Sunday, April 27, 2003

Couple crazy for Patsy Cline


Audiences, too, love their depiction of the legendary country singer's last night on earth

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Linda and Frank Fazioli perform Walkin' After Midnight: A Tribute to Patsy Cline at the Cabaret Club in Harrison.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
People complain, complain, complain to Frank and Linda Fazioli and the Faziolis love it.

The whining is about how the couple's monthly show Walkin' After Midnight: A Tribute to Patsy Cline sells out too fast.

Walkin' is a fictionalized account of Cline's last night on earth - a radio broadcast during which a DJ chats it up with the sassy country singer who died in a plane crash in 1963. It's 21/2 hours and spiked with 20 Cline favorites - "Sweet Dreams," "Faded Love," "Walkin' After Midnight," "Crazy" and a few non-Patsy songs in Patsy-style, such as "Your Cheatin' Heart" sung with Hank Williams impersonator Cecil Cox.

Frank, 59, and Linda, "don't even think of asking" her age, are professional entertainers who play bars, weddings, private parties and clubs, including Harrison's Cabaret Club (formerly Beef & Boards), sort of their home base.

Linda, an alto, sings while Frank plays keyboards and guitar through a repertoire that stretches from country to big band to soft rock, depending on the venue.

But it's Walkin' that people are talking about.

Frank, a New Yorker who moved here in the 1950s, is a retired police officer who spent much of his career with the band Most Wanted - all cops except Linda, who thought it was OK to join because at the time she worked in a prosecutor's office.

NEXT SHOW
The next performance of Walkin' After Midnight is May 17: 5:30 p.m. cocktails, 6:30 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. show; American Legion Hugh Watson Post 530, 11100 Winton Road, Greenhills; $20; call 825-3099.
So why Patsy? Why not, say, Wanda Jackson? Or Loretta Lynn?

"I've always loved Patsy," says Linda, who grew up in Winton Place. "Her 'Crazy' was the first song I ever sang for anyone else to hear. And besides that, everyone loves her. She cuts across all ages and all musical tastes."

A small beginning

The show started small. "We were performing in a Forest Park club about five years ago, and the owner went to Playhouse in the Park to see Always Patsy, says Frank. "He came back and said: 'Linda sings better. She ought to do a Patsy segment in the show.'

"We added a 10-minute segment and people kept asking for more. So, we made it 15 minutes. Then 30, then an hour. Finally, I thought if people are this crazy about it, we should develop the segment into a full-scale show.

It's been evolving since.

"One of the things people seem to really like is I'm not a Patsy impersonator," Linda says. "I wear my own hair and cowgirl clothes, but I sing like myself, as my tribute to Patsy.

"I do try to talk like she talked, so I spend the whole day of a show working on accents with a friend from Eastern Kentucky. And I say the things I think she would have said.

"You know, she was feisty and I try to project that. The girl had big attitude."

No one would know that better than Cline's husband, Charlie Dick. If all goes as planned, he'll see the show July 12 when the Faziolis journey to the country music Mecca of Renfro Valley, Ky., to perform at the beloved hotspot Country Steel.

The owner and Charlie are longtime friends, Frank says. "She invited him and told us he's real excited about seeing the show. The reason it's way off in July is because we only have two open weekends up until the end of August."

Not all those booked-solid weekends are Patsy shows. "We also do a Legends show with three performers doing impersonations," Frank says. "One of our most successful is the one where we do Patsy, our friend Matt Snow does Frank Sinatra and Paul Halverstadt does Elvis. Paul's a professional impersonator who has performed all over the country, including Graceland."

Some day, Linda aspires to play Marilyn Monroe "using songs from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and shows like that. Maybe we'll start like we did Patsy, you know, add a quickie segment in a different show.

"I already do her version of "Happy Birthday" when someone's celebrating at one of our shows. I get up close and personal with them."

"Linda does a lot of that audience interplay thing, and they eat it up," Frank says. "I've been rolling it over in my mind, trying to figure why the Patsy show and the Legends shows are so successful. I finally decided people are just plain starved for entertainment.

"When I was growing up you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing a variety show. Lots of singing and dancing, comedy, good music. You don't see that anymore, even though people really want it. Our shows prove that. They're built for fun and we do them very Vegas, so they're glamorous."

And sometimes corny. The ending of Walkin', for example. After Linda and her Hank finish "Cheatin' Heart," the stage goes dark. A few seconds later, a radio announcer reads a news bulletin announcing Cline's death. Linda, now backstage, sings "Sweet Dreams" while a spotlight focuses on a portrait of Patsy. Linda then re-enters and sings "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

"It's true, we set up the audience for an emotional upheaval," Frank says. "And yes, it's a little corny. But look at the audience. Half of them are way beyond teary-eyed. They're actually sobbing.

"Even people who have seen the show two or three times leave in tears."

Two or three times? Same show? "Oh yes, we have a lot of repeaters," Linda says. "We have 30 Patsy songs in rep, so the show changes from month to month. But also, people just love Patsy.

"One gentleman, he's 97, comes to every show. There's a husband and wife team, Lena and Ed, who also come all the time. One gentleman, a record collector, saw it and liked it enough to come back and give me a stack of Patsy songs on old 45s."

Frank used to fret about burnout. Not now. "I'm having the time of my life, because I'm sharing all this music and all this time with my wife. I couldn't ask for more."

E-mail jknippenberg@enquirer.com




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