Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stephen Sorrentino!

On a stage or screen near you!

 Throughout his career, comedian Stephen Sorrentino has brought audiences to hysterics with his quick-witted humor and spot-on mimicry. Often referred to as a comedic tour-de-force, Sorrentino is a true showman well known as a comedian, singer and impressionist, all rolled into one. Hailed by Variety for his
“hilarious, show stealing gusto,” Sorrentino has shared the stage with superstars such as Patti LaBelle, Dennis Miller, Dana Carvey and the legendary  Debbie Reynolds.As the son of a professional singer and saxophone player, this Long Island native always knew that he wanted to pursue a career in music and theatre, learning to play piano, sax, flute and guitar at a young age, and starting to do impressions at the age of 5. By the sixth grade, he was doing ​mock Tonight Shows, in which a friend would play Johnny Carson and the young Sorrentino would portray all the guest stars.

During high school and college, Sorrentino was involved in musical theatre and, began musical composition, eventually landing a publishing deal with Paramount, signing recording contracts and subsequent as a pop singer/songwriter. 

It was at Paramount that he realized that his cousin was “The Boss” himself: Bruce Springsteen. 
After a subsequent record release, Sorrentino formed a tribute act, eventually touring 25 countries and 43 states, performing for Disney, Dick Clark and Legends in Concert, and making him the # 1 Elton John impersonator in the world. While performing in Atlantic City, Sorrentino was cast in his first of thirteen film roles, as a Mafia boss/drag queen in the cult hit comedy, Homo Heights, which also starred literary and film icon, Quentin Crisp. Following the film, he studied at The Second City, with Martin de Maat, one of the most respected teachers of improvisational theatre. Since then, Sorrentino has starred in a number of award-winning independent films for Showtime, sitcoms for FOX and NBC and appearances on “America’s Most Wanted,” “7 Days” and “The Jimmy Kimmel Show.” After several appearances on “Hollywood Squares,” dozens of radio and TV talk shows and more than 50 TV commercials, Sorrentino decided it was time to create his own show, Voices in My Head
2011 Gateway Arts Scholarship winners Mama's Wranglers with Stephen Sorrentino

Voices features 14-cast members and has toured the United States,  enjoyed successful runs at the Riviera and Paris hotels in Las Vegas, as well as Atlantic City’s Tropicana, receiving rave reviews in every venue. Sorrentino has also appeared in the History Channel’s “Only In America,” with Larry The Cable Guy, and toured Europe to sold-out houses for 6 straight months.
In March 2012, Stephen Sorrentino opened a new version of Voices in My Head at the Tropicana in Atlantic City, for a three-month run.


Sorrentino has received the distinguished honor of being named “Male Impressionist of the Year” by the International Guild of Celebrity Impersonators and Tribute Acts (IGCITA), for three years in a row and won Best Actor in the 48-hour film competition for Milos Opus. Most Recently, Sorrentino wrapped production for his newest film, Resurrection-Wrath of Seduction, co-starring Holly Madison (Holly’s World, Girls Next Door), Frank Vincent (The Sopranos, Casino) and Louie Anderson, which is due out soon. 
In addition, he is in production with a reality show of his crazy life due this fall. (Source: Stephen Sorrentino's Website)

Stephen and I met years ago when we appeared in a showcase together in Las Vegas. 
We sat down a few days ago to discuss his past, present, future. Today, I
Tommy Tune
celebrate Stephen Sorrentino and his body of "worth"!

My first question comes from Tommy Tune.
How does Stephen begin his day? He begins his day, waking up, and saying, "Oh no...! 
How many things do I have to do because I've spread myself out too thin?" Then, he writes in his journal what he would like to see happen in the next week or so and then he starts his day. 
Why does Stephen Sorrentino perform?
There is nothing like it. The night before our interview, Stephen produced a show and he sat behind the board calling light cues. There is no "payoff" there". He felt happy because the cast is great, BUT there is nothing like hearing people laughing and clapping for him and moving people. 
It is the best medicine in the world.   

