Ron Onesti: rock’n’roll paradise


If you believe in eternity, then life is just a one night stand.

If there is a rock and roll heaven, well you know they have a hell of a band.

These are lyrics from the classic song “Rock And Roll Heaven”. I was driving home from the Arcada a few nights ago and this song happened. It has always been one of my favorites because it reminds me of artists I’ve worked with – or just been a fan of – who have passed away.

As we go through these difficult times, I always try to stay as positive as possible. This song helped me realize how lucky we really are. Not only are we still alive, but we’ve also had so many rock legends and icons in our lives.

The song specifically references Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bobby Darin, Otis Redding, Jim Morrison, and Jim Croce, but truly represents all of the icons of music who have passed away. Performers, sidemen, producers, etc.

Words have such a deep meaning. They put into perspective the brevity of life and the reunion of the musical souls who have given us their music. Life really is so short, and this eternal scene in the sky is busier than Carnegie Hall ever was.

Over the course of my more than four-decade career in the entertainment industry, I have been very fortunate to work with many successful superstars and wonders. Most of them are from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. And as we lose so many of these childhood stars every year, their memories resonate as their songs play on the radio during my long journeys from place to place. .

“Rock And Roll Heaven” was made popular in 1974 by the Righteous Brothers – Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. I’ve worked with these guys a few times, but after Bobby left us the tune had a deeper meaning when Bill sang it during his solo concerts at the Arcada.

“Rock And Roll Heaven” was actually recorded for the first time by the band Climax, led by an old and dear friend, Sonny Geraci. Climax also had the “Precious and Few” mega-bit. Then Sonny led another group, the Outsiders, which gave us the hit “Time Won’t Let Me”. I have had the privilege of working with Sonny on several occasions. We lost my boyfriend Sonny in February 2017.

“Heaven” was actually written for Sonny in 1973 by Johnny Stevenson and Alan O’Day, who also wrote and recorded the pop hit “Undercover Angel”. But when the Righteous Brothers needed a “comeback” after a brief break-up, they took over the song from Climax and added Darin and Croce, who died months before, to the lyrics.

But when I hear this song it reminds me of the artists who played The Arcada and who have passed away.

Paul Revere (of the Raiders) gave his last public performance at the Arcada before his death. A great guy with a great sense of humor.

Joan Rivers filmed her last comedy special for Showtime here. She was wonderful and loved our theater. At the time, she was on TV more than any other celebrity. When I asked her why she was working so hard, she replied, “When you were born during the Depression and have a family affected by the Holocaust, you learn to appreciate every opportunity! “

Don Rickles, like Joan, might be a bear on TV, but was gentle, kind, and gentle in person. We went out to dinner after his shows and made a good bond. We also shared a birthday, May 8th.

I have worked with Frank Sinatra Jr. on several occasions. I was to receive an award from the Italian-American community in Chicago a few days after its last performance at the Arcada. He took it upon himself to record a quick video of congratulations for me. Soon after, he was gone.

Patti Page celebrated her 80th birthday with an incredible concert at the Arcada. Her huge hit, “How Much Is that Doggie in the Window” is still one of the greatest pop hits of all time.

The frontman of hard rock band Stone Temple Pilots, Scott Weiland, was known for his battle with drugs. He performed with his solo band on our stage and seemed really beside himself. A week later he had overdosed.

And speaking of pop music icons, we’ve had David Cassidy a few times. In both cases, his struggle with alcoholism was predominant in his performance. It was very sad to see how this all turned out for this guy.

Another “gone too soon” legend was Monkee Davy Jones. He loved it here at the Arcada, often coming a few days earlier so that he could spend some time in the beautiful town of Saint-Charles. He was “my brother”.

Paul Kantner, founding member of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, was scheduled to play twice at the Arcada. The first time the band performed without him because he had a heart attack on his way to the theater. The second time around, he had another heart attack before our show. He did not succeed, but the show continued. We had a single light shining on his guitar where he would have stood.

One of my favorite experiences of all time was when we had legendary Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney for a retrospective on the 89th anniversary of his career. He was sweet and spectacular. I spent a whole week with him. The stories he told me could fill a book. He was such a proud WWII veteran. He always carried his medals and his VFW cap with him. A truly valuable experience for me.

Two other Hollywood superstars I had the good fortune to work with were Jerry Lewis and Debbie Reynolds. Jerry didn’t want to be disturbed, but he allowed me to sit in his dressing room with him for two hours! He talked about Dean Martin, his telethon, “The Nutty Professor” and many other old Hollywood topics.

Debbie did the same, while we had lunch and talked about her daughter Carrie Fisher and her incredible collection of Hollywood memorabilia. What a lovely, chic and sweet lady with an elegant motherly way about her.

By producing thousands of shows for so long at the Arcada, especially those of a classical nature, we will certainly lose a few past artists. But what becomes magical is the imprint that these legends leave on our historical scene.

It has been said that the Arcada is “haunted”. If he’s possessed, I believe it’s probably the souls of those superstars hanging out, making their presence known through paintings falling from the wall, doors slamming, and whispering in the night.

That group up there is really something, and these players have helped make The Arcada, at least for us, heaven on earth.

• Ron Onesti is President and CEO of Onesti Entertainment Corp. and the Historic Arcada Theater in St. Charles. Questions and comments from celebrities? Send an email to [email protected]


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