Vincent Tedesco has loved and lost.
"I've had three women and they all failed me, but she won't," Tedesco said about Maria, the 3-foot doll standing next to him in his Naples Park home. He originally bought the doll at a garage sale for his granddaughter.
"But the Lord said to use her for a show," explained Tedesco, 86.
The tap dancer and his plastic partner used to entertain at retirement centers, but those days are over. His last dance with Maria came March 2 at Windsor Place in Naples.
"I dance like a 30-year-old. Seems like I don't get old," he said back then. "The Lord kept me that way."
Tedesco said he started dancing as a teenager when he worked as a sweeper at the Ritz movie theater in New Jersey. "I learned by watching Fred Astaire in the movies. I would go in the lobby of the theater, on the marble floor, and start tap dancing and jumping around."
"I like to entertain. I like movies." Tedesco said. "I wanted to go to Hollywood. I wasn't afraid of anything."
He never made it to Hollywood.
He did, however, share his life with three wives: Norma, Ethel and Bernadine. But he still thinks about the one that got away.
"Part of my love story is Dorothy," he said, explaining how he moved away as a teenager from his hometown of Carteret, N.J., leaving the girl behind. "I loved her so much that it still bothers me that I didn't marry her."
Dorothy did get married. "He (her husband) died on her. I found out she asked about me, but I was married." Tedesco said, lamenting the unfortunate timing.
Occasionally he wears a leather belt with the name Dorothy stamped on the back. He said that Maria, the oversized Barbie doll, reminds him of Dorothy because of the blonde hair.
"I almost want to call her that but don't have the song." Tedesco says. He said he named her Maria so he could dance with her to the song, "Maria," by George Strait.
"Some think I'm weird," he said. "But, I know she's not real. It don't hurt to dance with her."