"No matter how you may feel, if you make people laugh or clap their hands, it's a magical thing to be able to move someone by not actually physically touching them." For Stephen, it is all magical and he is grateful that he has that ability. 
Stephen's favorite part of performing is in the variety of what he does.He realizes that at any given time, he may not have 100% of the ENTIRE audience totally happy. He is able to shift gears every five minutes so if there is one percent of the audience that didn't particularly favor what he is doing, for example, his impression of various artists performing a song from The Doors, like Jose Feliciano or Groucho Marx, by constantly shifting, he gets that not one hundred percent committed person. A Lady Gaga song may get other people. He loves the fact that he is able to "change channels" to reach each age group and type of person.
Stephen is actually a third generation entertainer.
His grandfather was a Ricky Ricardo type. He had his own club with his own band. On weekends, people would have a supper club, and he would go and entertain. 
Stephen's mother was a singer. His grandfather and mother had a father and daughter singing team. They had albums out. She sang in Italian and English. Stephen's father was a sax player. So, he's been surrounded by show business his entire life.
As stated above, he grew up in Long Island, New York. Stephen's mom, unfortunately passed on almost twenty eight years ago. 
For a long time, she was Stephen's single support system.To this day, when he has those triumph moments on stage or he has a gig that's really wonderful, and he has the audience eating out of the palms of his hands, he thinks of his mom and says, "Thank you." 
He hopes that she's watching. That's really important to him. He desires to make her proud. 
In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, I asked Stephen for his favorite memory of his mom. It goes back to the very first time he had an awareness of what it is to have people watch you to make you special.
In 1966, his parents had been separated for about a year. Stephen and his mother lived together in a small apartment. 
He went with her to a rehearsal for her band. It was in the backroom of a bowling alley. They walked in and nobody looked at them. As soon as she started singing and playing in that little room, suddenly there were five hundred faces in the window. When they left, everyone looked at them in a different way from when they came in. 
He didn’t know if it was just opinion or some different light she exuded as opposed to her just walking in a “regular” person. 
He said he wanted to do that. He liked when people like you. He doesn’t know if it’s “respect” or coming from a low self-respect. One thing is certain. When she walked out, when they walked out, everyone desired to know who she was.

