Then, almost overnight, Alan seemed to drop from sight. Mel Torme, in his final book,
("My Singing Teachers") expressed regret that Alan had quit performing. Happily, this is not the case, as his fans in the New York area can attest. ALAN DALE is still performing, and is as great as ever! The fact that he is doing so in relative obscurity is one of show
business's oddest, and saddest, stories.
SO, WHILE WE CELEBRATE ALAN DALE'S GREAT TALENT, LET'S ALSO LOOK BACK AT
THE REASONS HE SEEMED TO DISAPPEAR. FOR INSTANCE, IS IT TRUE THAT HE WAS BLACKBALLED (AS HAS BEEN WRITTEN)? AND THAT HIS CONTROVERSIAL 1965 AUTOBIOGRAPHY STEPPED ON TOO MANY POWERFUL TOES? OR, MOST BIZARRE, WAS THE SHOCKING ASSAULT AT A NEW YORK BENEFIT REALLY A MESSAGE FROM THE MOB (BECAUSE DALE HAD REJECTED THEIR OVERTURES)?
IN THE BEGINNING
Of the many who populated the post-Sinatra generation of singers, one stood out above the others --- admired by other performers as much as by bobby-soxers.
A voice for the ages: Warm and vulnerable, lively and playful, daring and dramatic.
For those who haven't heard him: Impossible to describe. For those who have:
Impossible to forget.
PRINCE OF BARITONES
Here's Alan, at 25, thrilling his fans on CBS-TV's popular
"Sing it Again"
ALAN DALE COLLAPSES ON LIVE TELEVISION!
Coinciding with his travails at Columbia Records, Alan's private life was in turmoil (see his autobiography for the details). Aggravated by his demanding schedule, something had to give, and it turned out to be a dormant duodinal ulcer (a memento of his band-touring years) which errupted during one of his live television shows, knocking him out cold, as the confused cameraman moved in for a closeup. This was the first of several hospitalizations, which culminated with abdominal surgery in the spring of 1951.
Alan's illness cost him most of his TV and radio shows: Perry Como inherited his CBS television spot; without Alan, "Sing it Again", after a successful three year run, folded. The Dumont Network, where Alan had his happiest association, lost Jackie Gleason, the star of their biggest variety show, "Cavalcade of Stars" (on which Alan was a frequent guest), to CBS --- and soon afterward, Dumont also faded away.
BOB THIELE TO THE RESCUE
In November 1951, after almost six months without a record release [another mystery:
Did Columbia put a freeze on releasing his records as punishment?] Things began to look up when his Columbia contract ran out and Decca Records' Milt Gabler signed him. Fortunately, Alan's old friend, Bob Thiele, was A&R director at Decca's subsiderary, Coral Records, and Alan soon moved over to Coral. 1952 saw some of Alan's most memorable recordings, such as "My Thrill (LaPaloma)", "I'm Sorry", and a cover of (then unknown)
Al Martino's "Here In My Heart". But it was in 1955 that Alan finally scored his first million selling hits. First came his classic vocal of the Perez Prado mambo, "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White", followed by "Sweet and Gentle" which introduced the mambo's successor, the cha-cha-cha. These were followed by Alan's first venture into rock 'n' roll, "Rockin' the cha-cha". [The success of this, and subsequent rock numbers, led to Alan's starring role in the film "Don't Knock the Rock."]
This string of hits, plus his part in popularizing a new dance craze, should have earned him
plenty of bookings on the biggest variety shows. Instead, it was mostly small pickings.
This is when the rumors of blackballing started gaining credibility.
JACKIE GLEASON HELPS ALAN BREAK THE SULLIVAN BAN
(when Ed wasn't looking)
The date was Sunday, January 17, 1960. Ed Sullivan had to be rushed to a hospital with a bleeding ulcer. CBS sent an urgent plea to Jackie Gleason, who was starring in the Broadway musical, "Take Me Along", and Gleason generously agreed to step in and host the show. Then, a few hours before show time, singer Nelson Eddy was taken ill.
Well, it so happened that Sullivan's orchestra leader was Alan's old mentor, Ray Bloch. Not only had Bloch been conductor for Alan's "Sing it Again" show, he had also done the same for Jackie Gleason's TV series. And Jackie Gleason had always liked Alan Dale.
