a show biz, or as you suggested a cruise ship kind of look, and Dion was just rock and roll. Black slacks, pants, that's it.

LJ: Black hat.

RD: I don't know the name of the first song they did, "Eyes On You Baby" or something like that, but it rocked with the sax break and everything. It contained everything the E Street Band does, and then he said it was good to be here, an honor and a privilege and they go into "Dona The Prima Donna," loved it. Then "Love Came To Me."

LJ: You were knocked out.

RD: Yeah, but what did you think?

LJ: I must admit I too was knocked out. I mean here's a guy pushing 70 and, you know, inside there was a 20-year-old guy up there. Also he does have incredible vocal phrasing, and you can tell by watching him that he's really into it. He cares about the music and his performance. He's not there just to make a buck. I just got this overall feeling that he is a genuine artist.

RD: Cool, did you notice how he was smiling the whole time he was up there?

LJ: Yeah, and it wasn't like a Tony Orlando show biz smile. He seemed happy to be up there doing it.

RD: Yeah, when they did "Ruby Baby" I loved his introduction. He just casually said, Elvis Presley really liked this tune.

LJ: Yeah, I mean he knew him, and he was on that Winter Dance Party Tour with Buddy Holly, and he's on the Sgt. Pepper cover&

RD: The Beatles got it.

LJ: Yeah, I mean he's really one of those rock legends.

RD: Right. It was amazing to me when they did "I Wonder Why", you know it's, like, the quintessential doo-wop record, and I've heard him do it before with different backup singers, and yet, man, he picks guys who can really nail that harmony down pat. He's often explained that he used to go to the Apollo Theater and see the great R&B bands and the great sax players like Sam 'The Man' Taylor and when he got back to the Bronx with his group they would try to vocally imitate those sax riffs. Man, I love it.

LJ: (laughs) I can tell. It was pretty wonderful.

RD: When they finished "I Wonder Why," I was tempted to shout out, one more time.

LJ: I'm glad you didn't, but I would have enjoyed hearing it again.

RD: It was great. That song alone was worth the whole trip.

LJ: I was very intrigued when he said, "A lot of people think I grew up on rock and roll, but when I was growing up there was no rock and roll." Then he talked about listening to Hank Williams, and all those old blues cats on the radio, and about a building super who he used to hang out with on the stoop jamming blues tunes on their guitars. It was great stuff.

RD: Yeah, then the band left the stage and Dion sat on a stool and with his guitar did a mini blues concert within his regular concert.

LJ: Sensational. I could listen to him do a whole show like that. What a great guitar player he is.

RD: Fantastic blues guitar player, and he was telling stories about Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, great great stuff.

LJ: I really enjoyed that part of the show.

RD: I'm with you, 2 hours of that would make a fine evening.

LJ: That's why he's a legend and not just some oldies act.

RD: Yeah and he even acknowledged his early 80's gospel period and did "Sweet Surrender."

LJ: No drinks or drugs for 40 years, he said.

RD: Yeah he stopped when we started.

LJ: (laughs) In a way I thought that part kind of didn't fit with the rest of the show, but it did I guess, because he was so sincere about it and he feels strongly about his beliefs that he just wanted to testify and let people know about it.

RD: Personally I like the song.

LJ: You like everything he does, but why not? The guy can play, he's got great pipes, and he has more energy than most 40 year olds. He looked damn good. He's something else.

RD: And he's still cool.

LJ: (laughs) 'Cept for the hat.

RD: Well as we approach the bridge I guess it's fair to say that we both liked the show a lot.

LJ: I had a great time, a great Saturday night in my life.

RD: Me too. So that's our review. See Dion whenever you can and if Lou Christie's on an oldies bill check him out too. They are both great at what they do. Last word to you Jane.

LJ: I'm very hungry and we need to find a diner.

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