By the time Stephen turned thirty, he had several record deals. He had a contract with Paramount Pictures as a songwriter. He didn’t get anything placed. Joe Cocker recorded one of his songs but never released it.  He had become “the wedding singer”. He was in the Long Island/tri-state area. He was in the tuxedo doing the weekend wedding thing. He was very heavy. He drank a lot of booze and a lot of other bad things to himself.
Jane Kean and Stephen Sorrentino, Source: BroadwayWorld.com
One Labor Day, he had done six weddings, Friday, Saturday, two on Sunday, and two on Monday. He went out with his scotch and had a good cry. He said this can’t be it. He had ability and talent he wasn’t even using. He knew the universe had put him here for a reason; this can’t be it. That was the lowest point of his life and he just said, “screw it”. He was going to live in his car if he had to, but he was going to the next level. Material things meant nothing to him. Something was calling him to move the heck on, and he did. Within a year, he was making the same kind of money that he was when he was unhappy and he was loving his life. He was seeing the world and doing his Elton John impersonation.
I asked Stephen what he thought of the state of the entertainment world today.
He said it’s not even entertainment, anymore. True entertainers are battling this. Being famous and having talent have nothing to do with it these days. When he was a kid, and he still has friends who entertained from that generation, Marty Allen and Debbie Reynolds being two. You had to have talent and ability to become famous. Sometimes you even got paid well! Nowadays, get something on YouTube and it might make you famous. Entertainment itself has become corporatized and artists are getting stuck in little boxes. People are becoming famous for doing nothing. Last New Year’s Eve, he didn’t work. Neither did Debbie Reynolds. He called her up and said, “Kim Kardashian is making $600,000 to raise a glass and saying, ‘Happy New Year’ What are you doing tonight?” Debbie said, “I’m going to bed early.” Stephen said, “Me, too.” They both sing and dance and all those things. That is the state of the world. Andy Warhol  was an oracle, a visionary. “Everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.” But why?
Chuck McCann, Stephen Sorrentino and Georgia Durante: BroadwayWorld.com
Stephen has started writing a book called “Crisp Conversations”. One of the people who really affected him was Quintin Crisp. Stephen became really good friends with him for ten years before his passing. Quintin was the first totally out of the closet of his time. He was the “Martin Luther King of gays in England” (On a side note, I also knew him and had a wonderful dinner with him one night I will never forget!)
Ruta Lee: BroadwayWorld.com
As a kid growing up on Long Island, there was nothing on television as a role model for Stephen.
Thankfully, they lived near Fire Island and Stephen could get a glimpse of his future and know that there was not a bleak future for him.
When Stephen saw The Naked Civil Servant on PBS,  he said he was going to meet that man someday.
That was the beginning of what Stephen realized was his knowledge that creative visualization really does work. Saying that someday he was going to meet  that man materialized ten years later.  There they were sitting in Quintin’s living room. Stephen also starred in Quinton’s last movie with him. It was an amazing experience.
They did a movie called Homo Heights together.  At Quintin’s memorial in New York, Stephen was one of the guest speakers.
He didn’t know that he was going to be a guest speaker. He went there with a clear head. 
He is a Second City comedian. He went up on stage and cleared his head of all thoughts.  
He went on stage, began to speak, and started to cry. He had no idea that he thought this much about him that he was asked to speak. Quintin was such an individual and really didn’t care what other people thought of him.
He used to say other people’s opinion of him was none of his business. That really opened up a world for Stephen. Don’t really care. Stephen just does what he does. Quintin Crisp was one of his heroes in the beginning.
Once again Stephen spent ten years with Quintin.
He used to say some “really messed up stuff.” He also stated the obvious which was wonderful. So, Stephen has this book idea which is basically his memoirs of those ten years.  Another episode in Stephen’s “weird” past.
Stephen has written every day in a journal since 1978.
A asked Stephen what his favorite song is and why. “That changes by the day.”  Two days prior to our interview, he appeared in Pennsylvania at Mount Airy and performed My Prayer.  
He has never really enjoyed performing that song. It is a hard song to sing but the audience’s reaction was incredible. For Stephen, at that moment, that was his favorite song to sing. He loves singing as Sammy Davis. He can emulate that voice and it seems to touch people more than anything. Once in A Lifetime is one of his favorite songs to sing as Sammy. He loves every type of music, from opera to AC/DC.
The most important lesson that Stephen has learned in this business is to follow your dreams. There is an internal script in us that starts as a child. Whatever we envision as children is probably what we are supposed to do. Don’t skip pages. Don’t let anyone rip pages out of our script. That is our future. People tend to kind of impose what they think is best for us. Stephen did that for ten years of his life and it took him way off base. His family business wanted him to go more in the direction of management. He was very unhappy.
When he got back on page 35, which is performance, in his script of life, everything just jumped into place. When it feels wrong, that means you’re off your script. Stick with your script. It is written for all of us to do something wonderful in our lives.
Stephen’s biggest vice has been listening to other people and, at one time, there were chemical and alcoholic vices. Those, thank God, he no longer has anything to do with. Alcohol and drugs were a big part of Stephen’s past.  He licked both of those which is a triumph times ten. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t do drugs, and he needs neither. The feeling he gets leaving a successful stage is higher than any drug he could buy or any drink he could drink.  Being a “people person” has also been a vice.  It has also been a virtue. He desires people to be happy. He is easy to work with. Sometimes, he doesn’t always get what he desires, so that becomes his vice, because he internalizes that. He doesn’t always stick to his guns, and that bothers him. He’s getting better at it.
with Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis
The internal monologue that runs through Stephen’s head just before stepping on stage has changed. It used to be, “Will I remember? Will I be good? Am I too fat? Am I too short? Am I too tall?” Now, it’s, “Clear your head. It’s gonna be great. Enjoy the ride.” This is a roller coaster. Pull the arm down, sit tight, and enjoy the ride. It wasn’t like that before. It was, “What are they thinking?” No more! What goes on in Stephen’s head is akin to a nine year old saying, “Let’s play! I have an hour and a half to play!”
Stephen is booked solid through the end of September. He has turned down some long-term gigs like cruise ships because he is in the midst of shooting a reality show about his life and his business, Even Stephen Productions, producing Look alike shows around the world. He has the best look alikes. They train from scratch. They find talented people, do their make-up for them, done by the best make-up artists, they do costuming, Stephen teaches them, they bring in movement people, they actively truly train them and create the best impersonators in the world.
Performance wise and producer wise, he is slammed. After our interview, Stephen was heading out to Fire Island to open up his home for the summer season.
with Marlee Matlin
He would spend a few days opening up, and then back to work in LA. He usually bitches about not working now he is bitching about working! Kidding, of course!