At the time, Alan was in the midst of yet a another comeback, with a new nightclub act that was receiving rave reviews, and fortunately he was in town that weekend. What followed was something the secret service would've been proud of: Gleason opened the show with a rundown of the show's acts, but NO mention was made of Alan Dale (apparently Alan's appearance was going to be as much a surprise to Ed (watching in the hospital) as to the audience.
Immediately after the first commercial, Gleason announced: "Alan Dale has always been a favorite singer of mine." And suddenly, there Alan was, after eleven year of banishment, singing Jerome Kern's glorious "All the Things You Are." Then he was gone.
In case you're wondering: This event did NOT signal the end to the Sullivan ban.
Alan Dale never again appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Soon after Alan narrowly escaped death in the Latin Quarter assault, Confidential Magazine (in its October 1958 issue), took a sympathetic look at his troubled career. This article served to show that the question of Alan's being blackballed was indeed a subject of speculation within the industry. Specifically cited was the Ed Sullivan Show.
The suspicion of a blackball began to surface during Alan's comeback in 1955, which was his biggest year on records. It had only been four years since his collapse, but in show business that can seem like an eternity. But now he was back, and the results in a famed popularity poll made it official. For thirty years, radio's foremost DJ program was "Make Believe Ballroom", hosted first by Martin Bloch, then by Jerry Marshall. Every year they conducted a popularity poll to determine their audience's favorites in four categories: Male Singer, Female Singer, Vocal Group, and Orchestra. Alan had such a loyal following that, a year earlier, when his career was at its lowest point since he became a star, he still managed to place 8th . So it figured, in the wake of his biggest year, that he would move up a few places. But no one expected him to rocket into first place by receiving almost HALF OF ALL VOTES CAST.
Billboard Magazine's February 11, 1956 issue reported that WNEW's 30th annual "MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM" popularity poll pulled a record-breaking number of votes (15% more than the previous year's record vote). Top vote-getters, in descending order, were: Alan Dale, Perry Como (the previous year's winner), Julius LaRosa, Eddie Fisher, Tony Bennett, Johnny Ray, Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, Guy Mitchell and Nat "King" Cole. When one considers the top singers who didn't even make the top ten (Vic Damone, Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, Dick Haymes, Johnny Desmond, Don Cornell, Frankie Laine, Mario Lanza, etc), Alan's achievement was even more impressive.
Without question, the most important booking in television was the Ed Sullivan Show. Alan's continuing absence from that show had long been something of a mystery. Now it seemed to be a deliberate slight. Surely Sullivan hadn't suddenly lost his newsman's nose for who was hot. How could he continue to book every other singer on the popularity list, yet ignore the one who came in first?
Some people with good memories recalled that when the Ed Sullivan Show first began (as The Toast of the Town), the fast rising (and somewhat quick-tempered)) young singer had appeared on the show. It's believed that something happened then that turned Sullivan against him.
THE LATIN QUARTER ATTACK
(WAS IT A MOB HIT?)
VARIETY May 21, 1958
"Troupers Net 20G. From LQ Benefit; Dale Injury Cues Fuss With Photog"
"One event marred the show. Alan Dale, leaving the club, was pushed down the stairs
and crashed into a plateglass showcase window. He was badly cut and later removed to
a hospital. A melee resulted when a N.Y. Post photog attempted entry into the washroom
where an M.D. from the audience had been summoned, to lens the event. Harvey Rosen
operator of El Borracho became outraged at the efforts of the photog and punches started."
Alan on way to hospital after Latin Quarter attack
The story given out to the press was that an unknown man approached Alan, asked it he was Alan Dale, then said something like, "You stole my girl," then shoved him down the stairs.
Alan managed to put his hands in front of his face as he crashed through the plate glass. Incredibly, the only serious injury was to his right hand. He wore
a glove on that hand for some for time as he went through a series of operations in an attempt to regain full use of his fingers.
BUT WHAT WAS THE REAL STORY BEHIND THE ATTACK?
Alan's longtime friend, record producer Bob Thiele, wrote the following in his 1995 autobiography "What a Wonderful World: A Lifetime of Recordings":
"As successful as Alan Dale (born Aldo Sigismondi) was with me at Signature
and then Coral Records, Dale insisted on a quiet life off-stage at home with his parents, and made no secret of his disdain for the frequent advances by the Mafia to manage him. One evening when he was headlining at the Latin Quarter . . . mafiosi hurled Alan down the entire length of the long staircase that was a land- mark of the club. This highly visable incident nearly killed him, and with the mob now marking him as 'trouble', his career was effectively killed as well."
