View My Stats

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Jerry Vale----Mystery Man.

Singer Jerry Vale just died.
Some celebrities have to be introduced by their titles, to avoid lack of clarity.
I think that Jerry Vale was one of them.
You didn't have to say "Singer Frank Sinatra, or even "Sinatra".
All you needed was "Frank".
Same thing sort of applies to Dean Martin.
You didn't need ""Singer Dean Martin".
"Dean", or "Dino", was more than enough.
But here, it was "Singer Jerry Vale".
He was just in that slightly lower rung of show business.
I was watching the Preakness Stakes last Saturday, and it occurred to me that the Derby winner, California Chrome, seemed to be in a class by himself.
No other horse looked like they had a prayer.
Maybe they had a prayer on paper.
At least some did.
Hell, one of them almost beat him.
But when you looked at them that day, they looked pretty sad.
But someone has to make up the field.
Or there is no horse race.
And there were so many nightclubs, and records, and TV appearances to make.
And you couldn't always get Frank or Dean.
So Jerry Vale made up the field.
He was not an opening act.
He was a real act.
He filled seats.
He sold plenty of records.
He could make a good showing.
He could cross the finish line
But he rarely if ever won against the real star performers.
He didn't seem to be at all mysterious.
If anything, it was completely the opposite.
I can't recall any major performer who was this blatantly dull.
He completely lacked any noticeable personality.
I knew nothing about him through his music, except that he had a beautiful pair of pipes.
I guess that's where the mystery begins.
He seemed to be a nice guy.
Was he happy being known as ""Singer Jerry Vale"?
Did he want more out of life than that?
It's harder to sustain a major career as just a singer.
There are too many out there just like you.
You are too easily replaceable.
And Elvis and the Beatles probably made a major dent.
Nobody but Tony Bennett survived as well.
And I have reliable sources that indicate that Vale was very insecure about all this.
In his obits, there is puffery about how grateful he was to be plucked out of a life of shining shoes and working in sewers.
But once you have received Gold Records, maybe your perspective changes.
This is part of the mystery.
Was he liked and appreciated by the other, bigger stars?
But maybe they liked him partially because he was not real competition.
He just looked like real competition.
He never made a movie, except cameo roles as himself.
Movies like "Good Fellas" and "Casino", capitalizing on  his blatant Italian heritage.
He was kind of a parody of himself in them.
Maybe he had loftier ambitions as an actor than that.
We'll never know.
The main difference between Jerry Vale and his contemporaries was that the rest of them were all, to some extent, romantic figures.
Matinee idols.
The kind that young girls would throw their hotel room keys at from the audience.
Vale, though not unattractive, was more the kind of singer that these girls' mothers would come to see, wishing that he was their son.
He was never a contenda.
He never could have been a contenda.
But he looked like a contenda.
At least he was no longer working on shoes or in sewers.
When Eddie Fisher died, I did a series of comps to find the closest facsimile to him.
After an extensive search, I came up with Robert Goulet.
With Vic Damone a close second.
I explored the possibility of Jerry Vale for a moment.
Mainly because their voices were so similar.
You could hardly tell them apart.
But the similarity ended there.
Because Jerry led an extremely dull life, and Eddie was such a glamorous putz.
Trying to do a comp on Jerry Vale led me right back to Eddie Fisher.
Because there is no place else to go.
Nobody even approaches being uninteresting.
So we're left with Eddie.

Was he Jerry Vale mobbed up?
A natural question.
He was Italian, sustained a career when others didn't, worked all those nightclubs, appeared in movies about the mob?
Technical advisor?
A mystery.
I once ran into him in an elevator in an Atlantic City Hotel-Casino.
He was neatly dressed in a suit and a tie, in the middle of the afternoon.
There was a huge stickpin in his tie.
It had his initials.
Totally diamond encrusted.
This has me leaning slightly towards mobbed up.

Buddy Hackett once described sitting at an event where celebrities were doing book-signings.
He was sitting next to his good friend Jerry Vale.
They each had new books that they were selling and signing.
Well, Hackett was selling and signing.
Vale was sitting and being ignored.
In what was apparently a rare moment of humanity for Hackett, he got up, walked around the room, and started paying people to go over to Vale's table to compliment him and buy his book.
So the man definitely had friends.
Very late in his career, Jerry Vale became the subject of mockery.
He had come to represent Show Business Schlock so much that David Letterman took to introducing him from his audience the way Ed Sullivan used to from his.
He had become the Joe Piscopo of singers.
Letterman did this with Jerry Vale five nights in a row.
And the mystery is, I don't know if he was in on the joke, or just happy to be there.
Some things will remain shrouded.
But he sure sang good.
R.I.P., Jerry.


My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not
e-books. But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one. If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube, and my 4-hour interview at the Television Academy's Emmy TV Legends Website.
Here's the link://"



  1. For my 21st birthday, I flew, with two of my cousins, to Vegas. We wanted the whole Vegas experience. The highlight of the trip was going to see George Burns. He had Fred Travelena as his opening act. This was June 1977. As much as I enjoyed the show, the "Vegas experience" part was when Fred introduced Jerry Vale who just happened to be sitting at a table in the middle of the room. I hope Vegas does some sort of dimming of the marquee lights for Jerry Vale. He earned it.

  2. He lived in my former neck-of-the-woods, Palm Springs, Ca.

  3. Many years ago, there was a game show called MUSICAL CHAIRS.
    Three guest singers would take turns singing popular songs old and new, stopping at some point to offer three versions of what the next lyric would be. The civilian contestants would have to identify the correct lyric for cash and prizes.
    Jerry Vale appeared as a guest singer several times'
    Often, the fake lyrics would include one out-and-out joke, which Vale seemed to really get a kick out of.
    On one occasion, Vale got to sing "Non Dimenticar" (sp?)
    Here's the gag lyric he got to sing:
    " ... I owe all I own
    to Don Corleone ... "
    Got a big boff; Vale joined in.

    Years later, my brother and I were watching late-night TV, and there was Jerry Vale pitching a CD collection of songs from movies about Organized Crime.
    " ... If you like mob movies, you'll really enjoy this new collection - MOB HITS! "
    My brother and I looked at each other askance.
    As lifelong Chicagoans, we were well aware that The Outfit (as we call it here) is not known for its sense of humor about itself.

    In the years since I saw the above shows, I've seen and read quite a bit about The Outfit and showbiz - particularly the blogs of Kliph Nesteroff, who has devoted much time and space to interviewing singers and comics from this era.

    Was Jerry Vale "mobbed up"?
    If Nesteroff's interviewees are to be believed -
    - who wasn't?

  4. Mike, "Who wasn't?" is probably accurate. I brought it up because other singers of comparable abilities did not sustain their careers as long as Jerry Vale did.
    So I was wondering if he had any "help".

  5. Pretty snarky. Condescending. By your logic, Jerry Vale is to Sinatra and Dino as you are Roth and Vonnegut. Strictly 2nd rate, if that.



Blog Archive

About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."