A singer and actor
He retired with class and style performing before his wife, four children, daughter and son-in-laws, grandkids and a packed house of friends and fans.
Along the way Damone - born Vito Farinola - acquired a string of hit records, and spent decades as a Vegas mainstay.
Millions of fans worshipped him and Damone enjoyed the perks of celebrity.
He once paid a Las Vegas showgirl to run naked through the men's steamroom. Damone and his buddies were in the steambath when the well endowed lady arrived on schedule and began her trot. While the guys grabbed for towels Dean Martin calmly eyed the situation - watching the lady's every move. Martin simply nodded his head approvingly saying "Lovely ... lovely."
Vic, the guy critics dubbed "a 1940s Sinatra with a touch of Torme'," suffered a mild stroke last June, which interrupted a scheduled final concert tour. Deciding to focus his attention on his wife, designer Rena Rowan-Damone, whom Vic credits with saving his life during the stroke, his four children and grandchildren, the handsome singer fought back tears as he took his final onstage bow to an audience that jumped to their feet applauding his performance and career.
It's a career that spans popular standards written by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Sammy Cahn.
He credits his mother with musically empowering him. He frequently told audience the story of his mother, who spotted his talent when he was a child, scrimping to get $1 a week for his singing lessons and subway fare from Brooklyn.
After winning a place on Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts, in 1947, he started singing regularly on the radio and at nightclubs, and signed with Mercury Records. I Have But One Heart gave him his first hit but his first big success was Again from the 1948 film Road House. Another million-seller was You're Breaking My Heart, based on the turn-of-the-century ballad by Leoncavallo, composer of the opera I Pagliacci. Damone was a sought after television guest.
At the lower left - in type really too small to read- the guests are listed: Ronald Reagan and Vic Damone
By the early fifties Vic was a successful recording star. But it was his recording of On the Street Where You Live from Lerner's and Loewe's Broadway show My Fair Lady, which put Damone into super-star status. His version of An Affair to Remember, one of the last songs written by Harry Warren, is unequaled by anybody.
Kravis Chairman Alex Dreyfoos took to the stage and delivered a post-performance speech to the audience. "Vic Damone is the kind of performer who comes along once in lifetime," he said. "Fortunately, he came along in our lifetime."
Copyright ©: October 18, 2000
New York City, NY
VIC DAMONE's name is woven in the American vocabulary as one of the most gifted and celebrated vocalists in history and as he crowns his 52nd anniversary as a performer, Vic Damone stands at the very top. He even popped up in one of 1997's biggest hits comedies, the film Money Talks. The hilarious plot has Chris Tucker's character posing as Vic's son. Last November Vic headlined a three day academic conference at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on the life of Frank Sinatra. The only singer to perform during the conference, Damone was awarded the distinguished Hofstra President's Medal following his concert. In 1997 Vic was accorded one of the highest honors a singer can receive when he was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in New York City. Vic Damone is America's preeminent romantic singer who is at the pinnacle of his career and his craft. He has reordered over 2,000 songs including "An Affair to Remember", "On The Street Where You Live", "Gigi", "Ebb Tibe" "Why Was I Born", and "You're Breaking My Heart". Vic Damone was born Vito Farinola in Brooklyn, New York on June 12, 1928. He took his mother's maiden name, Damone, when he entered the entertainment profession. From his earliest childhood Vic was surrounded by the love of music. His mother Mamie was a piano teacher and his father played the guitar. He learned to sing "You're Driving Me Crazy" at the age of two, singing to his father's accompaniment. When his electrician father was sidelined by an on the job injury, Vic dropped out of high school in his junior year to help support his family, which included four sisters. In 1997, 52 years later Damone returned to Lafayette High School in Brooklyn to receive his high school diploma. Clad in cap and gown, Damone led his 64 fellow graduates, from the Class of '97, into the auditorium. Speaking from the stage, Damone exhorted young people, "Finish your education! I finally got my diploma, now I can go to college". Damone's first job out of high school was an usher at the famous Paramount Theatre in New York, the mecca of the hottest big bands and singing stars of the day. Vic dreamed of the time when he, too, would sing on stage. "Perry Como was starring there one night," says Damone, "and I was taking him back to the dressing room on the fifth floor. He had just finished a show. I said 'I' am a great fan of yours. Can I ask your advice?' 'What is it kid?' replied Perry Como. 'My mom thinks I can sing. We really can't afford $1 a week for a lesson. Would you listen and tell me if I have any talent?" "I stopped the elevator between floors. The song was "There Must Be A Way", I sang four bars and stopped". "Perry says, 'Go ahead,"' "I sang another four bars and stopped". '"Just finish the song'"! "I sang the whole song. And Perry says, "You've really got something kid. Don't stop singing"'. Then on March 9, 1947 Vic stepped up to the microphone at radio station WHN in New York City for a guest appearance on the Gloom Dodgers radio show hosted by Morey Amsterdam. This marked Vic's professional debut into show business. Life held many surprises for Vic and the element of fate has played an important role in his career. Shortly before his 18th birthday, he was the acclaimed winner of the popular Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts program on CBS. Backstage comedian Milton Berle was so impressed with the young man than he arranged for Vic to play the famed New York nightclub La Martinique. He was so well received at La Martinique, that he was signed to his own radio serried on WHN in New York. Within a matter of months, Vic was back at the New York Paramount, but this time as the singing star of the show backed by Stan Kenton's orchestra. His next step up the entertainment ladder was recording for Mercury Records. His first record, I Have But One Heart, was an instant hit. Then came the silver screen with a starring role in Rich, Young, and Pretty. More movies followed in rapid succession: Hell to Eternity, Athena, and Deep in Your Heart. Then, just as he was slated to star in three more pictures, Uncle Sam called Damone for duty in the US Army where he served for two years. Upon his honorable discharge from military service overseas, Vic was back on the big screen with Kismet, Crash Boat, and Hit the Deck. Be he missed singing to a live audience. And the audiences certainly missed him. Vic began touring from coast to coast in concert halls and nightclubs, a practice which continues to this day. In the 1960's and 1970's Vic hosted The Vic Damone Show on NBC and co-hosted with Judy Garland and Dean Martin their own variety shows. Vic has performed in many of the great concert halls - New York's Carnegie Hall, Dallas' Meyerson Symphony Hall, Palm Beach's Kravis Center and many more. With the 1990's, Vic has found a new audience, Generation X, who buy his CDs and attend his concerts. Vic, an avid golfer, resides in Palm Beach, Florida with his wife Rena and is the proud father of three daughters, Victoria, Andrea, and Daniella, a son, Perry, and the grandfather of five.