ALAN DALE GOES SOLO
Summer 1947: In quick succession, Alan was "discovered" by talent agent Lou Perry (who was still smarting from being dropped by Dean Martin when Dino teamed with Jerry Lewis), CBS orchestra conductor, Ray Bloch, and record producer Bob Thiele. Alan cut his first record for Thiele's Signature label, with Ray Bloch conducting the orchestra. It was titled "Kate" and it charted. This was followed by Alan's best remembered recording from the early years: "Oh Marie". A lovely old Italian song, it begins traditionally then segues into a swinging second chorus in English. It sold nearly a million copies.
Soon afterward, Dale became a TV pioneer: In May 1948 (four months before Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theatre debuted) Alan was given his own show on the Dumont Network. Initially shown in the New York area, the show became officially "network" in August, when it became the FIRST television show kinescoped (filmed) for showing in other parts of the country.
It was at this propitious moment that Ray Bloch was charged with finding a singer for CBS Radio's new musical-quiz show, "Sing it Again." The hour-long show would feature every type of music, and would be broadcast LIVE every Saturday night. Obviously a high level of skill was required.
In September 1948, Alan left Dumont for CBS, and "Sing it Again." The program's fame was such that it was the inspiration for the James Stewart movie, "Jackpot" (in which a family's
life is disrupted when they win the jackpot on "Sing it Again"). Soon Alan could also be
seen five evenings a week on his own CBS-TV show. In addition, the popular 24-year-old
had still ANOTHER show on the Mutual Radio Network. People simply couldn't get enough of
LIFE ON A ROLLER-COASTER
Alan's health was delicate to begin with, and this killing schedule almost became exactly that!
The year 1950 would find Alan being scouted by Paramount Pictures, moving up to Columbia
Records (where he would soon collide with Mitch Miller), fainting on live TV due to a bleeding
ulcer, and the loss of ALL his television shows and his record contract.
And that was just the beginning!
ALAN DALE TODAY
Alan's parents have passed on: Aristide in 1971, and Kate in 1981. As of this writing (January 2002), he and his wife are living quietly (in his beloved Brooklyn). And, most important, he's still performing.
THE CLIFF NOTES VERSION OF HOW IT ALL HAPPENED
By 1949, Signature Records had gone bankrupt. Since CBS produced "Sing it Again" and owned Columbia Records, Alan began recording for Columbia's subsidiary label, Harmony.
On October 1, 1949, Columbia Records' top-selling crooner, Buddy Clark, was killed in an airplane crash. Although Clark had been around since the 1930's, it was in the late 40's that
his recording career caught fire, and with a steady string of hits he supplanted Frank Sinatra
as the label's top balladeer. However, unlike Sinatra, Clark was not a romantic figure. His lilting, easygoing style was more reminiscent of Bing Crosby --- and the singer appeared to
be at least a decade older than his reported age of 32.
Simultaneously, over at Harmony Records, Alan Dale was creating great excitement with his cover of Tony Martin's hit "There's No Tomorrow". In Alan's version, he segued into "O Solo Mio" in the second chorus, and the effect was literally show-stopping! [NOTE: It wasn't long before the savvy Martin, in a remarkable concession, began singing Alan's version instead of
his own, as you can see in the 1951 film, "Two Tickets to Broadway"]
Thus it was no surprise when Columbia's A&E chief, Manny Sachs, brought Alan up to the "mother label" to fill the void left by Buddy Clark's death. Alan combined the easy charm
of Crosby with the passion of Sinatra ---- and he was young (24), and darkly handsome.
At long last, Alan Dale was recording for one of the "big three" labels, which meant that his records would finally receive the distribution necessary for nationwide success. Then the
axe fell --- first on Manny Sachs, then on Alan Dale.