In a class room, Stephen is not a good student. In life, absolutely.  Everything he has ever learned has come from observing others. Either mistakes are made or triumphs. His response is either I will or will not do that. He is a good student, physically, in the moment.
The age that Stephen is right now is usually the kiss of death in this profession. He has had to reinvent himself several times. He thinks he is on his forth! “I pretty much am the Frankenstein monster!” He started out as a rock star wannabe. Then, the wedding singer. Then Elton John. Then an impersonator. Then a comedian. Now, he’s this reality show/singer and doing retrospective stuff.
He doesn’t know what’s next. “For some reason, my career is still ascending” , which is not very not normal for his age. He has also lost a lot of weight and that has changed what people see in him. He lost around fifty pounds. Because his physical appearance has changed, he is being received differently. His spirit and persona are younger than his actual age and that also helps out.
with Brett Butler
After twenty three, they want to put everyone out to pasture!
Burt Bacharach is Stephen’s favorite composer. He and Henry Mancini created magic within their chords and melodies.  Stephen is a musician and a composer. He plays four instruments, Flute, sax, piano, and guitar.
He feels music in colors, almost.
He can see the colors and he can feel energy.

Bacharach and Mancini just move him into such cool places. There are chord progressions in their melodies that he can just listen to forever.
When Stephen was a little kid, he desired to be like Rich Little and Frank Gorshin. 
with Jamie Farr
We once again go back to creative visualization and that journal started in 1978. It all came true. Stephen used to watch Rich Little on TV and say, “I want to do that.”
Now, he lives across the street from him in Las Vegas.
Frank Gorshin was a birthday present for Stephen on his fortieth birthday!
A friend who knew Stephen was a huge fan brought Gorshin to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. Gorshin walked and Stephen said, “There’s Frank Gorshin!” Gorshin walked over to Stephen’s table and said, “You must be Stephen. Happy Birthday.” They drank a couple of bottles of wine together. It was a major night of Stephen’s life.

Stephen remembers every inch of the house he grew up in. He grew up humble with horses in the back. He was shoveling manure when he was five years old with his grandfather.
He learned early on that nothing is beneath him.  He remembers music always being in his house.
His parents were always rehearsing and recording jingles in their living room with a four track.
He was always surrounded by music and creativity and art in the setting of the country and an Italian family from Long Island. His grandmother was on one side, Aunt and Uncle on the other, and cousins across the street. It was close knit with a feeling of safety and community.
It was wonderful. It doesn’t exist in the world we live in for the most part now. It made Stephen who he is. He is still cool at this age. Even when he comes off stage and people are asking for his autograph, he is still that five year old kid shoveling horse manure with his grandfather.
On Saturday, I wrote about Debbie Reynolds and the auction finale of her memorabilia. She had the largest collection of classic Hollywood’s classic artifacts that the world will ever see. This is the third and final part. Debbie and Stephen have been working together for the past four years. He was working in Legends in Concert in Las Vegas. He had gone back to Vegas just to be home with his family. He took nine months with Legends and was very unhappy because he felt like he was going back in time and to his roots. There wasn’t a lot in Vegas at the time. He felt like he wasn’t progressing. He got a phone call one day and this guy says, “Hey, my mom wants you to open for her.” Stephen said, “What does that mean? Opens, you mean as a comedian?” The guy says "Yes". Stephen says, “Who’s your mom?” This guy says, “I can’t tell you, but are you open?”  Stephen answers, “I’m not. I’m booked solid six days a week.”  The guy says, “So you don’t want to work with her?” Stephen says, “I can’t” and hung up.
This guy calls back and says, “We really need you. Rip Taylor says you’re great. “Stephen says, “Who’s your mom?” The guy says, “I really can’t tell you.” Stephen says, “I really can’t do the gig.” The third call is Debbie Reynolds!  She says, “Stephen, dear…This is Debbie Reynolds.” 
Stephen was, “Oh my God!” He was flustered and tongue tied. She said, “Listen. I just had some surgery and I’m not quite myself and need somebody to do a long opening and I heard you are the best.” Stephen said, “That’s a wonderful compliment. I’m flattered, but I’m booked already.
She said, “4:30 tomorrow night at the Riverside for sound check.”
He said, “But, I’m not available.” She said, “Be there by 4 just to be sure.” He said, “But I’m not available!” She said, “You keep saying that…” There was a long silence and he said, “OK. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He called Legends and said, “I can’t do this week.” They said, “You’re fired.” He said, “That’s fine. Will see you later.” He then started his four years opening for Debbie.”
She’s a wonderful positive human being who has changed me.” 
This event, the Auction Finale, will be hosted by Stephen, the gala cocktail party for the press. He will be hosting the other events, and co-hosting her auction…all at the request of Debbie.
She wants him on hand, which is great. It’s a great honor for Stephen.
Letting go is an inevitable thing. Debbie realizes that she has literally gone broke trying to save this collection. To her surprise, no one has really stepped up to the plate and said, “Yes, this is a really iconic collection that everyone needs to see for the rest of eternity.” Debbie has spent a lot of money trying to keep the legacy of “Hollywood” alive. It has beaten her up a little bit. She, however, is the unsinkable Debbie Reynolds. “Tits out and chest up and head up.” She does everything like that. Everytime she tried to open up a museum, Las Vegas being one of them, it didn’t work out. Stephen and I both feel that everyone doesn’t know what they are missing. Off of this collection was in one spot, the most amazing things from movies we remember that were in her possession. She kept them like the keeper of the torch. The labels originally had acid fabric. She had all the labels removed in order to preserve them.
Debbie with Phyllis Diller
She spent a fortune trying to keep this collection. She has mixed feelings about letting it go, but everything comes to an end. She is getting older. It’s time.

