- Check out this list of restaurants open on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day in Naples
- David Sedaris play "The Santaland Diaries" offers a stocking full of goodies in Fort Myers
- Looking for something to do? Search our list of Holiday events
- Submit your holiday events to our interactive calendar
- Going out this holiday season? Share your photos from all the events around town with us!
- Wish Lists: Local charities offer up their wish lists to the community
- Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade
- Your Photos: Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade
- 2010 Bonita Springs Holiday Boat Parade
- Isles of Capri Holiday Boat Parade 2010
- Marco Island's Joy of Giving 2010
- Marco Island Christmas Street Parade 2010
- Christmas Walk and Avenue of Lights on Fifth Avenue South
- Flesher Farm Christmas display 2010
- Third Street South Festival of Lights
- Your Photos: Third Street South Festival of Lights
- Bayfront Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony
- Two-story gingerbread house at The Ritz-Carlton
NAPLES — “Bobby socks, saddle shoes, poodle skirts and Frank Sinatra — sixty years ago I heard him and teenage girlfriends screamed, fainted, jumped into frenzy, cried and fell in love with the skinny guy with the microphone and a voice of pure velvet,” said star-struck Naples resident Darlene Thomas.
“I heard Sinatra back then and I heard him again last night — the voice is the same and the name is different, but it was real!”
Thomas is talking about Ray Livosi, who most recently performed at the Bellasera Hotel in Naples. He is scheduled to perform several dates in the Naples area over the next two months. Despite only a handful of solo performances spanning seven years in the area, he has amassed a following of Sinatra fans that run the gamut from young people to people who can recall seeing Sinatra himself in concert decades ago.
Sinatra was quoted as saying, “I wish that one of these days somebody would learn to do (my art) so it doesn’t die where it is.” Many of his fans believe Sinatra’s art is alive in Livosi’s performance and persona.
He was born in Bronx, N.Y. and began singing in the 1970s. His beginnings included working as a musician and backup singer in clubs and lounges with the original members of the Belmonts (“Teenager in Love”), the Earls (“I Believe”), the Duprees (“You Belong to Me”) and the Regents (“Barbara Ann”).
As the years rolled on, Livosi discovered an uncanny ability to imitate the voice, mannerisms and vocal style of original musical artists. He founded his own group and continued perfecting the craft. During his New York club dates Livosi included Sinatra songs in the Chairman of the Board’s unique style. Requests for the Ol’ Blue Eyes’ classics far outweighed all other requests. Soon, Livosi made Sinatra’s song book his entire repertoire including “Summerwind”, “I’ve Got the World on a String”, “New York, New York” and “My Way”.
“I think that Frank Sinatra has bestowed not just his voice but also his mannerisms, attitude and demeanor onto Ray,” Livosi’s fiancé Nancy Serdahl said. “The first time I heard him I could not believe the resemblance and people often say that when he died, Frank Sinatra passed the baton to Ray.”
Livosi continued to learn as much as he could about the legend that had become his lifeblood. He traveled to Sinatra’s home base of Palm Springs where Livosi visited Sinatra’s home and the legend’s grave.
Livosi is recognized throughout the country, by people who have known and worked with Sinatra, as a performer who captures the true essence of the singer. Eliot Weisman, Sinatra’s former manager, was the brains behind the “Pack is Back” tour in 1988. Livosi was tapped to perform at one of Weisman’s birthday parties.
“We were supposed to do the show and leave, but he asked us to stay so we did, and enjoyed cigars and Jack Daniels just like Frank did,” said Livosi. “Eliot said, ‘Thanks for the memories. The show made me think of all the old times. It meant so much to me since I managed Frank Sinatra.’ ”
Howie Richmond who published “Fly Me to the Moon” with Bart Howard in 1954 said of Livosi, “It’s unbelievable. I thought I was listening to Frank himself.”
Livosi was also hired to sing at a Christmas party for an entertainment attorney in Los Angeles where veteran performer and Sinatra’s friend Ben Vereen was present. Impressed with his tribute, Vereen invited Livosi to his New Year’s Eve show and asked him to join him on stage.
When Livosi started singing “Fly Me to the Moon”, Vereen turned to address the audience.
“I told you, Frank is in the house!” Vereen called out.
Livosi kept a recording of Vereen’s testament to the similarity between Sinatra and himself.
“We’re both just saloon singers, Frank and I,” said Livosi. “You’ve got to be in tune with the music, true to the words and if you can’t sell it to the audience, you’re lost, it’s finished, it’s done and that was basically the way he interpreted the music. So we have the same philosophy.” Like Sinatra, Livosi has always preferred performing in smaller venues. Although singing with a full orchestra is his favorite musical accompaniment, Livosi enjoys Sinatra’s love of meandering through the audience where he will often stop to focus a song on a special lady or important table.
“The shows in Las Vegas where Frank performed were mostly dinner shows, where people would pay to have dinner and see the performance like at the Sands or Caesar’s Palace and then there are concerts like at Radio City Music Hall where the evening was just the performance,” said Livosi. “The shows I’ve got coming up in January at Bellasera are intimate dinner shows, just like what Frank would have done.”
Livosi will be doing a preview dinner show of his January line-up on Nov. 30 with a special “Sinatra Under the Stars” promotional performance to promote a serious of upcoming shows next year. Bellasera’s chef Son Tham is slated to prepare several Italian dishes not featured on the regular menu.
Some of the shows in January will feature Livosi alone while others will be his “Sinatra and Friends” act. For those nights Livosi has called upon some of his fellow tribute artists. In the past he has worked with tribute artists who portray Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Barbra Streisand, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond and others.
“The allure of Sinatra’s music really fits Bellasera because our property is a sensual environment,” said Amy Erickson, food and beverage director for Bellasera. “Our design is Mediterranean and out by the pool where Ray will be singing you’ve got the dangling vines swaying in the breeze, sensual cuisine and wines and the voice of Frank Sinatra — all of which make up a recipe for romance.”