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Last Updated 3/10/2009
WE HONORED JERRY VALE

I’m from the Northeast Bronx, a stone’s throw from Mt. Vernon," exclaimed Jerry. Im a Bronx-Italian American and proud of it. Hospital?, No, 1 was born at my house n 1930, at 4255 Seton Avenue and I attended P.S. 68 and Evander Childs High. My father Louis, married Fanny Covino. They were both from Mt. Vernon and both graduated from A.B. Davis High School."

Jerry’s parents eloped at a very tender age. Fanny was 15 1/2 and Louis was all of 18. Louis was an engineer and he worked for the Petrillo Construction Company. Fanny was a pretty good singer but Louis wanted her home so her professional career never really began. The Vitaliano family included Jerry and his brother Nicholas and Christina, both deceased, and Barbara, who still lives in Mt. Vernon.

"How did I get my start? As a teenager, I liked to sing. I sang on the streets, at: and at John’s Barbershop in Mt. Vernon. Actually, 1 was shining shoes. When 1 singing, I started getting bigger tips. John took a liking to me and he sent me to Rose Reisman, a piano player who taught me a number of songs. My first break? Rose did a show in the Bronx Winter Garden I sang, ’Shoe Shine Boy.’ When I was 17, having dinner with my parents at The Enchanted Room in Yonkers, the owner saw me and asked if Id come over and sing I Love You Truly at a wedding party in the next room. As I sang, the crowd burst into applause. A few days later 1 was booked with the band and at weddings, too.

My name? It was Rose Reisman’s doing. She told me that she I was going to make it and that 1 needed a shorter name. Then she said, ’Jerry Vale,’ and at age 17 , I wasnow Jerry Vale. No, I never changed my name legally and on my drivers’ license it says, Vitaliano.’

My next break came when I was singing at a club and Guy Mitchell came in to do a one-nighter. When he saw me, he said that I sounded pretty good. He introduced me to Mitch Miller because he thought I should make records. A week later, while playing; stickball, I got a phone call telling me to come to the recording studio to meet Mitch. Mitch played the guitar, and I sang. When I was done Mitch said hed record me My first record was made on December 23, 1952...

You Can Never Give Me Back My Heart was not a smash hit but it did start me off. I was lucky. After a few more records I had some hits, ’Aldila’, ’You Don’t Know Me and ’Pretend You Don’t See Me’ are just a few.

There I was working clubs around New York and Long Island. In 1962, 1 was asked to perform at the Copacabana. I didn’t think I was ready. But after some prodding I opened. I was amazed because I packed the joint. What a thrill it was to see people lined up down the block just to get in.

In the fall of 1963, 1 was asked to perform at Carnegie Hall. I thought that was for classical buffs. What a thrill it was to hear that 3000 seats were sold out in ONE DAY! The audience was so overwhelming that they all came backstage after the show and I shook almost 3,000 hands. I appeared on November 15, 1963 and again on May, 29 1964.

From there it was on to the Sullivan Show, the Tonight Show, Merv and numerous appearances throughout the country. I signed a contract with Howard Hughes and moved to Las Vegas and performed at the Sands Hotel for ten years running.

The love of my life, Rita Grapel is from a nice Jewish family in Brooklyn. Here I was doing a show in Providence R.I. I was looking at a magazine.

I noticed a really pretty photo.
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I asked my conductor if he knew who she was. As luck would have it, my conductor not only knew her but told me that she was in a show right there in Providence. I asked him to call her because I wanted to meet her. The moment I saw her, I knew that 1 was going marry her. Nine months later we married and on August 28, 1999, well be celebrating 40 years.

A graduate of the High School of the Performing Arts, Rita was a professional dancer. Like my father, I told Rita that once we married she would have to stop working and she never worked again.

We lived on 70th Street in Manhattan, moved to Englewood, N.J. for seven years, then to Tenafly and finally to Las Vegas in 1969. In 1980, Rita said that it was time to pull up stakes and to move to Los Angeles.

We have two great kids, Robert, who graduated from Beverly Hills High and Pamela who graduated from FDIM. Robert is the entertainment director at a hotel in Las Vegas. Pamela, an artist, and she lives in, of all places, Rhode Island. Oh yes, on August 30, Pamela is expecting her first child, our first grandson, Logan.

What am I proud of? The National Ethnic Coalition of New York on behalf of Italian Americans recently honored me with their Medal of Honor. The award, given to four recent Presidents of the United States, was presented on Ellis Island. It was an impressive ceremony composed of all our armed forces. The Dolly Sinatra Lodge of Italian-Americans honored me in Palm Springs last year. The Governor of Massachusetts recently’ named a "Jerry Vale Day" for the whole State. I’ve bee: fortunate in being able to spend my life singing for others, having a great family fantastic friends and to share my life with my wonderful Rita.

The Copa was a very magical place...and I was always happy to sing there. For years Joe E. Lewis would open the season each fall. It was especially thrilling to me when I was asked to open the season in 1964.1 was deeply honored to open the season for the next ten years.

I’m also proud of my 15 CDs, at your local stores, including four recent releases, Jerry Vale’s Greatest Hits,’ ’Till,’ ’Jerry Vale Sings the ’Hits of Nat King Cole’, and Vale Sings the Great Italian Hits."

For all of us who have known Jerry through his music or personal contacts or through personal contacts he is a very down to earth and warm human being and a person who exemplifies all of the ideals of those who hail that great melting pot and especially, from Da Bronx!

THE RUNION

It was like going to another assembly In one of those large expansive high schools auditoriums of days gone by. Arlene Schachter with her "crew" on the ground level and Libby Palius in the balcony, managed to greet and seat former high school students. But these "assemblies" are unlike any student assemblies in the past. .

While there were many recognizable names and faces in the audience, everyone was particularly thrilled that our co-chairman, Milton Berle was with us, along with past honorees, Sid Caesar, Martin Landau, Dick and Patti Van Patten and Renee Taylor and so many who have entertained us in the past.
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Lighting in North Hollywood and the unique backdrops from Grosh Studios, provided the frame for our show under the direction of Technical Director Jon Alexander, and lighting directors Ed Schachter and Ken Palius.

The evening began with the nostalgia of those wonderful melodies played by the Manny Harmon orchestra, followed by the most awe-inspiring interpretation of America sung by Robbie Britt, a now revered member of our New York fraternity.

"1 dont care how many times I hear it, I always get those same goose bumps down my spine when I hear the incredible interpretation "America" every year," said former honoree, Martin Landau.

The show, weaved together by masters of ceremonies, Stanley Ralph Ross and Johnny Francis was never better. Virtually no one was aware that Stanley was appearing on stage after having his lung removed just three weeks earlier.
There he stood, on stage, with his two oxygen tanks off-stage in case he needed them. He didn’t!

"I just had to be here and I just had to be a part of the evening, I love it so," sighed Stanley.

That’s the kind of guy he was. We will miss him.
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"Most people are presented with a doctorate from a major university as recognition of their life’s achievement, but I am even more thrilled to receive my high scholl diploma," laughed Jerry in appreciation.
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