The powers at Columbia, intrigued by the success of upstart Mercury Records, with its off- beat numbers like Frankie Laine's dynamic "Cry of the Wild Goose" and "Mule Train", hired Mercury's A&R wizard, Mitch Miller. Miller's emphasis on novelties --- a few of which were fun (such as "Come On-a My House", which Rosemary Clooney recorded under protest), but many were embarrassingly bad. The label's established stars (Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, etc.) were less than pleased. As for Sinatra, his career was in free-fall --- his self-confidence was so low that he let Miller talk him into recording the infamous "Mama Will Bark" duet with
blonde bombshell, Dagmar. Two years later, Frank would come back with a vengeance, at Capitol Records, and the rest is legend. Alan Dale, disgusted by this sudden turn of events, became rebellious --- to the great benefit of two singers (Guy Mitchell and Tony Bennett) who Miller began developing --- and as a consequence Dale's association with Columbia was over by mid-1951.
Photo by Bruno of Hollywood
Alan Dale (ne Aldo Sigismondi) was born July 9, 1925, the only child of Aristide and Agata
(Kate) Sigismondi. Aristide was from the Italian provence of Abruzzi. He immigrated to America in 1904 at the age of 21, and soon became one of the most popular comedy stars
of the Italian-American theater. He made records, had his own radio show, and toured the country's Italian theaters from New York to Chicago. Kate, a native of Messina, Sicily, was
15 years younger than her husband.
When Aldo was nine years old he made his singing debut on his
father's radio show. It wasn't planned. One night the program
was running short, so Aristide asked little Aldo to sing. The shy youngster came through like a champ, then promptly fainted!
After they revived him, he phoned his mom to ask her opinion of
his performance. After that he appeared often on the show.
But Aldo's ambition wasn't to be a performer. He wanted to be a journalist. So when his voice began to change, his dreams turned to that quieter occupation.
At sixteen, Alan's life took an unexpected turn: After a confrontation with an abusive teacher, Alan quit school rather than apologize (a precursor of things to come). A series of dead-end jobs followed. Then one day, Alan and a friend were passing a Coney Island casino when
his friend suggested Alan audition for a singing job. Told to return that evening, he came prepared to sing two songs and ended up doing seven encores. Amazingly, only a year
later, Alan became featured vocalist with the famed Carmen Cavallaro Orchestra ---- and, at Cavallaro's insistence, he also had a new name.
LIFE AS A BIG-BAND SINGER
Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Alan discovered the curse that would haunt his entire
career: He couldn't stand touring. This was a terrible handicap, especially at the height of World War 2 when the band was constantly on the road visiting military bases. The 17-year- old was not only miserably homesick, he was physically ill most of the time. He desperately wanted out of his seven- year contract, but the options were all Cavallaro's.
After seven months with Cavallaro, fate intervened ---- in the form of a movie offer for the popular pianist-conductor. Cavallaro quickly disbanded the orchestra and headed for Hollywood. Alan happily returned to his Brooklyn neighborhood, vowing never to hit the road again. Then George Paxton called.
Saxophonist George Paxton had formed a progressive, jazz oriented, dance band and was looking for a singer. He assured Dale that touring was not in their immediate future, and so, in the fall of 1944, Alan joined the band, and in November cut his first record: A V-Disc titled "Waiting" (which was never released). Alan's "official" record debut was the song "More and More". The Paxton association turned out to be a pleasant one and Alan stayed for nearly three years. The end came when the band began a series of one night stands. Alan became very ill and, following his doctor's advice, told the unhappy Paxton that he couldn't continue.
At the same time that Alan was taking this risky step, his parents were having their own crisis.
After years of incompatibility, caused by age and personality differences and Aristide's career demands, they had reached an impasse and Aristide moved out. Alan was heartbroken. It may be that their impending breakup was part of the reason that Alan couldn't face going on the road again. Whatever the case, their separation lasted for several years ----- finally ending with their shared concern over Alan's 1950 collapse.
In 1948's famed radio poll "The Battle of the Baritones" nobody was
surprised when Frank Sinatra still reigned as King. The BIG NEWS
was 21 year old Alan Dale who, only months into his solo career,
came in a strong second (ahead of Haymes, Como and Crosby!)
and was thus declared the new "Prince of Baritones."
Eight years later, on the heels of several landmark hits (including
the mambo classic "Cherry Pink", and "Sweet and Gentle", the
record that introduced the cha-cha-cha to America), Alan was voted
America's TOP male singer.
WELCOME, MUSIC LOVERS