The sound of an audience really enjoying themselves is what makes Stephen truly happy these days. He also loves the quiet of his home, being home away from everybody, with his dogs and his partner! That’s what makes him happy, watching The Golden Girls with fuzzy slippers on and eating popcorn with his dogs. It’s really simple. People’s arrogance makes him unhappy, especially when it is unfounded. A lack of talent with over confidence is always a killer for Stephen.
with Betty White
Creative visualization really works. Stephen made my interview with Debbie Reynolds happen. I will always be grateful to him for that. I only wish I could be at the auction and party.
Stephen’s career started with him wanting to be a rock star someday or an impressionist. He believes, as do I, that if you really FOCUS and believe and follow your script, ANYTHING is possible. It may not be the color you want, or the shape you want, or the flavor you want, but it’s going to be damn close. Stephen has almost fulfilled every single page if those journals saying, “Someday, I wish I could…” Someday, I desire to be…Almost every single thing including meeting all his heroes when he was growing up.
It’s all possible when we stay positive and keep going and we TRUST that we will not fail, EVER. It somehow has a way of picking us up and putting us exactly where we are supposed to be. Just have the trust that that journal that YOU are writing and that piece of paper that states, “Someday, I’m going to live in a blue house and wear red shoes.” Darn it, three years later you look down, and there are those red shoes and, “Wow, they just pained my house blue.” Stephen is proof that it works! Magic is still alive and well and living in the world.  

To learn more, see http://www.stephensorrentino.com
Keep checking Stephen's website for updates.
Read more about Debbie Reynolds' Auction Finale.

Thank you ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!



 With grateful XOXOXs ,








Check out my site celebrating the FIRST Fifty years of  Hello, Dolly!


I desire this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!


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Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!          

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
With grateful XOXOXs for your support!
Richard Skipper


Are you in NY on January 13th, 2014? My friend, Stephen Sorrentino is appearing at The Iridium and I'm putting together a table. Are you available to join us?



Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
Richard Skipper Celebrates

TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY

Debbie Reynolds: The Auction Finale   









2 comments:

  1. If Debbie Reynolds says your #1, then comedian Stephen Sorrentino is the tops. What an interesting journey he has had. I am looking forward to his movie with the other funny man Louie Anderson.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful write-up on Stephen -- inspiring! Thanks for a great story about a man who is not only talented but dedicated to growing.

    ReplyDelete